to fend off rivals with ‘one simple approach’

  • Attacks on all fronts from new and old players in a variety of verticals
  • It’s about the users … and democratising commerce, says new CEO to fend off rivals with ‘one simple approach’

SITTING at his office in Kuala Lumpur, the newly-minted chief executive officer of online marketplace pioneer Sdn Bhd, Gaurav Bhasin (pic above), appears calm and relaxed – belying the fact that for many years now, his company has had a huge bull’s-eye painted on its back. still remains Malaysia’s largest online marketplace, an achievement it proudly displays on its homepage.

But over the years, hordes of entrepreneurs and startups have launched new services or apps that target specific market segments, consciously or subconsciously trying to nip away at its dominant position.

Today, consumers can buy and sell products via in over 50 categories, ranging from cars, motorbikes, and mobile phones, to property, furniture, pets, and services – they can even rent rooms and houses, or look for jobs.

This puts in an interesting position. On the one hand, its portal has a wide range of products and services to offer. On the other, it is competing against many players in various verticals.

For example, it is competing against online car classified sites such as iCar Asia Ltd's; property portals like PropertyGuru and iProperty; property rental websites or apps such as iBilik or SpeedRent; as well as the horde of online job or recruitment portals.

Despite the intense attacks on all fronts, Gaurav is confident that can stay ahead of the game, and more importantly, stay focused.

His secret? “I don’t focus on categories, I focus on people. Ultimately, what does a user buy? Does a user only buy a car? Does a user only sell a car?

“I am not interested in that. I am only interested in you, the user,” he tells Digital News Asia (DNA).

“We are only interested in users because they do different things in their lifespan. Therefore, if a user has a good experience with me, it is likely that he or she will return to me for other things.

“So it is just a simple formula: Focus on the users, and keep the user experience high,” he adds.

Defending leadership claims to fend off rivals with ‘one simple approach’

With the e-commerce boom, startups and even more established players are all trying to differentiate themselves by claiming market leadership in certain segments, sometimes by diving into selective metrics.

Online classified portals will claim the No 1 position in terms of the number of listings – or the number of unique users, partners, pageviews or transactions, or the value of those transactions. Take your pick.

“We don’t keep anything that is more than two months old, so it’s not entirely fair to compare us with portals that keep listings that are over a year old,” says Gaurav.

“As we only keep listings that are two months old or newer, we have some 75,000 car listings. I believe it is significantly more than our competitors,” he declares.

A brief check on, by searching for cars based on when the listing was last updated, showed that it has some 42,000 car listings that are about two months old.

In the property segment, Gaurav admits that portals like PropertyGuru and iProperty have a strong foothold with medium-, higher-medium and higher-end properties.

However, he believes that has a key role to play when it comes to lower-end properties.

“We are seeing a lot of growth in this segment. We believe that we are extremely competitive, if not better than any other player in the market in terms of mid- to low-range properties.

“Try and search for properties RM300,000 and below – I believe you will not find many listings [in other property portals],” he says. [RM1 = US$0.24]

“Try to get something other than properties in the Klang Valley, Penang and Johor. Try to get something in Kelantan or Terengganu.

“There’s only There’s no other player which comes even close in these segments,” he argues, adding that it is also strong in the house and room rental segments.

A check on showed that it has over 11,000 room rental listings, and more than 500,000 listings on house and apartment rentals combined.

In contrast, iProperty has under 100,000 listings when it comes to residential unit rentals, while has 75,000 room rental listings.

Listings not a serious metric

While the number of listings is one way to measure success, Gaurav stresses that it is not a major metric for

It is about ‘liquidity,’ he says. “We are more focused on helping our sellers get leads, and helping our buyers get the items they want.”

He claims that half of the advertisements on get potential buyer interest within the first day itself.

On, part of the seller’s phone number is hidden, and one would need to click on the ‘Click to view phone number’ tab to find out the seller’s complete phone number. In this case, it means that half of the ads has buyers clicking on this tab.

“While it does not mean that the potential buyer actually calls the seller, it does show that the buyer is showing some form of interest, enough to respond to the advertisement,” Gaurav says. currently records more than seven million unique visitors a month, as well as over one million sellers (professionals and individuals combined). Its bounce rate is in the single-digit percentage range.

“When you entice people with marketing, and they come to your website and find that they can’t get what they really want, they will bounce off,” says Gaurav.

“[Our bounce rate] is low because people come to our site with the intention of using our service.

“More importantly, people come to our site and do multiple things. It is like a mall. You may go there for one primary reason, but you could end up buying more than just that one thing,” he adds.

Next Page: Democratising commerce, and the mobile-first mentality

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