One of the most fascinating aspect of Kenyan tech space has been the inability for the local techpreneurs to unlock the e-commerce or m-commerce. I am talking as someone who has tried the whole thing through Maduqa.com sometime back and failed. Since then I have been closely watching what is going on the space, and a number of people have gone through the same path but with no visible success to talk about. There are a number of reasons why most of them have not gone far and today i want to look at one particular in relation to OLX Kenya development in the last few years. And that is the trust issue.
Trust is everything when it comes to e-commerce. Before people go online to buy something, they have to be sure that they are buying the right thing and it would be delivered as promised. In the Kenyan case, i think this is one area that OLX Kenya and others have played a role in making Kenyans to have faith in online transactions. OLX Kenya started as a free platform for sellers and buyers and with huge investments on the advertising at the beginning, OLX brand is now a well known in Kenya. The initial stages, a number of buyers complained about some con artists on the platform which was a big worry at that point. But I am very impressed with the steps taken by OLX Kenya since then to address some those issues.
First they started by requiring the businesses listing on the site to produce business permit for the OLX team to verify. Then on top of stepping up the verification process of the ads being posted on the platform, OLX introduced a service called Sell IT For Me. The Sell It For Me service is a premium service from OLX where the posting and selling of items are done by verified OLX Champs. This service was introduced just a few months ago and only for motor vehicle category but the OLX Kenya is happy with the progress so far. According to OLX Kenya:
“The Sell It For Me (SIFM) service involves a verified OLX Champ posting a vehicle for sale on behalf of the seller. After posting on behalf of the seller, OLX takes over the responsibility of actively looking for a buyer for the vehicle. The OLX Champ not only posts the vehicle, but also manages the entire account, and oversees the entire transaction until he/she finds a buyer. The seller is only involved at the point of sale.”
Last week BAKE hosted OLX Kenya at the Nailab in a meeting attended by the bloggers. And Priscilla Muhia – Business Development Head East Africa OLX, confirmed that the OLX Champs are well trained and they understand the platform.
“They are qualified, highly trained and verified by OLX Kenya, and act on behalf of OLX in liaising with our users. They undergo a series of screening processes to ensure that we hire only the top of the cream to work for us with high principles and professionalism, always putting our Users’ satisfaction in the forefront”
The service was started as a joke but it ended up helping them fix the issue of the trust. That is judging from how the users have embraced it within a short period of time. According to Ms Priscilla, within three months OLX Kenya have sold over 100 vehicles using Sell It For Me Service. At this point OLX Kenya is thinking of expanding the service across all the categories starting with real estate.
In proper context of e-commerce there should not be a middle men or women but I guess this is a model that can work in short term until Kenyans are able to trust online buying and selling. At the moment, majority of people buying online are only comfortable with a situation where they pay on delivery. And it is not surprising that majority of proper online transactions are done by those paying for services like buying domains, ebooks.