Aishwarya Ramesh

"Loyalty is short lived — I can’t take it for granted": Sapna Arora, CMO, OLX

In a career spanning a little over two decades, Sapna Arora has worked with notable brands such as Procter & Gamble, Reckitt Benckiser and Nestle. She began her career with P&G in 1998 as an assistant brand manager before moving to Reckitt Benckiser in 2001. In 2003, she joined the Toronto office of Nestle as the category manager. After a three year stint at Nestle, she worked as the director of Matrix Atlantic Capital for almost eight years. In 2016, she had a brief stint as the vice-president of the Bennett Coleman group for six months, before rejoining Matrix Atlantic Capital. She worked with Matrix Atlantic for three years before joining OLX as the chief marketing officer in March, this year.

We caught up with Arora over the phone to understand the online classifieds segment and the marketing challenges that plague it. She began the conversation saying, “There’s a certain stigma around pre-owned goods and the attempt is to normalise this concept.” Earlier this month, OLX released an ad campaign that focusses on doing just that. All three ads in the campaign titled 'OLX Dekha Hai' have a casual tone and attempt to show consumers that the products they desire are not out of their reach.

Prior to this campaign, OLX released a campaign to mark their foray into offline stores — OLX cashmycar. “We realised that our customers needed another touch point. Through offline outlets we’re helping the online customers journey with us a little further. It’s an extension of the classifieds for us and helps facilitate the consumer journey," Arora said.

“The cashmycar option is for consumers who are looking for convenience and help. It’s an additional layer to our existing consumer offering," Arora informed. We wondered whether this feature would compete with offline used car dealers or with other online classifieds players, such as Quikr, and so on. Arora replied, “I’d like to think of this as category expansion. A lot of car sales happen in the offline world and we’re trying to expand that. Our platform facilitates organised players to come in and help customers with the transactions involved in selling a car.”

Sapna Arora
Sapna Arora

She continued, “The auto sector contributes to about 40 per cent of our total revenue. Other than mobiles, cars and auto is a strong focus area for us.” During the course of the conversation, she mentioned that 60 per cent of users who list their cars on sale belong to Tier I cities and the remaining 40 per cent belong to Tier II and III cities. Arora also noted that of the 20,000 cars listed on OLX everyday about 62 per cent of those cars find buyers.

She believes that millennials will be the growth drivers in the coming years and mentions that it is a core area of focus as well as strength. She made a reference to the latest campaign to make her point. The tone of these ads is intentionally casual, and the language is colloquial. “We’ve noticed that people upgrade their phone, not because it’s stopped working, but because they want the latest model — that’s the prevalent category behaviour. We see younger people being able to upgrade their phones through OLX without spending a huge amount of money,” Arora shared.

She said that OLX can help bring products into your consideration that you normally might ignore because you thought you couldn’t afford it. On the other hand, if there’s something that you no longer require, then you can sell it on OLX as well. Among categories, smartphones and mobile phones are a favourite among younger audiences, whereas slightly older audiences veer towards the furniture category.

"Customer loyalty is short lived. I can’t take it for granted."
Sapna Arora, CMO, OLX

As a marketer, she pointed out that one shouldn’t consider anything as absolute or static — especially customer loyalty. "If I have an active user base on OLX, I cannot be pretentious and assume that they’ll always be my consumers. A customer’s needs or the environment he operates in could change. Our generation has seen companies that were highly valued five years ago - now those companies are nowhere to be seen. The value proposition that those companies were offering has been completely wiped away. The thing about any product service company is that it needs to continuously evolve. I need to keep my ears to the ground and understand what the consumer wants as well as what’s happening in general in the economy,” she said before she signed off.

Arora's top 3 learnings as a marketer

1. Be true to the consumer — don’t think you know it all

2. Be open to learning and understanding where things are going — this is very important in today’s day and age

3. One should always be happy doing what they’re doing. The longer you stay in a career, the more jaded you become. This is something one should protect themselves against.

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