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Kuwait classified giant 4Sale aims to double up on business

4Sale CEO Tarek Sakr is growing Kuwait’s largest online classifieds platform Supplied
4Sale CEO Tarek Sakr is growing Kuwait’s largest online classifieds platform
  • CEO Tarek Sakr says Kuwait is ‘most tech-enabled population’
  • Former Amazon executive appointed chief product officer 
  • Big trade in second hand cars due to the global shortages of parts 

The oldest form of classified ads can be traced back all the way to 2000BC, when the Egyptians invented outdoor advertising as they carved public notices into steel. 

This earliest example of the ‘first mover advantage’ strategy is not lost on the CEO of 4Sale, Kuwait’s largest online classifieds platform, which has big ambitions to double its current number of monthly users to two million, almost half the population of the country. 

With no plans to expand the brand regionally, Tarek Sakr, CEO of 4Sale, told AGBI that he is laser focused on Kuwait which, he says, “is the most tech-enabled population in the Arab world, and digitisation in the country increases every day”.

“In our business, first mover advantage is a big thing. Once you attain critical mass, and you get most of the people using your platform, it is hard for a second player to come in even if they do it for free,” he said.

4Sale, which currently has over a million active users a month, has been in place since 2014. Since inception, it has listed 12 million items and services and hosts 4,000 new listings every day, and that number is growing.

With a 100-strong team, split between Kuwait and Egypt, the business charges a flat fee for individual listings in specific categories including automotive, electronics, human resources, real estate and services.

The company recently announced the appointment of former Amazon and Microsoft senior executive Nabil Mohamed as its new chief product officer.

He will lead 4Sale’s product division and build out the online marketplace offering. The dominant position of 4Sale in the automotive vertical will serve as blueprint to strengthen other verticals.

Car, Automobile, Vehicle
4Sale classified platform does good business selling second hand cars in Kuwait

Sakr said: “4Sale never sits still, and we have exciting new product plans in the pipeline. Our commercial performance has continuously improved, thanks to our ability to react quickly to the market and offer new ways for users to serve our customers.

“We are deliberately focused on Kuwait only. We have a deep understanding of our market. We’re focused on strengthening our verticals and enhancing our product offerings even further to serve this market better, and in turn grow our revenue here.”

In 2018 the National Bank of Kuwait bought a majority stake in 4Sale, described by the CEO as an “important vindication of our business model”.

Asked if he has any fundraising plans in the future, Sakr said: “As we are comfortably profitable and cash generative, any new fundraise would only be to actively pursue new verticals or amend our business model by adding more value-add services.”

But growth is very much on the agenda.

“I believe there is much room for us to grow,” said Sakr. “We are a trusted brand and are integrated into our users’ everyday behaviour with increasing numbers active on our platform.

“We want to get closer to the transaction and offer more value-added services during the transaction. If we do this, we can take more of a fee from the transaction which is taking place on our platform.

“Increased added value and profitability go hand-in-hand, so this would take us to another level entirely. This is our end game, and we aim to get there.”

He said in two to three years, 4Sale will be close to two million active monthly users in a country of close to five million.

Talking about the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the business, Sakr said: “Our performance was resilient. We remained profitable and healthy.

“As with many sectors, the pandemic encouraged consumers to trade more online, and now a large proportion of our transactions take place this way.

“The more traditional customers prefer cash payments, but I would expect that to gradually reduce.

“People will always trade, even if their methods change. As digitisation increases, we continue to invest in technology, to optimise the user experience, and expand in each vertical.”

The huge uptick in electronic purchases has continued post-pandemic while other trends in Kuwait include a “huge amount of trade” in second hand cars due to the current global shortages of parts. 

Asked about global classified giants such as eBay, Craigslist, Gumtree and Avito, Sakr said: “[They] have all done extremely well by developing liquidity of users and being user-friendly.

“Classifieds is a proven business model, and we are following a similar path – albeit deliberately focused on Kuwait.

“We aren’t trying to follow these models exactly, because we understand the nuances of the Kuwait market and we know what works.

“Once you have critical mass you become very hard to dislodge in your chosen market.”

Chair, Furniture, Dining Table
Furniture for sale on US classified ad platform Craigslist

Global classified leaders in September

According to digital data analysts SimilarWeb, Russian classified ads platform Avito was the top ranked in September, with the average time spent by users on the website of 11 minutes 13 seconds, with 10.93 pages per visit. 

US platform Craiglist was ranked second (eight minutes and seven seconds and 14.61 pages) while Leboncoin, founded in France by the Norwegian conglomerate Schibsted, was third (11 minutes 10 seconds, 11.82 pages).

The global online classified ad platform market size is expected to grow by $16.1 billion by 2026, according to researcher Technavio, with 34 percent of the growth originating from Asia Pacific, specificially China and Japan.

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