Whenever Lama looked around her room, she saw tons of things she never used. She had that old, colorful abacus her grandmother had given her 10 years ago, an old pen holder she never used, a number of accessories she hadn't worn since she was a teen, and some books she didn’t know what to do with anymore.
Sound familiar? We've all got accumulated clutter of our own, things that are just in way, occupying too much space.
But for Lama, like many of us, the thought of getting rid of them always seemed like it would be more trouble than it was worth: The items were too cheap to sell but too valuable to throw away, or she thought.
That was until she downloaded the OLX app, and saw that people could slap a price on just about anything – and they could sell it quite easily – as the more than 25,000 Lebanon ads placed (at the time of writing the article) show.
“I thought of selling a number of accessories that I’ve had for more than 10 years and never wear anymore – I thought I’d put the ad, but no one would ever buy them,” Lama said.
To her surprise, several interested people called, proving to her that “what I thought had no value for me anymore was indeed valuable for others.”
Placing an ad is just a click away in the easy-to-use app that divides its marketplace into five categories: cars, items for sale, jobs, property for rent and property for sale. In a region where credit card penetration is still low, OLX's face-to-face transaction model thrives.
The search for what's available for sale is made easier with detailed classifications for ads; the “items for sale” category, in which Lama listed the things she wanted to sell, includes 21 subcategories.
One thing that sets OLX apart from competitors is that it's not just a free-for-all between buyers and sellers. A team of professionals work 24 hours a day on approving ads within minutes of users submitting them.
They also check ad details for any inappropriate content, calling ad creators to make suggestions that would increase their chance of closing a deal.
In 2013, OLX, which was founded in 2006 as an online classifieds marketplace for used goods, bought Dubai-based online classifieds portal Dubizzle, which had become a major regional player eight years after it was co-founded by Sim Whatley and J.C. Butler.
"The Middle East’s retail market is booming, but the second-hand market is somewhat ignored,” said Abdallah Touqan, senior PR and communication lead at OLX.
That's where OLX steps in.
In the Arab world, there isn't a culture of selling used goods, as people are often embarrassed to sell their old stuff, or assume that a person selling his old stuff is in financial trouble, Touqan said.
With time, however, that will change, as more users reap the benefits of making transactions through OLX – which already has 240 million users worldwide – in a region where Internet penetration is on the rise, and people are flexible enough to learn new techniques to buy and sell.
With Dubizzle already a hit in the UAE, OLX is quickly gaining momentum in Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Jordan and Lebanon.
The brand's success is hardly a surprise.
“Whatever item I’m done using, I take its picture, write a description of it, place an ad on OLX, and wait for my phone to ring,” Lama said.
This post also appeared in Arabic at YallaFeed .