Carousell eyes deeper penetration in its existing regional markets

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SINGAPORE – Home-grown classifieds start-up Carousell is looking to deepen its footprint in Asia as it eyes a larger slice of the online marketplace pie in some of its existing markets.

“While we are already operating in eight markets, we feel that there’s still a lot more depth that we can go into,” Carousell Singapore’s managing director Ng Chee Soon told The Straits Times on Thursday (July 1).

He said Indonesia and Taiwan are growing markets for Carousell.

“In Hong Kong, we are beginning to see some traction and we hope to drive a lot more success there as well. In the Philippines, through M&A (mergers and acquisitions) activity in the last two years or so, we also have a large base in which we see a lot of potential,” added Mr Ng.

In 2019, Carousell acquired online classifieds site OLX Philippines, which is part of OLX Group. The total deal value was worth US$56 million (S$75.4 million) and gave OLX Group an approximate 10 per cent stake in Carousell.

Mr Ng said that as more customers buy things online amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Carousell will work on improving trust in its platform through measures such as its Certified Electronics Programme, which covers warranties and returns for some devices.

The company will also continue to hire in tech as well as software and product development roles, he added.

It currently employs about 250 people in Singapore and more than 700 staff in the region.

Mr Ng declined to comment when asked about recent reports that Carousell is exploring a United States listing via a merger with a blank-cheque company, a move that could value the company at as much as US$1.5 billion.

He was speaking to ST on the sidelines of the company’s inaugural Caroupreneur Awards, which recognises the achievements of the platform’s sellers, such as entrepreneurs and brick-and-mortar businesses that have gone digital.

The awards ceremony was held at the company’s new 25,000 sq ft office, which occupies a floor at GSK Asia House in Rochester Park. It moved into its new premises in April last year.

A total of 11 winners were picked by a judging panel comprising Carousell’s chief executive and co-founder Quek Siu Rui, Mr Ng and Mr Lawrence Ngan, deputy director of Heartland Enterprise Centre Singapore.

They include full-time business owners and part-time sellers, covering various categories such as cars, home services, electronics and lifestyle products.

The top award – Caroupreneur Merchant of the Year – went to Mr Ng Han Xiang, 32, who runs the @mybrogarage store on Carousell. He used to work in business development at a tech firm but left his job in 2019 to focus on his car dealership.

Mr Ng Han Xiang, who runs the @mybrogarage store on Carousell, won the Caroupreneur of the Year award at the company’s inaugural Caroupreneur Awards on July 1, 2021.

The business was borne out of his of driving different types of cars. Mr Ng started out selling small items – such as phone holders – on the online platform, before moving into car accessories and eventually his current shop.

He sells used cars such as the Volkswagen Scirocco, which is popular among the younger crowd, and has a fleet of up to 10 cars at any time at the firm’s premises in Jalan Pelikat.

The Covid-19 circuit breaker last year hit operations as few people visited the shop to view cars and vehicles in inventory were depreciating. Platforms like Carousell, however, led to more inquiries, which helped to create pent-up demand.

“Those inquiries had a higher conversion rate, about 100 per cent more, and we managed to get back on track within the next few months,” said Mr Ng, who also bagged another award for Best in Carousell – Autos (Used Cars).

Minister of State for Trade and Industry Alvin Tan, who was the guest of honour at the awards ceremony, said it is important for local companies and tech platforms to grow and support the small- and medium-sized enterprise ecosystem, as well as expand overseas.

“Carousell is a really good example of (a company) that has done both… Singapore has strong infrastructure, R&D (research and development), a strong intellectual property rights framework and links to the region. This gives the base for a company like Carousell to go out there, to do acquisition and to acquire customers and talent,” he said.

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