Carousell's CEO says new deal with Naspers' OLX will help boost presence in South-east Asia

With the acquisition of OLX Philippines, Carousell founder and chief executive Quek Siu Rui hopes to better reach the second-largest population in South-east Asia. ST PHOTO: YEN MENG JIIN

SINGAPORE - Carousell's latest deal will boost its presence in the region's classifieds space, said its founder and chief executive Quek Siu Rui after the home-grown online marketplace announced that it has gained a new shareholder on Wednesday (April 10).

OLX Group, a classifieds company owned by South Africa-headquartered Internet firm and technology investor Naspers, took an approximate 10 per cent stake in Carousell.

As part of the US$56 million (S$75.7 million) deal, Carousell has acquired OLX Philippines, an online classifieds site in the Philippines with more than six million monthly unique users.

"Our big focus for the next two to three years is cementing our leadership in South-east Asia," Mr Quek told The Straits Times in an interview on Thursday, pointing to the region's combined population of 600 million. Of this number, more than 400 million are "only just experiencing the Internet and coming online", he said.

With the acquisition of OLX Philippines, Mr Quek hopes to better reach the second-largest population in South-east Asia.

"It was actually already one of our largest and fastest-growing markets in our portfolio. This joining of forces makes it doubly exciting for us," he said. "(There's) massive headroom for growth."

The investment from Naspers values Carousell at more than US$550 million, said Carousell's statement on Wednesday.

Carousell has built a presence in seven markets since its inception seven years ago, including in Hong Kong and Australia.

It has almost 200 million listings and 71 million items sold on its platform so far.

Asked whether the company is expanding too quickly, Mr Quek said: "On the contrary, sometimes we feel: 'How can we move faster, how can we do even more?'"

Part of Carousell's ambition is to get billions of buyers and sellers on the platform worldwide, he said as he noted how technology helps overcome the barrier to launching a global service.

"What would be really interesting is if we can build a truly global Internet company from here in Singapore that impacts a billion people or more. I truly feel that we can," said Mr Quek, whose oft-repeated motto for the company is that it is always less than 1 per cent into the journey.

He added that Carousell will explore new markets in the second half of this year, citing Thailand and Vietnam as possibilities.

"There's a lot of desire to increase our portfolio of markets," said Mr Quek, 31, who graduated from the National University of Singapore with a degree in business administration in 2012. He dropped out of his honours programme to start Carousell.

Naspers is one of the largest technology investors in the world and is known as an early backer of Chinese tech giant Tencent.

The Carousell deal is Naspers' first investment in a Singapore-based start-up.

Carousell expects to fully integrate with OLX's operations and subsidiaries in the Philippines in the second half of this year.

The Philippines office will have slightly more than 100 employees, said Mr Quek.

Mr Raffy Montemayor, general manager of OLX Philippines, will manage Carousell's operations there and the movement of customers to the new platform.

The deal will also see Mr Sjoerd Nikkelen, OLX general manager for Asia, the Middle East and Africa, join the Carousell board.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.