MIH Naspers, South Africa’s internet powerhouse, launches a brand new online classifieds venture on Monday in a bid to become market-leader in a field that is currently dominated by eBay’s Gumtree. Kalahariads.net is offering “a user-friendly, feature-rich portal that provides customers with access to the widest classified network in South Africa”.
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Naspers has accumulated extensive experience in the field with international properties such as OLX, Brazil’s BuscaPe and Allegro, and plans to take all that it has learned and apply it to the new South African classifieds portal.
Leveraging the well-respected Kalahari brand name, and a firm foothold in print media, could give kalahariads.net the weight to mount a serious challenge to Gumtree. In addition to its reputation, Naspers’ Media24 stable owns and operates 53 newspapers around South Africa. Consumers who place ads in any one of these publications will automatically see their ads placed online with kalahariads.net.
The interface is simple and intuitive, and all it lacks at the moment is a wide range of products available on other services. The ability to share ads on Facebook, coupled with a “related ads” feature is likely to win the site a lot of fans.
Posting ads on Kalahariads is free and will remain viewable for up to 90 days. One of the main selling points of the new service is that the content will be strictly monitored by employees to ensure that it is free of spam and the various types of scams that are often attracted to free, unmoderated online classified platforms.
There are other clever add-ons too, such as a “leaflet feature” which allows users to create professional looking ads with tear-off slips to print out and place on community notice boards.
Kalahariads.net is not Naspers’ first foray into this field. Dealfish, now closed down and absorbed into the new classifieds site in South Africa, is still operating in some African countries. The online classifieds site is still running in Kenya at dealfish.co.ke and Nigeria at dealfish.com.ng.
A large media marketing campaign for Kalahariads is scheduled to launch during January.
But Kalahariads will face an uphill battle in convincing consumers that they need to change from Gumtree, a tried-and-tested leader in the field and a firm favourite in South Africa with an almost cult-like following. On Alexa, Gumtree.co.za ranked in the country’s top ten sites in position eight.
Not everyone is enamored with Gumtree though. One local blog, Pieter’s blog posted this statement: “I find the Google ads on Gumtree very confusing and I guess they do not mind that their users confuse the adsense ads with the actual listed ads. Each time when a user accidentally click on the Google ad instead of the real ad they get paid for it, so would it bother them?
I cannot understand how Google can allow Gumtree to place these ads because Google’s terms clearly state that you are not allowed to incorporate Adsense ads on your site in such a way that your users will confuse it with the real content on your site. But Google love Gumtree so much that Gumtree is a premium publisher with Adsense.”
This could be an area that kalahariads could successfully exploit to win fans.
Some cynical pundits have speculated that Dealfish was a failure in the South African market, and concluded that Naspers only developed the new site as a way of relaunching the brand to South Africans.
With a heavy focus on providing local and relevant content, strict controls to keep the site “family friendly”, and the power of MIH Naspers behind it, Kalahariads.net could become a major force on the South African web scene.
Or, like Dealfish, it may buckle under the momentum that Gumtree already has in the local market. The stage is set for an epic struggle.
In related news, Kalahari.net CEO Gary Hadfield is leaving the site and taking up a position as CEO at South African e-tailer Loot.co.za. Hadfield was CEO of Kalahari.net from 2005 to 2010.