Q&A: a conversation with Rahul Jain, VP, Engineering at OLX Autos

What drives our company leaders to bring out the best in themselves, and in their employees? In other words; what really makes them tick? In this Q&A we ask some big questions to Rahul Jain, VP, Engineering at OLX Autos.

OLX Autos is part of OLX Group, the classifieds business of Prosus. OLX Autos is shaping the future of car trade by bringing peace-of-mind to car buyers and sellers in one of life’s biggest transactions, addressing a $100Bn car market opportunity in countries where it operates. OLX Autos runs online digital trading platforms in addition to more than 500 inspection centres across the Americas, Asia and Africa, each year inspecting 300,000 vehicles and enabling 130,000 vehicle transactions.

Q. What problem/societal need are you trying to solve and why is your approach unique?

In many parts of the world, the pre-owned car market is highly fragmented. There are inefficiencies in completing transactions, high rates of fraud, and a lack of reliable reference points on price that consumers can easily access. Moreover, there is no single, strong brand that has managed to establish high trust and to give an effective offering in buying and selling cars.

OLX Autos aims to solve this problem. Our mission is: “to become the most trusted partner for car buyers and sellers, and offer them peace of mind on every transaction they make with us.”

Our consumers want an omnichannel and personalised experience. Buyers are looking for a great selection of inspected cars, at trustworthy price points. For sellers, being offered a fast and simple transaction, at the best price and via a trusted partner, is of the highest importance.

OLX Autos uniquely combines a strong online footprint, a trusted brand, and great offline capabilities. Our robust technology platform, strong data science capabilities, and in-depth understanding of consumer needs, all give us the capacity to solve this valuable but complex consumer problem.

Q. What or who inspired you to join OLX Group?

I was looking for an opportunity to work on product offerings that impact millions of consumers. This can only be done well in a setup where different perspectives are heard and respected, where technology is at the forefront in defining the culture, and strong data is used to prioritise things that generate value for customers.

OLX Group solves multiple complex problems for its 300 million monthly platform users. It operates in multiple geographies, has teams with ‘best in class’ experts, and has a diverse culture. The Group also has a very strong leadership team, which has successfully defined and lived the mission of being the leader in the classifieds industry.

All of these made OLX Group a great place to be. When I started interacting with some of the senior leaders, it became clear that this is a place that can inspire and challenge me.

Q. What has been the hardest challenge and the most pleasant surprise along the way?

Transforming a ‘classified only’ platform to a ‘transaction first’ platform is the most important and challenging task that the teams are working on. It involves multiple new work streams, changing our ways of working, modifying and upgrading tech stacks, launching new products, migrating to new operational processes, and learning the domain.

Though this is a complex exercise, it has built the momentum required for innovation, growth, and fast learnings. We are already seeing great results. Our teams are taking this as an opportunity to learn, build, and disrupt. Early consumer feedback has also been positive and highly encouraging. In addition, ground operations are becoming smoother and faster.

Q. As a leading technology company, what opportunities does OLX Group offer its employees?

In my view, getting a chance to learn from the best minds in the industry, and be a part of a highly diverse and global culture, are the most important aspects for our employees.

OLX Group has a culture of open and transparent communication, high ownership, and doing the right thing. It is actively building an even more diverse and more inclusive environment. There is a focus on the outcome - and the opportunity to work on a cutting-edge technology stack, which has been built to give our millions of users an extremely smooth experience.

Within the OLX Autos business, our team has built a highly distributed and scalable technology platform. Our mission is to deliver impact with best-in-class quality, optimum cost, and fastest time to market.

Q. What are the future implications of the technology you are developing? What talent are you looking at to build this technology?

We are working on a futuristic ‘transaction first’ platform which will give a highly personalised experience to our consumers and will help them to browse through a huge inventory of cars aligned towards their preferred price point, make, model and trim. To achieve this, we are heavily investing in research and data science capabilities like NLP, computer vision (specifically, image processing), and personalisation. With the increasing penetration of high-speed internet, we are also confident about the foreseeable future of augmented and virtual reality applications.

We serve millions of consumers from different geographies through our platforms, and with the continually increasing base it's very important for us to keep a consistent focus on solving the complex and interesting technical problems that come with scale.

Our priority is to actively grow our development, data science, and site reliability engineering teams, but it will be right to say that we are open to meet and discuss a potential role for anyone who is equally excited about our mission and is ready to sign up for upcoming challenges.

Q. How do you stay one step ahead of the competition?

It's a dynamic world. Socio-economic conditions and technologies are rapidly changing, and with that consumer needs and expectations are evolving too. Organisations that are the quickest to pick up these signals from consumers, and evolve with them, will have an edge over their competitors.

Thinking about consumers’ needs and building for them is a core value at OLX Group. Our capability to process the huge volume of anonymised data in real-time, in order to make it available for the user research and analytics team, is a core aspect that keeps us abreast of user needs.

The implementation of self-learning, ML and AI models in multiple core offerings, and an SRE culture, are a few more things that have set the foundation right and always help in keeping us ahead of the competition.

Q. What top tips for success would you give to upcoming tech startups?

For startups, the most important point is to identify the moat around consumer needs. There is no point in building a product if no one is going to use it. Startups should be nimble and lean enough to deliver fast, learn fast, and to course-correct whenever needed. Hence, making a simple offering and avoiding over-engineering will be inevitable.

There are a few core points worth considering while building your tech business:

Build the right team:

Get the right skilled people, who are as equally excited as you about the opportunity, and they will always look for solutions.

Have the right foundations for your platform:  

In startups, the first few years are for learning and creating your moat. Therefore, don’t try to build everything in-house - instead, focus your build efforts on the core business aspect, and try to leverage open-source tools or third parties for everything else. For example, opting for cloud-native should be a default choice. Start-ups should be lean enough to learn fast from user feedback, so adopting an open-source A/B platform from the start is very important. In addition, ensuring the right strategy for CICD will help in improving the quality and time to market significantly.

Be data-driven:

Decisions should be driven by business facts and user feedback. You must have tools in your stack that give you good visibility of core business metrics. This layer will become a foundation for data science capabilities and will allow the organisation to leverage ML and AI as part of its core offerings.

Q. As a part of Prosus, how has the group helped your business to flourish?

Prosus is a global consumer internet group, and one of the largest technology investors in the world. Classifieds is a core segment for Prosus and we always get the support required for doing the right thing for people, and especially during covid times it has helped us to bring wellbeing support for our teams.

Access to global best practices and standards, and tapping into a global and diverse network of subject matter experts in different fields like AI and ML, Security, Risk, Product and Technology, are the most important benefits we have received.

Prosus has also been instrumental in defining the core values and long-term mission for OLX Group. It has also provided the much-needed cushion to the Autos group in terms of trust and resources, which has significantly helped our culture of risk, experiment, and reward to flourish.

Q. What is your favourite city to visit and why?

Tokyo is my favourite city. I have never experienced another city that has that diverse culture, and it is well-deserving of its hyperactive, adrenaline-fuelled and non-stop reputation. It's also among one of the world’s most accessible, well-ordered and safe cities.

Fashion, music, technology and artistic subculture thrives here. On one side you get to experience the best of technologies in Akihabara, which is famed for its many electronics shops and arcades. On the other side you can visit Harajuku, known for extreme fashion and youth culture, the streets are filled with cafes, young fashionistas and museums.


About Prosus:

Prosus is a global consumer internet group and one of the largest technology investors in the world. Operating and investing globally in markets with long-term growth potential, Prosus builds leading consumer internet companies that empower people and enrich communities.

The group is focused on building meaningful businesses in the online classifieds, food delivery, payments and fintech, and education technology sectors in markets including India and Brazil. Through its ventures team, Prosus invests in areas including health, logistics, blockchain, and social commerce. Prosus actively seeks new opportunities to partner with exceptional entrepreneurs who are using technology to improve people’s everyday lives.

Every day, billions of customers use the products and services of companies that Prosus has invested in, acquired or built, including 99minutos,  Airmeet, Aruna, AutoTrader, Autovit.ro, Azos, BandLab, Bibit, Bilt, Biome Makers, Borneo, Brainly, BUX, BYJU'S, Bykea, Captain Fresh, Codecademy, Collective Benefits, Creditas, DappRadar, DeHaat, Detect Technologies, dott, EduMe, ElasticRun, eMAG, Endowus, Eruditus, EVERY, Facily, Flink, Foodics, Good Glamm Group, GoodHabitz, GoStudent, Honor, iFood, Imovirtual, IndiGG, Klar, Kovi, LazyPay, letgo, Luno, Mensa Brands, Meesho, merXu, Movile, Oda, OLX, Otodom, OTOMOTO, Oxford Ionics, PaySense, PayU, Pharmeasy, Platzi, Property24, Quick Ride, Red Dot Payment, Republic, Sharebite, Shipper, ShopUp, SoloLearn, SpotDraft, Stack Overflow, Standvirtual, Spendflow, Superside, Swiggy, Thndr, Tonik, Ula, Urban Company, Vegrow, Virgio, watchTowr, and Wayflyer.

Hundreds of millions of people have made the platforms of Prosus’s associates a part of their daily lives. For listed companies where we have an interest, please see: Tencent, Delivery Hero, Remitly, Trip.com, Udemy, Skillsoft, and SimilarWeb.

Today, Prosus companies and associates help improve the lives of more than two billion people around the world.

Prosus has a primary listing on Euronext Amsterdam (AEX:PRX) and secondary listings on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (XJSE:PRX) and a2X Markets (PRX.AJ). Prosus is majority-owned by Naspers.

For more information, please visit www.prosus.com.

About Prosus

Prosus is a global consumer internet group and one of the largest technology investors in the world. Operating and investing globally in markets with long-term growth potential, Prosus builds leading consumer internet companies that empower people and enrich communities.

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