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Gumtree and the many upsides of local ownership.

Marcus Badach, Chief of Staff of Gumtree South Africa, speaks of the considerable advantages of being a locally owned enterprise.

Since late 2022, Gumtree South Africa has been entirely SA owned for the first time. Not only is it SA owned, but it is fully South African controlled, hosted and staffed. This localisation and the resultant agility have made a huge difference to us at Gumtree, our daily operations and our future pipeline. This shift towards local ownership also signifies a new chapter for Gumtree, emphasising our commitment to serving the South African community more directly and efficiently.

By being fully operated, controlled, and staffed by South Africans, Gumtree is able to position itself as a marketplace deeply rooted in local needs and nuances, differentiating itself from its international counterparts.

The benefits of this local focus are many. For starters, it facilitates job creation and supports small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which are the backbone of the South African economy. At Gumtree, we know the importance of SMEs in job creation and economic growth, and Gumtree's local stance is able to create a more supportive environment for these entities.

Gumtree is one of South Africa’s largest online classified marketplaces, but it has evolved to offer far more than that. It is a vibrant community where sellers are able to build a brand and an online shop with loyal customers. They also benefit from marketing tools and support, all for free or for low monthly costs.

Since we’ve become entirely South African, Gumtree has been able to tailor its operations, customer support and moderation tools to suit the specific requirements of the South African market. Having a fully staffed local team means that they understand the marketplace's challenges and opportunities, which are often unique. This local insight allows Gumtree to offer a level of service and security that is uniquely suited to South African users, making online transactions safer and more reliable.

For example, it’s important for our users to know, and this is a major differentiator between us and our internationally based rivals, that we actually have a full customer support team with moderation tools and physical people checking things as well as automation. These people are on the ground in South Africa, and they know local conditions and culture – they know what South Africans need from us and they are always available to engage with our customers. With us, customer service is a genuine relationship between our staff and our users.

We also cannot underestimate the importance of the flexibility and responsiveness that local ownership affords us. Being based in South Africa allows Gumtree to quickly adapt to market changes and user feedback, implementing improvements and innovations that directly address the needs of its users. This agility is crucial in the fast-paced world of online trading, where user expectations and technological advancements are continually evolving.

One aspect of being locally owned that we hadn’t necessarily anticipated was the positive response in terms of people wanting to work for us. Yes, we know that Gumtree is a great brand and is one of South Africa’s most-visited websites, but that didn’t prepare us for the overwhelming response. When people found out that we were an entirely SA-owned company we started getting more interest from potential employees, and great quality ones too. People are also loving that Gumtree is based in Cape Town, and we are getting people moving to us from international companies and local ones. Not only that, but we now also have the budget and scope to employ these people, benefitting the local job market and economy.

From a tech point of view, our new-found independence and agility has allowed us to do things that we’ve wanted to do for years. We’re implementing incredible new features, such as SafeDeal – which adds an e-commerce experience to Gumtree where things like secure buying and delivery are taken care of – and we have started to modernise the entire structure of the website and app – modernising the very way we operate.

One collab that has worked really well is Gumtree’s User Verification, which has been powered by mobile payments app Spot. Spot has everything in place to verify the identity of buyers and sellers and their contact information, which has been well received and is a critical step in us becoming the most trusted marketplace in South Africa.

Gumtree's transition to being completely South African owned is a strategic move that reinforces its commitment to the local market. By focusing on local ownership and operations, Gumtree aims to empower South Africans, support SMEs, and enhance the online trading experience with a platform that understands and caters to the unique needs of its users. This local focus is poised to not only benefit Gumtree but also contribute to the broader growth and development of South Africa's digital economy.