Saltside Technologies, a fast-growing classifieds platform for emerging markets, recently revealed it is the global tech firm behind market leading classified sites in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Ghana - countries that comprise an audience of 200 million people and where internet adoption is set to triple over the coming years.
Saltside's current classified sites - Bikroy.com in Bangladesh, Tonaton.com in Ghana, and Ikman.lk in Sri Lanka - have reported increased listings which are growing at 300 per cent a year, drawing in millions of views a month in a period where the vast majority of people are coming online for the first time primarily through low cost internet access on mobile phones.
In Bangladesh, Saltside Technologies overtook the market leader Ekhanei.com (formally Cellbazaar), which is owned by Schibsted/Teleor, within 12 months of launch and are now the clear market leader, well ahead of both Schibsted/Telenor, Rocket Internet and OLX (Naspers). The company is now the biggest classified site in all categories in Bangladesh, including auto, property and general.
In Ghana, Google decided to discontinue their classified service as a result of Saltside's growth and efficiency, making Tonaton.com by far the biggest classified site in all categories. In Sri Lanka, nearly 50% of the country's online population visits Ikman.lk monthly, making it the biggest classified site in the aforementioned key categories.
Founded by former Skype employees, Saltside aims to provide vital online infrastructure for emerging markets across Africa and Asia, in local languages and has grown a team of over 200 - 85 per cent of which are located in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka or Ghana.
Nils Hammar, Chief Executive Officer of Saltside Technologies, said, "Our mission is to create a safe, large,and efficient marketplace for millions of peopleto make deals who could not previously access them. We've witnessed first-hand how powerful efficient markets are in improving ordinary people's lives. We want to support and foster the naturally entrepreneurial attitude which is prevalent in these markets."
In Ghana, for example, Tonaton.com enables local fashion designers to expand their businesses, giving them a bigger platform to showcase their craft to Ghana's growing middle class.
In Bangladesh, an example is Wahid Hassan Saif, of Alif Enterprise, who uses one of Saltside's sites to sell imported electric bikes to working middle class residents in Dhaka, who are often frustrated by the huge traffic jams and inaccessible public transport. The young entrepreneur is now using the site to reach every district and every corner of Bangladesh with his bikes.
In Sri Lanka there are multiple case studies of mobile phone dealers who make their living from exclusively trading on ikman.lk.One user,a university student in Colombo, is now able to finance his higher education by moving his mobile phone business onto ikman.lk to open it up to buyers from across the country.
"The combined value of online advertising in Africa and The Middle East is expected to reach $ 2.8 billion by 2016, and in Asia that figure is expected to hit $ 53.2 billion by 2016. Yet, far too many countries in these incredibly dynamic markets are overlooked, including those with the most growth potential like Ghana, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and many others. At Saltside, our goal is to be the forefront of enabling those markets to get online and access buyers and sellers from across their country, as well as locally," added Hammar.
The tech company's rapid growth from three to 200 staff continues to create local job opportunities across the region, as the majority of Saltside's staff are local teams located on the ground in their main markets. These local teams manually moderate the ads, ensuring quality inventory is being advertised on their classified sites. The sites are also made available in local languages meaning that non-English speaking locals can still benefit from the service, which has not been the case traditionally. Unlike more established players, Saltside is focused on multiple categories such as auto, property and jobs rather than simply one general classified section.
Nils Hammar CEO of Saltside Technologies, was one of the first employees at Skype and also founded networking site Kindo, which sold to the web's leading family research site, MyHeritage, in 2008. Saltside Technologies is backed by Investment AB Kinnevik, a listed Swedish investment house with proven expertise in emerging markets and has already raised $ 25 million in equity funding.