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Carousell acquires online car classifieds platform Caarly

Carousell co-founder Quek Siu Rui said that as the startup's users mature, their evolving needs and higher purchasing power have made the car category one of the top three verticals for monetisation.


THE online classifieds space is heating up. Carousell, a mobile marketplace app where users can list, buy and sell items in seconds, has announced its acquisition of the homegrown vehicle classifieds platform Caarly for an undisclosed sum.

The acquisition will make Carousell, a four-year-old household name, a bigger online classfieds player; it will also enable the startup to stake a claim in the local vehicle classifieds space, which is now dominated by sgCarMart and STCars, both owned by Singapore Press Holdings (SPH).

The Business Times understands that the Caarly acquisition will pave the way for a monetisation strategy for Carousell, which is currently not making money. Caarly reportedly makes money through subscriptions and the fee it charges for transactions.

Carousell co-founder Quek Siu Rui said the startup's monetisation strategy will include building revenue streams from high-value verticals, and charging for premium listings and subscription.

He told BT: "As our users mature, their evolving needs and significantly greater purchasing power have made the car category one of our top three verticals for monetisation."

He disclosed that more than half of Carousell users in Singapore are now older than 25 years old; their increasingly sophisticated needs have resulted in more listings and greater demand for higher-value verticals.

When asked if Carousell would venture into property, he did not comment.

Under the acquisition, all of Caarly's listings will be included in Carousell's car marketplace. Existing Caarly partners can continue to use the Caarly platform to list their inventory, but can opt to post on Carousell as well.

Mr Quek said this will enable Carousell to tap Caarly's relationships with used-car dealers. Carousell platform users also gain in that they will have the "widest selection of cars in a classifieds marketplace", starting in Singapore and soon, throughout the Asia-Pacific.

Winnie Khoo, formerly managing director of PropertyGuru, has been appointed as general manager for Carousell Singapore and Malaysia. She will lead efforts to integrate the Caarly team into Carousell.

Rakesh Malani, who was chief financial officer (CFO) at India-based adtech company Komli Media, has joined Carousell as its CFO. It was he who facilitated the Caarly deal.

Caarly, founded in 2014, sought to help Singapore drivers and motorcyclists manage vehicle-related information (such as road tax, vehicle financing, workshop locations and parking fine history), and to buy and sell vehicles easily.

Its buyout comes a month after Carousell announced the acquihire (the acquisition of a company primarily for the expertise of its staff) of personal-safety app WatchOverMe, and two months after it reported a US$35 million Series B funding round.

Mr Quek described Carousell as being in rapid expansionary mode. As at September, it had a presence in 14 cities, more than 41 million listings and had sold 19 million items globally. He said: "We're still less than one per cent done … we have a long way to go."

Esther Ho, assistant director at Nanyang Polytechnic's School of Business Management, described the acquisition as win-win.

She told BT: "Carousell, already a popular lifestyle platform, will become an even bigger shopping mall with more car vendors. Caarly, a used car boutique, will benefit from Carousell's traffic, use of data analytics and understanding of shopping behaviour."

Anna Gong, chief executive of mobile marketing startup Perx, said the online space is fast evolving, so adjusting one's unique selling proposition has to be in every startup's DNA. She noted that mergers and acquisitions are a way to quickly acquire talent, technology and market access.

"With Facebook entering the general classifieds market, it seems like a logical move for Carousell to move into a higher-value segment and broaden its spectrum."

She noted however, that an acquisition is "hardly ever a quick-fix", as one has to ensure that new and existing customers stay engaged with one's brand throughout the integration.

The spokesmen for SPH and sgCarMart were not available for comment.