5-Star Advice From Siu Rui

Star Advisor Quek Siu Rui, CEO and co-founder of Carousell, talks about how his startup disrupted an entire industry.

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Seven years ago, Quek Siu Rui and his co-founders started online marketplace Carousell in Singapore with the simple goal of wanting to make buying and selling easier. As CEO, Siu Rui has been deeply involved in the startup’s growth and product strategy, as well as international expansion since its launch in 2012.

The entrepreneur’s passion for technology has fuelled his desire to build a product-focused company that aims to solve meaningful problems for people around the world. Prior to starting Carousell, he spent time in marketing and product management at Vsee, Ogilvy & Mather and DBS Vickers.Siu Rui shares his views on what it takes to start and scale a tech company in Singapore, and how Carousell has disrupted the classifieds marketplace.

What was your inspiration for starting Carousell?

If you’ve ever bought or sold something on a forum or classifieds website, you’ll know how difficult and frustrating it can be to list an item or find something you want on these platforms. You often needed a pretty good idea of how the forums or online stores worked, as they were built for different purposes, and not specifically as a marketplace. Carousell was created to solve that problem.

How has it disrupted the classifieds industry?

Before Carousell, most people used their computers to buy and sell on online marketplaces and in forums. They had to go through multiple steps to list an item for sale, or search through forum threads or pages of product listings to find what they wanted. These platforms could be quite difficult to use.

After the rise in smartphone adoption, mobile devices became the main platform for searching online, connecting with others on social media, or simply to chat with friends. We wanted to make buying and selling as simple as the day-to-day functions of the smartphone; whether it was snapping a photo or chatting with a friend. So, our design philosophy at Carousell is to make selling as easy as taking a photo, and buying as simple as chatting!

Today, Carousell occupies a unique position as a mobile classifieds marketplace where users can buy, sell, and connect with one another. We've seen users turn to the Carousell community to sell their impulse buys or pre-loved items that were a result of online shopping sprees. Our goal at Carousell is to help individuals everywhere sell these items easily. Since our launch in August 2012, there have been over 250 million listings in six key markets around the world.

How did you scale the business?

By hiring the right talent. We hope to grow a culture that encourages innovation and brings together teams and capabilities that will enable us to build technology with global impact. We have made a few high-profile hires in 2019. These include our new Chief Technology Officer Igor Volynskiy, Vice President of Operations Su Lin Tan, Chief Commercial Officer Lewis Ng and Managing Director of Ads JJ Eastwood. This reflects our steadfast commitment to solidifying our market-leading position and continuing to scale up our business in the classifieds industry. Right now, we have over 400 employees in eight offices around the world.

What challenges did you face in growing the business; and what is the strategy to bring it to the next level?

The cities of Southeast Asia are highly differentiated. We speak different languages and dialects, have different cultures and traditions, and transact in different currencies. Even the level of infrastructure for Internet access and speed, smartphone penetration, transportation and logistics, vary widely across the region.

As a startup based in Singapore, we grew up surrounded by these differences and knew that we had to go local to be global. We have local teams in all our markets, to ensure that everything we do is relevant and resonates with our users in that country. Our app is optimised to perform even in challenging Internet conditions and is flexible enough to allow buyers and sellers to use what makes the most sense for them in their particular market; rather than us imposing a certain way of doing things.

We continue to improve search and discovery, and building next-generation classifieds solutions by exploring how we can use Artificial Intelligence and machine learning to offer a more personalised experience.

Any advice for budding tech entrepreneurs looking to start and scale their own business?

My advice would be to start with identifying a problem you feel strongly about solving. A startup will encounter many challenges within a day, and you will need to be absolutely passionate about what you are doing in order to keep going. In the face of numerous challenges, the only reason you will persevere is because you care a lot about what you do.

As a DBS BusinessClass Star Advisor, Siu Rui offers his insights and advice exclusively to BusinessClass members through networking sessions. Check out more of his insights here! Also, if you require specific advice or support from any of our Star Advisors, get in touch with us here.

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