How Does Jiji Make Money? Dissecting Its Business Model

Executive Summary:

Jiji is an online classifieds site that enables users to either purchase or sell both goods and services in a variety of different categories.

Jiji makes money from so-called premium services, which enable users to boost the exposure their listings receive.

Founded in 2014, Jiji has grown into the biggest online classifieds platform in Africa. Its founders have raised over $50 million in funding thus far.

What Is Jiji?

Jiji is an online classifieds site that enables users to either purchase or sell both goods and services in a variety of different categories.

Example segments Jiji users can transact in include:

  • Jiji Cars: new and used cars for sale
  • Jiji Phones: smartphones, feature phones & all kinds of mobile phones
  • Jiji Fashion: both men’s and women’s clothing in categories such as shoes, accessories, dresses, and so forth
  • Jiji Health & Beauty: fragrance, makeup, skincare, tools, vitamins & more
  • Jiji Houses: find an apartment or house for rent or purchase
  • Jiji Electronics: laptops, sound systems, etc.
  • Jiji Jobs: listing all kinds of jobs

… and many more. Jiji claims that its users upload over 900,000 listings at any given time. Meanwhile, transacting on the platform is as simple as it gets.

After signing up, users simply contact the seller and negotiate a price both parties are comfortable with via its direct messaging feature.

The seller itself can either be another individual or a business selling online. In any case, Jiji highlights how long the seller has been active on its platform, how long it normally takes for them to reply, their verification status, and how they’re rated by other buyers.

Both parties, once they agree on a price, can either meet in person or arrange a delivery. Right now, Jiji does not provide any delivery services nor does it guarantee that its sellers will ship the product.

Jiji itself is available in multiple African countries, namely Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Lastly, users can access the platform either by visiting Jiji’s local website or by downloading its mobile app, which is available for Android or iOS devices.

Detailing the Founding Story of Jiji

Jiji, which is headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria, was founded in 2014 by Vladimir Mnogoletniy (CEO), Vasiliy Ulyanov, and Vital Laptenok.

Now, if you’re expecting a rags-to-riches founding story, then you’ll probably be quite disappointed. Starting Jiji wasn’t the founders’ first rodeo.

In fact, they previously launched a company incubator called Genesis, which has incorporated a variety of other software businesses such as Appflame or Quarks.

Expanding into Africa, while it wasn’t anything they had experience with, certainly made sense. The whole continent has experienced substantial growth, especially when looking at its nascent startup scene.

One of the most prominent examples is the online marketplace Jumia, which was essentially started by German company incubator Rocket Internet and has since managed to go public. Additionally, Africa had and still has one of the highest mobile adoption and internet penetration rates.

With those growth prospects in mind, Mnogoletniy and the rest of the team set out to disrupt the African classifieds industry, which back then was dominated by the global conglomerate OLX.

Interestingly, most of the software development was (and still likely is) conducted back in Ukraine where Jiji’s founders are originally from.

Meanwhile, their previous track record also enabled the founders to raise funding early on, although most of those rounds were undisclosed (meaning the actual funding amount was not shared).

The first time Jiji hit the public consciousness was roughly five years after its founding. In April 2019, the company announced that it acquired OLX’s Africa business and thus swallowing up its biggest competitor.

As a result of the acquisition, Jiji was able to expand from just Nigeria to Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, and Tanzania, potentially being able to access 300 million people.

And a mere eight months later, in December, Jiji disclosed that it also raised $21 million in Series C and C-1 financing from six investors, led by Knuru Capital. However, $18 million of those were already raised in May 2018 and only $3 million were added during December.

In all likelihood, most of the initial $18 million went toward financing the OLX takeover. The Covid pandemic, which broke out just a few months later, only accelerated Jiji’s adoption rates. Its active listings, for example, grew from 2 million by the end of 2019 to 3 million by 2021.

In order to further its dominance, Jiji acquired Cars45, another classifieds competitor that is focused on vehicles. “We have leading positions in all markets we’re present in and are definitely the classifieds leader in the region. Also, we are probably the largest e-commerce company in Africa by GMV,” CEO Mnogoletniy told TechCrunch.

As part of the purchase, Jiji also acquired Cars45’s network of inspection centers where cars are inspected by more than 200 parameters.

Over the course of the coming months, Jiji underwent various other key initiatives such as a site-wide rebrand (09/2021), raising another undisclosed Series D round (10/2021), and acquiring another classifieds competitor in Ghana-based Tonaton (02/2022).

Today, products worth over $10 billion are listed on Jiji while the company claims that its the number one classifieds platform in all five markets it operates in.

How Does Jiji Make Money?

Jiji makes money from so-called premium services, which enable users to boost the exposure their listings receive.

The fee that they are charged is ultimately dependent on the type of category they list in, the duration of the ad, and whether they select the ‘TOP’ or ‘Boost Premium’ option.

With TOP, your ad is placed at the top of the search results page for either 7 or 30 days, depending on the duration you have chosen.

And with Boost Packages, the user’s ads will appear in search results more often during 1-, 3-, 6- or 12-month periods. Jiji offers six different packages, ranging from Basic to Diamond & Enterprise.

Alternatively, users can also promote their listings via an option called ‘PRO Sales’. It also boosts the exposure of a given listing. The feature promotes ads across all possible touchpoints on Jiji – in the general listing, category pages, and relevant filtered search results.

However, instead of charging an upfront fee, PRO Sales customers are charged on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis. This means that advertisers only pay whenever a user engages with the ad.

Monetizing via ads is fairly common among online classifieds sites. International competitors like Gumtree or OfferUp have implemented similar monetization strategies.

However, many also impose listing fees on higher-ticket categories such as job ads or vehicle listings – something that Jiji doesn’t seem to be doing.

The reasons for that are manyfold. First, it operates in Africa where the average household income isn’t particularly high to begin with, which means the pool of people able to pay upfront fees without a guarantee of sales success is fairly low.

Second, it also competes with completely free options, most prominently Facebook Marketplace. And lastly, being essentially free enables Jiji to build up its supply base of sellers.

The business model strategy that Jiji pursues is predicated on having enough liquidity, meaning a buyer has sufficient alternatives for every potential product or service need they may have.

As a result, buyers are likelier to become repeat customers (granted they are not being scammed). And sellers will be incentivized to join Jiji because that’s where the largest pool of buyers reside.

With more and more sellers joining the platform, some would be incentivized to purchase the above-mentioned ad packages to stand out from the competition.

It wouldn’t be unfathomable to assume that Jiji winds up monetizing sellers even further. It could, for example, start imposing listing fees on certain categories (like Craigslist does) or offer logistics and payment services for professional sellers.

Jiji Funding, Revenue & Valuation

Jiji, according to Crunchbase, has raised a total of $21 million across six rounds of venture capital funding.

The actual number is likely substantially higher since some of those rounds have been marked as undisclosed. An article by TechCrunch essentially confirmed that sentiment, stating that Jiji raised $50 million from investors between 2014 and 2019.

Notable backers of the company include Knuru Capital, Somersault Ventures, Horizon Capital, Digital Spring Ventures, and many others.

Unfortunately, neither Jiji’s valuation nor annual revenue is currently being disclosed by the company.

Hi folks, Viktor checking in! Years of experience in various tech-related roles have led me to start this blog, which I hope provides you with as much enjoyment to read as I have writing the content.