Carousell sells a new way to shop online... especially for Singaporeans

NOVEMBER 24 — I have a 4.5 rating. It isn’t my ride-share or food-deliver rating. This is my Carousell rating.

Carousell is a fast-growing online marketplace in Singapore.

It’s grown so quickly over the last three years that “to Carousell” (ie to sell an item online) is a real Singlish verb and I am genuinely embarrassed by my rating.

That loss of half a star was caused by one buyer I left hanging after striking up a conversation.

This haunts me.

On Carousell, your online rating can make the difference between winning or losing a bid.

After all, a lot of the app is predicated on trust. It’s largely person to person sales with a few big stores or retailers using it so you trust that on offer made is genuine or that payment will be followed by the delivery of the item — and you do all this anonymously.

So all you have to go on is the rating really. And the reviews.

Now, what’s really amazing about Carousell is that it was recently valued at S$1 billion (RM3 billion). Quite amazing for a three-year-old local firm whose founders are barely 30 years old.

They started out with help from a S$7,000 grant from the National University of Singapore and are now a home-grown unicorn.

Here we have local kids solving a local problem: how to get online commerce for everyone. And I mean everyone.

These days Carousell is firmly a part of the local lexicon. Personally, I have met sellers of every age and ethnicity on Carousell.

There have been old uncles selling their furniture or young women selling second-hand handbags.

The fact that it is hyper local and trust-based makes a huge difference. You typically meet the other seller and this eliminates delivery services and waiting time — perfect for a small geographical location like Singapore.

Carousell allows you to settle transactions not just in app but also using cash or local banking transfer solution PayNow which means it is great for credit card- and online payment-unsavvy older generations.

Uptake has been tremendous with hundreds of new users joining the platform every day — spurring an astronomical valuation.

Impressive because at first glance, an online P2P marketplace is hardly an original idea; eBay did it ages ago, but Carousell created something that worked for our local market.

They empowered buyers and sellers across the country and created a platform investors clearly think is scalable and valuable.

This is a lesson to aspiring entrepreneurs; sometimes it’s not the most innovative idea that wins out. Customisation, localisation and diligently building communities can bring wild success and even create unicorns.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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