Johan Nel, GumtreeJohan Nel, Gumtree

Gumtree has, for the first time, appointed a local country head and opened two offi ces in SA, bringing to an end the legacy of the local operation being run out of parent company eBay’s international offices.

Gumtree, which launched in the UK in 2000, was bought by eBay in 2006 and then launched in SA; initially in Cape Town, before launching nationally three years later. However, the South African operations were, until recently, handled from California, says new country manager .

Nel, who claims Gumtree is the biggest player in the local classifieds market, says the eBay group sees a large opportunity to grow its market share and take it to the next level. For that to happen, it needed to establish a local presence, he notes.

Gumtree has now opened Cape Town and Johannesburg offices, and has around 15 employees, says Nel. Gumtree hosts 2.5 million advertisements every month, and because ads expire every two weeks, it has around 700 000 ads online at any given time, he says.

Bart Molenda, head of marketing for the eBay Classifieds Group – the unit under which Gumtree falls – has said the local site is growing at around 28% year-on-year, and about 18% of the local population visit the portal.

Nel, who has been with the company for about a month, says Gumtree is moving towards becoming a digital platform. He says it will become more mobile-centric, as 42% of its traffic comes from cellular users, and also wants to expand its reach among Internet users in SA.

Gumtree is also pondering expanding north of SA’s borders, but Nel says there is no set strategy to do this. He notes the group is “in the middle of a battle in SA” as among online classified players is heating up.

One of ’ growth thrusts is to focus on classifi eds, such as its OLX offering, which it has wholly owned since 2011. Nel says Gumtree is 3.5 times bigger than OLX, but both entities are determined to grow market share.