Algiers’ eighth most popular website began in the year 2008 when police were on hand to shut down the street market of a suburb. For decades the market would periodically show up on a road called Oued Kniss in the Algiers suburb of Kouba. People would purchase or sell anything they could imagine, from television sets to carpets. “It was really nice,” remembers Mehdi Bouzid.
As many teenagers in Algeria in the year 2006. Bouzid along with his 4 buddies, Hichem Soudah, Amine Benmouffok Ahmed Bouaouina, and Djamel Eddine Dib, had a dream of starting an online blog. They had already had in mind the idea of having a classified website for their peers and, as Oued Kniss’ souk closed the following day, they decided to speed their plans forward, establish themselves in a nearby cybercafe, then create their website. To pay homage to the street market they believed played a significant role in Algiers the city’s character, they named it Ouedkniss.
At the time they weren’t thinking about earning money, according to Bouzid. “In 2006 there were not many Algerian websites. There were only a handful of Skyblogs (a blogging platform popular at the time by francophones from all over the world) forumsand handful of information websites. All we wanted was to leave our mark on the web.”
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From word-of mouth to online advertisements on Ouedkniss.com
In the first year, the website got no more than 20 visitors a day, plus a handful of classifieds posted by their friends. But over time, the word began to spread. In 2007, the crew was sent to one of the first e-marketing events in Algeria and Ouedkniss welcomed 2,000 visitors in one day. “This was a record to us,”” remembers Bouzid.
After completing their studies at university that the five friends witnessed an exponential increase in the number of students as each was able to convert many students. At that time students were the ideal target, as they were interested in the possibilities of the internet and wanted to test something new. It was not long before word spread out beyond their schools and the site was a success.
“Many users have told us they got started online due to Ouedkniss,”” says the cofounder. It was thanks to Ouedkniss, he says, that many bought something online for the first time or looked for an apartment or car for the first time.
Three years after working to improve their product and the decision to let Algerians make Ouedkniss their own and unique product, the five friends made the choice to up their game and begin advertising the site for internet users and to people who had yet to join the site. With a focus on Facebook ads and online ads to promote the service they differed from Moroccan counterparts who splurged on billboards and TV ads to attract non-internet users join. “You will come across Algerians who don’t possess an email account or use the internet, but are on Facebook, so we decided to target those.”
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In no rush to profit from it
As college students more interested in making something than being wealthy, the five classmates were patient before they began to make money from the site.
In 2009, they introduced the Store program for a subscription per month that gave professionals an online store with a pre-defined number of classified ads. There was some resistance at the beginning, especially from the top users, who were not ready to pay for something that they previously had for free. So, the team cut prices up to 1,000 Algerian dinars per 100 ads, (10 DZD was $0.12 USD at the time). “It was so affordable, the people could not resist the offer,” he said.
By the end of 2011 the company 100 professionals selling their products However, the initial test was deemed successful, and it was decided to move on and appointed an account manager to connect with brick-and-mortar store owners who own their own stores. In the span of one year, the number of Ouedkniss Stores increased six times.
The Stores were however, not the only monetizing way that the team looked at. In 2010 they began selling ads through the website. “It was a long timeto get there,” is the cofounder’s plight. “I tried to handle advertising sales] myself between 2009 and 2010, but I stopped,” he continues, explaining that advertisers weren’t aware of the concept of the internet. “They were antiquated, and believed that the internet wasn’t serious enough.” In the present, the startup has largely outsourced this task to a few advertising networks.
It’s a better time as he says, thanks to the emergence of a younger advertising staff as well as the boom in the internet however, the advertisers do not grasp the importance of web culture. He explains that the majority of advertisers are still hesitant to run CPM-based ads (where the advertisers are paid per the number of views they receive) and prefer to pay by the day. However, he claims, despite these challenges, the website has been profitable since 2011.
Eight years later, after a lot of perseverance and determination, Ouedkniss now boasts 250,000 daily visits, and has become the first Algerian website that has surpassed this kind of number. Looking quickly at neighboring countries – with international and major players combining in Morocco, and Tunisia being taken over by Schibsted’s Dayara could anyone have anticipated the self-funded Ouedkniss remaining independent for so long? “We’ve received offers, mostly being from Middle East back in 2008,” says Bouzid, “but we’re not a fan of the idea of having investors We have our own vision of what Ouedkniss could be in 10 years.”
The five friends have already started to diversifytheir offerings, including its travel section, where users can now book trips online, and the launch of a website dedicated to cars, Autobip.
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