How we scaled from one to 6 teams to enable convenient transactions for millions of users through Pay&Ship?
Q&A with Corina, now Head of Product for Pay & Ship at OLX Group. On scale, APIs eco-systems, orchestration, snow and grandmother childhood memories
“I used to visit my grandparents in the Romanian countryside,” describes Corina, now Head of Product for Pay & Ship at OLX Group.
“In winter, we used to have heavy snow. I used to sit on the hearth beside the fireplace to keep warm. My grandmother would often bake bread and wrap it in towels. I would just sit on the towels. It’s a fond memory — sitting on the bread. It brought me warmth, happiness, and a sense of security.”
Flash forward to today. Now at OLX, Corina wants that same happiness and security for OLX users.
“I sat by the fire without a worry. Similarly, Pay and Ship can take away the worry for OLX’s buyers and sellers. They can sit beside the fire, knowing their order or payment will arrive safely and efficiently.”
Excited about all that’s happening with Pay & Ship, we sat down with Corina for a conversation. She gave us lots of great insights on how Pay & Ship can shape the future of trade.
Take a seat by the fireplace and have a read!
It is about convenience and peace of mind
What’s the goal of Pay & Ship?
“OLX had been a purely classifieds platform for a long time. That means our buyers and sellers would often have to meet in person,” tells Corina.
“Over the last few years, we’ve noticed people want to make deals online in a safe, convenient manner. You can’t always find the products you need close to your home. We need trustworthy remote deals and efficient delivery.
In Poland, as in many other countries, there’s a bit of a dance when you order second-hand things online. We’ve been getting feedback and have been creating different options for making deals and shipping and paying for items.”
“We listened. Sellers can now offer delivery of items via OLX. There is even a chat function to negotiate the price and agree on different conditions. Buyers can receive the item at the post office or a parcel locker.
While the transaction is in process, the money is kept in a virtual payments wallet. This ensures security and trust as sellers and buyers wait for the transaction and delivery to go through.”
What’s the future of Pay & Ship at OLX?
“We expect 3x growth over the next 12 months! The team is growing quickly. With the growth in e-commerce, plus the acceleration caused by the pandemic, there’s a compound effect. We see a healthy appetite for buying and selling used goods and are taking on the challenge in Pay&Ship,” attests Corina.
“We’re working on safety-related mechanisms, such as smart algorithms for securing transactions and better relevance for buyer recommendations.
And as I said, we will increase delivery and payment options. For instance, we have parcel lockers and post office pickup. We may add a courier service. With payments, you can now pay by links. We have recently added Blik, one of the most popular payment methods in Poland.
Pay and Ship is also live in Ukraine and we are enhancing the experience in Romania with more delivery and payment options.”
“With Pay and Ship, we focused on goods to work at a faster pace. We’re unlocking the potential of making successful trade with peace of mind. We want to unleash the potential of the transactional model.”
Orchestrate the Ecosystem
How has managing the Pay & Ship ecosystem been?
“Personally, I’ve grown a lot. We started in a green field. When we started this journey, we were a one-person team. I researched what OLX isn’t doing and what we could be doing. I did have an ‘aha’ moment when the huge potential of marketplace payments became clear,” exclaims Corina.
“We built out our team and started working on the first prototype. We went from one to two teams and now we’ve grown into six teams. When the pandemic hit, the ecosystem really became a lot of work. The payment side is complex. You need mechanisms for refunds and payouts, making sure the seller and delivery company both get their money. We have this whole ecosystem of different APIs, services and 3rd party integrations.”
What’s been challenging about Pay & Ship?
“One of the big challenges was how to create trust and collaboration so we could move fast. We released the whole Pay and Ship solution in September of last year. That was mammoth. Apart from collaboration and building trust, we had to make sure we were getting it right. When it comes to money, everyone is double careful. We can’t risk something breaking.
Since the release, we’ve had 35x growth in the number of transactions. We’ve had incredible early success!”
What’s been the biggest development win?
“We had to understand the pain points properly in a hyper-growth environment, while dealing with a pandemic and working remotely. We see what can make Pay and Ship a huge success now.
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We have a mix of diverse talents. I went from a hands-on one-person team to Head of Product.
We used to operate on a country basis. Now, we’re moving to a platform or ecosystem approach, which is more effective. Each team owns a certain problem space, from payments, delivery, and safety to engagement and monetization. This helps us improve the Pay and Ship experience for our users and create more value for the OLX ecosystem.”
Change Is Constant; Consolidate empathy in the value you deliver.
What’s your background?
“I’m from Bucharest. I have an engineering degree and started as a software engineer. I’m a geek!” states Corina.
“At the beginning of my career, I did mobile with Nokia. I also worked as a front-end software engineer for an event platform startup in Romania. In a small startup you are usually the generalist who does a little bit of everything. This is how I arrived into product management and fell in love.
It took some time for someone to give me a chance to work in product 100%. I knew I would have to begin as a junior product manager. Eventually, a woman head of product hired me. She gave me a chance.”
Can you share one piece of advice when it comes to managing complex eco-system of partners like in the case of Pay & Ship.
“Our focus on Pay & Ship enables the team to take the OLX platforms to the next level. We have leveraged an eco-system of partners and stakeholders to make Pay & Ship a reality. User research, design, data and competitor analysis, experiments, customer support, marketing and API development should never be done in isolation. As a Product Manager, you have to engage your partners and stakeholders and involve them at every step: ideation, testing and delivery. This is also where the magic happens: people are passionate about their domain of expertise and they are eager to find the best possible solution and drive results. As you engage and connect with them, you will be able to leverage an impressive mass of knowledge.”
What’s something you learned while working in product?
“Embrace change. Nothing is constant. The world is evolving. One of the few constants is change. I live by this philosophy.”
“Also, always discover new challenges. Things move at a very fast pace, so if you don’t change, you’ll go out of business. You won’t grow and learn if you don’t embrace change.
A complex ecosystem brings a significant amount of stakeholders. Our key users are C2Cs and we have B2Cs. We have a lot of stakeholder management. We have to bring empathy and consolidate it in the value we deliver. We have to combine quality and quantity in our platforms.”
Different Mental Models & No “One-Size-Fits-Men” Approach
What gives you inspiration outside OLX?
“I’m a huge advocate for women in tech and do work in mentorship. It gives me energy and keeps me motivated. I really want to live to see a more equal world. We especially need more women in leadership positions,” states Corina.
“In terms of role models, my mother is a role model. My mom came from a very conservative family and was pushed into a traditional role. She struggled with that but pursued her education and work. She has instilled in me the importance of learning, growing, and being independent.
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There’s one podcast I really like called the Knowledge Project. They have different guests from all sorts of fields. It’s about different mental models across different industries. It’s helpful to hear from those in business, medicine, and elsewhere. It helps with empathy when dealing with huge amounts of people from different backgrounds.
I also like to study data biases in our industry. One book I recommend is Invisible Women. The book discusses how gender-blindness in the tech world leads to this ‘one-size-fits-men’ approach. There’s so much data that points out issues. For example, Google’s speech-recognition software is 70% more likely to understand men. The average smartphone is often too big for women’s hands and doesn’t fit in our pockets.
What is your personal role in promoting women in tech leadership?
“I organize events for women in tech in Berlin. There are about 6,500 women. The events range from workshops and inspirational talks to finding role models and mentorship.”
What’s your advice for success at OLX?
“Be prepared for speed. We move fast and learn at a fast pace. Take risks and contribute. It’s valuable to bring a new point of view. If a team has been working together for a long time, a new member can add value by speaking their mind.”
That concludes this post. We hope you enjoyed the read. Thank you, Corina!