Retail in Asia

In People

Marcus Tan of Carousell: Snap, list and sell

Thirty seconds. That’s all it should take to “snap, list and sell” an item on Carousell, a Singapore-based buy-and-sell app that’s putting the second-hand marketplace back into people’s hands, quite literally.

“A few years ago, e-commerce was taking off and many retailers were establishing an online presence,” said Marcus Tan, co-founder and president of Carousell. “However, there were very limited options for individuals to sell their own things or buy someone else’s.”

Tan recalled “how difficult it was to list an item, or find something you wanted,” and how each forum served a different purpose rather than functioning as a unified marketplace.

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With that in mind, he set out to make buying and selling on a mobile phone “as simple as chatting,” and that was the start of Carousell. Below, Tan tells us more about the company’s beginnings, where they’re headed next and the tremendous potential of mobile commerce in Southeast Asia.

How did Carousell get its start?

We participated in Startup Weekend Singapore and demonstrated Carousell’s prototype, and we won. However, what inspired us to take the plunge and start Carousell were the hundreds of comments from people who liked the idea through our Facebook, Twitter and Launchrock landing page. Seeing how it resonated with so many people really convinced us that there was a need for a mobile-first product like Carousell.

When did Carousell officially launch?

We started working full-time on Carousell in May 2012 and the first version was launched in the Singapore iTunes Store in August 2012.

How did you decide between a mobile site or app? And what do you think consumers prefer?

We developed Carousell for the smartphone generation — a key differentiator from other web-based sites that were already present. Being a mobile app allows users to access our site more easily, and for us to integrate location-based components into our service. Today, Carousell is now available both as a mobile app and site.

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