Back in 2014, Several small and medium-sized enterprises had possibly the best things to offer, but despite being huge markets, this stores barely had any access to digital platforms besides Facebook, and couldn’t effectively market themselves online. This led to the birth of Zilingo, a fashion and lifestyle marketplace, built for the Southeast Asian market.
Zilingo is a technology and commerce platform in the fashion and lifestyle industry. The Singapore headquartered start-up was founded in 2015 by Ankiti Bose and Dhruv Kapoor and has operations spanning Indonesia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Philippines, Australia, India, and the United States. Ankiti is from Mumbai. She did her schooling from Podar school in Mumbai. She attended St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai and completed her graduation in Economics and Mathematics.
After completing her college, she joined McKinsey & Company in Bangalore as a management consultant, where she worked from 2012 to 2014. Later in 2014, she joined Sequoia Capital in Bangalore as an investment analyst.
Once when she was on her Bangkok trip with her colleagues and visited the Chatuchak Market, the largest weekend market in the world, she saw there were 15,000 stalls and some 11,500 independent merchants and had awesome fashion stuff to offer and she felt like, “Wow, this stuff should be online! “But they couldn’t sell online as they didn’t have a clue how to sell things online.
Ankiti realized that these merchants had a lot to offer and were eager for growth however they were not well-equipped with the technology and services needed to scale with worldwide competitors, and that was the Inception of the company. She was in search of a tech-partner and in 2014, she met Dhruv Kapoor, an IIT graduate at a party. He was working as a software engineer in Bangalore. They both discussed the idea and decided to start up their own venture and within 6 months, they both quit their jobs, pooled their savings, and launched the venture.
They agreed that Southeast Asia was the perfect market to build, with a clear first-mover’s advantage in and that’s how they ended up traveling across the region and zeroing in on it. In the first few months of operations, the duo focussed on two things – building a really good ecosystem for the small sellers online with Zilingo, and creating an engaging app that makes buyers keep coming back for more.
The company began with seed funding from Sequoia India and raised an additional $8 million in a Series A funding round in September 2016. It raised an additional $18 million in 2017 in a Series B round and $54 million in a Series C round in 2018.
The company started off as a long-tail fashion marketplace taking advantage of Southeast Asia’s growing internet connectivity to bring small merchants from the street markets of Bangkok and Jakarta into the e-commerce fold, supported by distribution, cataloguing, and financing services Zilingo began to offer.
After beefing its distribution capabilities, Zilingo expanded focus towards B2B opportunities across the supply chain with an eye on service opportunities the platform could offer to transform a fragmented, inefficient, cash, and tech-strapped value chain.
Following a marketplace model, the team charges their sellers a commission on each successful transaction. They also focused on B2B opportunities starting with a suite of basic products to help merchants and manufacturers manage their e-commerce business. This initially included inventory management and sales tracking, and today the company has graduated to deeper services like financing, sourcing and procurement, and a ‘style hunter’ for identifying upcoming fashion trends.
So, they expanded, developing software and other tools to allow vendors to access factories from Bangladesh to Vietnam and also help with cross-border shipping and inventory management. Since 2018, Zilingo has also worked with financial technology firms to provide working capital to small sellers so they can buy raw materials to produce goods
Ankiti became the first woman to co-found a unicorn business (A start-up valued at $1 billion or more). In 2018, Ankiti and Dhruv were listed in the renowned American magazine ‘Forbes’ among the most influential young people in business aged under 30.
In 2019, Ankiti was listed in Forbes as the most influential and inspiring young people in business under the age of 40. The vision of Zilingo is to make the fashion supply chain a levelled playing field.