Tier 2 Cities Are Major Buyers of Lingerie Online: Richa Kar, Founder, Zivame

Richa Kar Zivame
Richa Kar, Founder & CEO, Zivame (Image: Company Website)

Online lingerie store Zivame raised $6 mn in funding in a round led by former Disney UTV head Ronnie Screwvala in December 2013. The company has set an ambitious goal for itself– get to Rs 1000 cr in sales in the next 3-5 years.

The funding came less than a year after its first $3 mn round from IDG and Kalaari Capital. The team has grown to 150 people and hiring is on. Now that fundraising is off her mind, Richa Kar, the founder of Zivame, wants to focus on cornering a larger share of the $3 bn category.

With around 1200 orders a day and a 10-15% growth month on month, we are just getting started, said Kar, who worked with Spencers and SAP retail consulting before taking a plunge to become an entrepreneur. Edited Excerpts.

What was the fundraising experience like?

Many venture capitalists had reached out to us. We got talking to IDG Ventures which put us in touch with Vani of Kalaari. She was quick, not only because she was an investor but also because she was a woman who understood the problem we were solving. Around last year, we started meeting investors again.

Future plans?

Build the category to scale by doing things very differently. Over the next 2 years, we will try and get as many women as possible to buy lingerie online. According to a survey on our site, nearly 25% women were buying online for the first time on Zivame.

What are your revenues?

I can’t disclose revenues but we are doing close to 1200 orders a day. We are scaling rapidly with around 10-15% month on month growth. Last month we grew 30%. People aren’t coming for discounts. They are coming because there is a need.

What’s NextBigWhat for Zivame in 2014?

We want to strengthen the experience of buying online in which technology will play a greater role. So personalisation and recommendation will be important. We will try to make the buying experience closer to the retail experience.

We will also focus on marketing. Today, 70% of our buyers are coming from top 10 cities. Reaching out to the tier 2 & 3 cities will be a priority.

Thirdly, we will plug all the gaps in the assortment. My merchandising strategy has to be world class. You will see a lot of action in these three areas.

Challenges in hiring?

Hiring has to be right for a startup. People need to see the vision. Everyone likes the latitude that a startup gives. It’s not only about competency but also the mindset when it comes to hiring.

What has the journey been like?

It’s gratifying but its never easy. Every day is hard. You are defying conventions and timelines. I didn’t start the company because e-commerce was hot. I thought we need to do something around lingerie as a category. I was working with Spencers & SAP retail consulting when I learned the retail business, its systems and processes. At SAP retail, I worked with global brands and realized that this is a big category. There were lot of gaps and the only way to do something well was to take the plunge. The worst case scenario would have been that this business doesn’t take off. But I’m an engineer and an MBA, so I would be employable. This has given me terrific experience. If I was in a corporate role, it would have taken me 10-15 years to get here. It’s like a super crash course in building businesses.

What sort of gaps?

It was not a fad but a real business. We were addressing a problem felt by real women in the country. In physical stores, buying lingerie gets very uncomfortable. Limited variety, lack of privacy, awareness and consultation are some of the problems in buying this category offline. I never knew what was the category size until I had to start pitching to venture capitalists. Very quickly we realised that thine money we required to run an ecommerce business was higher than Rs 35 lakh, our bootstrap capital.

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