"I remember the time when I would drop everything and go into corridor-sized, dust-filled stores and hunt for the right lingerie to fulfill an order. Those days spent in such stores on Commercial Street made me realise why Zivame would be successful," says Richa Kar, Founder and CEO, Zivame, the online lingerie store. Today, the company claims to sell a bra every minute and has recently raised a Series C round of investment.
Richa’s experience holds true for most women before big malls and stores opened in their cities. Lingerie shopping involved walking into a small boxed store and looking for bras that seemed to fit the bill. It took a while to understand the right procedure to measure and the differences.
The idea of Zivame came to Richa when she realised that women aren't aware of the fact that the kind of lingerie they wear can change the way they look and carry themselves. "There was this need to cater to every woman of different shapes and sizes. In India, this especially holds true as you have women of different body shapes,"'says Richa. Averages do not work in this category and she says that there always was a strong need for awareness.
Zivame was established to make good quality lingerie accessible and affordable across cross sections. "An online store made perfect sense: there was no worry of shelf space, we could provide content and even create awareness. We can also make it private and discreet," Richa adds.
Starting from ground zero
Zivame was started from scratch. Coming from an engineering and MBA background, this was Richa's first tryst with entrepreneurship. She was clueless about the different kinds of lingerie available in the market. However, Richa believes that her deep and clear understanding of the consumer pain point what what kept her going in those initial days.
Despite no background in fashion or e-commerce, Richa did not hesitate going to the biggest brands and partnering with them. "Convincing them was a challenge, but when you have a strong vision you can get people to support you" she adds.
The brands soon got onboard and the team began working on building the website. They began seeing some traction. But e-commerce being a capital-intensive business, they soon realised they were running out of money. This got them working on their first round of funding. The first few investors didn't understand the importance of a standalone lingerie platform, Richa says, adding that they would ask her if she would look at selling other categories as well.
But Richa didn't find a problem to solve in those areas, so she refused to dilute the proposition. It was all about the consumer need and solving it.
Glitches in the system
Zivame got its first round of funding and soon began to scale. But the glitch was the systems weren't ready to take on that level of scale. The entire backend process was home grown and ridden with new requirements. It was Richa's understanding of ERP during her SAP days that got the first systems built.
There were times when the product and sizes were listed available but would actually not be available with the brand partner. This was primarily because large scale of orders couldn't be placed earlier on. Running to the store and hustling for the right product was something that was common for Richa in the earlier days. "We had an excel telling us which orders had been fulfilled and which ones hadn't," she adds. There is an increase from approximately two lakh products to 10 lakh from 2012 to 2015.
Team building and growth
Richa says she has learnt team building on the go. While she admits to have made her fair share of initial hiring mistakes, today the company is focussed on people who have passion for the idea and understand what Zivame stands for.
Today, Zivame claims to get close to 60 per cent revenue from its in-house brands. And close to 30 per cent of the revenue comes from Tier II and III cities. Category shapewear has seen a 336 per cent increase in one year. The company has also announced the launch of a dedicated lingerie app for women in India.
Today, close to 60 per cent of Zivame’s traffic comes from mobile and the company is confident that this will grow. "At Zivame, it's about how you better what you did yesterday. When you come with problems, bring possible solutions and we will work around the constraints," says Richa.
According to the Global Lingerie Market report compiled by Research and Markets, the global online lingerie market is pegged to grow at a CAGR of 18.18 per cent. The report covered Europe, APAC, North America and rest of the world. In the US alone the market is believed to grow at 16 per cent.
PrettySecrets has raised a Series A round from Orios Venture Partners and India Quotient; Cloe is backed by Mountains Partners and was rebranded to Clovia while raising a Series A from Ivycap Ventures, and there are ventures like ButterCups and Secret Angel as well.