Zilingo raises Series D funding of $225 million, builds a B2B SaaS platformSindhu Kashyap
Zilingo will use the funds raised to develop the infrastructure and tech of its new B2B SaaS platform, which aims to help small and big businesses to optimise the fashion supply chain and grow.
Singapore-based ecommerce marketplace Zilingo has raised Series D funding of $225 million in a round led by Sequoia Capital, Temasek, Burda Principal Investments, Sofina, EDBI, Singapore Investment fund, and existing investors. Zilingo, which recently added a B2B SaaS platform for merchants on its marketplace, will use the bulk of this fund raise to build the infrastructure and technology of the B2B platform.
Last year, the ecommerce platform had raised $54 million in Series C funding; it raised $17 million the year before that. With the latest fund raise, the total funding raised by Zilingo since inception stands at $304 million.
Co-founder and CTO Dhruv Kapoor said Zilingo was now a platform any brand or seller could use for tech and services needed to start, run, and scale a fashion or beauty business.
“Everything from product development, raw material procurement, manufacturing, global distribution, and customer service can be done through the platform. Businesses can also unlock other services like digitisation, analytics, marketing, working capital, and skill development,” he said.
Speaking on the current funding and the new B2B SaaS platform, Co-founder and CEO Ankiti Bose said the fashion industry still needed a lot of technology and infrastructure to be built to be efficient.
“We want to enable traditional businesses to digitise and unlock margins through Zilingo software so some of our funding will go into developing the technology stack. We're also looking to expand our markets in Indonesia, Philippines, and Australia,” Ankiti said.
Why add a B2B platform?
Founded in 2015 by Ankiti and Dhruv, Zilingo is headquartered in Singapore. The company has a technology centre in Bengaluru. Ankiti was travelling across Thailand and Indonesia when she noticed that several small and medium-sized enterprises in the region had great things to offer. She also saw that despite being huge markets, where people from other parts of Southeast Asia also shopped, these stores barely had any access to digital platforms apart from Facebook, and couldn’t market themselves online effectively.
This led to the birth of Zilingo, a fashion and lifestyle marketplace for the Southeast Asian market. Soon, the Ankiti and Dhruv got thinking on what allowed fashion shoppers access to the best pricing, the widest variety, and the best quality in the market. They discovered that the answer was to enable fashion businesses to unlock efficiency so they could serve customers better.
Speaking of the investment, Shailendra Singh, Managing Director at Sequoia Capital (India) Singapore said:
“Sequoia’s investment in Zilingo dates back to when the company wasn’t even yet incorporated and the name wasn’t finalized. Ankiti and team have rapidly transformed their original ideas about Zilingo into a platform company that serves fashion consumers, merchants, retailers, brands and manufacturers, collectively representing a multi-hundred billion dollar market size. We are amazed by the team’s ability to envision and execute against such an ambitious roadmap and are excited to continue to support them on their journey."
However, the Zilingo team found that the rising fashion brands were not able to compete on a level playing field with larger industry players as they did not get the same pricing when it came to sourcing raw materials or manufacturing products.
The team realised that most merchants didn’t have access to traditional banking and working capital was a major bottleneck. The lack of infrastructure needed to digitise and serve customers globally was also an issue. It was not possible to give the customer the best experience without solving these problems for merchants.
Creating value for the merchant
This led Zilingo to build the B2B platform. Talking about the shift to a B2B platform, Dhruv said that though they started a B2C-only marketplace in 2015, the company was eager to go beyond that and solve and optimise various parts of the fashion supply chain and consumer experience.
“As a tech startup, we’ve always believed in building great technology and user experience and the look-at-problems-first principle. We’ve built the core technology that powers Zilingo ourselves. Over the last few years we’ve served a ton of use cases, including multi-currency and multi-language, global logistics, real-time analytics for our sellers and BI, recommendations, natural language search, seller services that scale to sellers with hundreds of thousands of unique products, and much more,” Dhruv said.
He said all these were complex problems, and how they interacted was complex as well. The team Zilingo solves these problems by breaking them down into services wherever applicable, and augmenting the tech stack with open-source software.
The team has added analytics and inventory management to the Zilingo platform to help businesses optimise on these fronts. Dhruv said that their sourcing solution was also born out of the massive issues small businesses faced when it came to sourcing raw materials or finished products at competitive prices.
“We have a continuous feedback cycle with our merchants so that we're able to build the technology they need to be more efficient. We see our merchants as important partners in the product development process,” Dhruv said.
Building a strong tech foundation
A team of 80 now, Zilingo had started building the platform three months before their first launch in Thailand in late 2015. And it helped in this addition today.
“Those first few months were busy and frantic, but we took the call to develop a strong technology foundation. That served us well as we scaled, adding new functionalities for our buyers and the businesses that rely on us,” he said.
The ecommerce portal now aims to create value for its merchants and provide them with access to an efficient fashion supply chain. The key shift was integrating the B2C and B2B businesses into a single platform. The B2B platform will help Zilingo’s Seller Centre user experience to “scale” well – be it indie designers to large merchants and brands.
“We want to let new sellers easily set up their business online, and also help support merchants with tens of thousands of products and thousands of daily orders. We like to involve our seller partners in the product development process - we do interviews to identify problems and ask for feedback on our launches,” Dhruv said.
The team is presently adding more services and tools to the Zilingo seller platform. “For example, skill development is key for small businesses, so we're building that out on the platform for any merchant to use. Labour management, billing, and warehouse management are being integrated into the platform. The vision is to make the software smart and accessible to all merchants, and enable growth.”
What does Zilingo have in mind for the future? “Our vision is to build software and services that can add value across the entire fashion supply chain. We want to make sure that anyone who wants to run a fashion label or start one from scratch has everything they need to be a successful entrepreneur. And through this, we want to make sure anyone who loves fashion can find the products and trends they love on Zilingo,” says Ankiti.