[Turning point] How a visit to Thailand markets helped these entrepreneurs build ecommerce unicorn Zilingo

The Turning Point is a series of short articles that focuses on the moment when an entrepreneur hit upon their winning idea. Today, we look at the Southeast Asian ecommerce giant Zilingo.
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The local markets were a few of the things Ankiti Bose loved about Thailand and Southeast Asia. During one of her visits to Bangkok, she saw that several small players had the best things to offer, but they did not have any access to digital platforms and could not effectively market themselves online. 

While she was thinking of solving this problem after returning to India, she met Dhruv Kapoor at a friend’s party. 

Ankiti, who was then working for Sequoia Capital, and IIT Guwahati alumnus Dhruv, who had worked for Yahoo and Kiwi Games, were equally passionate about building a technology-driven consumer Internet business, with a focus on scalability and localisation.

The duo decided to start Zilingo in 2015. 

Initially, the Singapore-based startup wanted to bring different large and small businesses online. The platform had onboarded over 1,500 sellers in Thailand and Singapore who were primarily selling clothing, accessories, bags, shoes, and beauty products to consumers. 

“We also agreed that Southeast Asia was the perfect market to build, with a clear first-mover's advantage, and that’s how we ended up travelling across the region and zeroing in on it,” Ankiti had told YourStory in an earlier conversation. 

However, Zilingo found these 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 for sourcing raw materials or manufacturing products. 

Ankiti Bose, Co-founder, Zilingo

Today, Zilingo is no longer just a marketplace. It is a B2B platform that helps digitise every aspect of a seller’s workflow and supply chain. It provides a trading platform and software services to brands, factories, and SMEs. 

By 2017, the ecommerce startup had built teams across five countries, including Indonesia, Hong Kong, Thailand, the Philippines, Australia, India, and the US. The startup has a tech team that works out of Bengaluru.

In the last five years, Dhruv says, Zilingo has evolved into an end-to-end supply chain enabler that lets brands, sellers, wholesalers, distributors, and factories come together to access financing, logistics, and everything that is a part of the ecommerce ecosystem. 

According to Zilingo, fashion is an over $3 trillion industry where a majority of retailers struggle with meeting consumer demand for fast, on-trend, and responsibly produced products due to inefficiencies and information asymmetry. 

To address this, the startup created a full-stack technology platform, which makes the supply chain fair, transparent, and connected.

To date, Zilingo has raised $302 million in funding. It touched the $100 million transaction flow in January 2020. The startup turned unicorn in 2019, valued at over $1 billion.

Touted as one of the largest ecommerce players in Southeast Asia, it has over 2,000 distributors, 17,000 merchants and brands, and 600 factories.
Edited by Suman Singh

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