Ankiti Bose is a 27 years old, fashion junkie and on course to become the first Indian women to co-found a $1 billion start-up.
In just past four years, her Southeast Asian e-commerce site Zilingo has grown into a global platform with more than 7 million active users. With a rapidly expanding investor following, the start-up’s latest cash injection in February 2019 valued the business at $970 million.
It all started with a shopping trip to Thailand says Ankiti “it was 2014 and I was on holiday with some friends, some ex-colleagues actually, in Bangkok. We were in this market called Chatuchak with more than 15,000 stalls and some 11,500 independent merchants, it is largest weekend market in the world. I was like wow, this stuff should be online! But they just couldn’t sell online, they don’t know how too. That was the inception.”
Zilingo have a headquartered in Singapore and helps independent fashion and lifestyle retailers sell directly to consumers. Ankiti was a investment analyst working for major venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, India. Based in the country’s tech hub, Bangalore she was closely following the rise and rise of major e-commerce names like Amazon, Alibaba and India’s Flipkart. But she was struck by the lack of opportunities at that time for small-time merchants in Southeast Asia.
Southeast Asia represents one of the world’s largest manufacturing hubs, but many local producers lack the economies of scale to sell directly to consumers. They therefore must rely on third-party distributors — often to the detriment of their profit margins and working conditions.
“We don’t put as much emphasis and importance on some of the more glamorous labels in our industry,” said Bose. “But I still think it’s a huge achievement for us and the team and it just helps us think more about how big and audacious this whole thing can be.”