Startup Zilingo raises 17M USD as niche e-commerce booms in Indonesia

Less than two years after its creation, Zilingo, a Southeast Asia-based e-commerce platform, has managed to raise $17M earlier in September. Led by Sequoia Capital India and Burda Principal Investments, this Series B funding will serve to grow business in Indonesia mainly. The country is now being considered as one of the hottest e-commerce markets in the world.

Offering indie brands amidst a saturated e-commerce market

Hyper-connectivity and mass use of mobile technologies have saturated the e-commerce market in Asia. As traditional retailers are finding it more difficult to attract clients to their physical stores, simply offering a range of products on online platforms is not a guarantee anymore for businesses. To avoid falling into this saturated zone, Zilingo was founded in 2015 as an e-commerce platform specialized in physical indie retail, targeting niche sellers and consumers.

Basically, ‘indie brands’ is a generic term defining any independently owned company promoting avant-gardism in its structure. By harnessing shifts in technology and manufacturing, it aims at breaking those barriers small companies generally face to reach a global audience.

Indie brands target niche markets and the founder is usually passionate about solving a particular problem. Generally funded by the founders, indie brands are forced to devise innovative strategies to meet capital requirements. They further demarcate themselves through premium design while minutely caring for details in functionality, marketing, and packaging.

Due to limited resources, products are also manufactured in small batches, subsequently offering the brand a coveted aspect. Indie brands moreover do not follow the traditional marketing paths of big companies. Their highlight is usually their compelling brand story that is shared through content marketing and social media targeting a niche audience.

By creating Zilingo, the founders Ankiti Bose, an ex-Sequoia analyst, and Dhruv Kapoor, an ex-Yahoo engineer, aimed at offering an online platform for Southeast Asia’s independent fashion sellers and stores alike. In 2016 and 2015, Zilingo raised $8M and $2M respectively. The Series A round was led by Sequoia India, Venturra Capital, and Susquehanna International Group.

Eyeing Indonesia as a country full of marketing opportunities

Zilingo reinforced its presence in Indonesia, seeing the country full of potential with a population of over 250 million. Indeed, in 2014, Indonesia emerged as the biggest e-commerce market in ASEAN with online sales reaching $1.1 billion. It is expected that by 2020, the archipelago’s online shopping market will reach $130 billion.

Observing this shift, Zilingo decided to strike while the iron was hot. During the last 12 months, Zilingo welcomed 5,000 new merchants and has 1 million active users, mainly on mobile. The products proposed range from clothes to jewelry and beauty products. Zilingo now ships to eight countries. Its seller hubs are located in Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Korea, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

Benefitting from the absence of comparable competitors, Zilingo gives itself another year before competitors start sprouting in Indonesia, a country where consumers are ever ready to consume internet products, contrary to some years back when they feared fraudulent sellers, were reluctant to buy online as they could not try the products and were wary of online payment methods. By the end of 2017, the country should also be in presence of an e-commerce roadmap providing guidelines for the country’s digital economy sector, likely to reassure online customers.

Ankiti Bose highlights that Zilingo is witnessing a whopping 85% growth month after month.  Even if people are spending less, they are nonetheless spending more frequently. The company claims having seen a tenfold increase in its revenue during the last 12 months.

Expanding business outside Southeast Asia

The company has recently started growing its business outside Southeast Asia. It created a B2B network for fashion sellers in the United States and in certain regions of Europe to buy items directly from Zilingo for local resale at competitive prices. However, the main focus remains the Asian market.

Building an extensive seller ecosystem

Zilingo’s clear goal is to create a sustainable and extensive seller ecosystem with fashion sellers, namely across Asia. In this sense, Zilingo positions itself as the favorite platform priding itself in thousands of private labels and merchants. The latter is considered as the real growth engine of the company.

It is no surprise that every week, some 60,000 new styles are added to meet the demands of the core buyers who are Millennials. Indeed, 85% of the customers of Zilingo are under 35 years old.

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