27-year-old scores funding to bring Asia’s bazaars to your phone
Singapore: Zilingo, an e-commerce start-up trying to replicate the experience of browsing South-East Asia’s colourful bargain bazaars on a smartphone, has raised $54 million to delve deeper into markets from Indonesia to the Philippines.
Sofina, Burda Principal Investments and Sequoia Capital India led the latest round for Zilingo, a shopping platform crammed with retailers of the cut-price dresses, bags, sunglasses and assorted bric-a-brac common across the region’s street markets. The Singapore-based start-up co-founded by Ankiti Bose—a rare female founder in Asia’s startup space—has now raised a total of $82 million.
South-East Asia’s e-commerce market, which is expected to be worth $88 billion by 2025, is attracting interest from global companies such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Amazon.com Inc. Zilingo tries to stand out by focusing on mom-and-pop merchants and helping them manage online store-fronts in their language and currency of choice.
Its new funds will bankroll brand-building as “competition heats up in South-East Asia,” Chief executive officer Bose said in a phone interview. The 27-year-old co-founder, a former consultant with McKinsey & Co. and analyst at Sequoia, said Zilingo has a “plausible” chance of turning profitable by June 2019 as—unlike the big players—she was focusing on growing margins alongside revenues. “We don’t lose any money at the operational level.”
Dhruv Kapoor, the company’s chief technology officer, is Bose’s co-founder. Existing investors including billionaire Tim Draper and the family office of Manik Arora, founder of IDG Ventures India, participated in the latest round, while Amadeus Capital joined as a new investor. Most of the money would be spent on advertising in Indonesia, Thailand and the company’s imminent launch in the Philippines, she said. It would also go toward building up a business-to-business service, in which the startup helps merchants manage everything from inventory to payments and wholesalers.
Women now comprise half of Zilingo’s management, which Bose reckons helps the start-up relate to its users.
“E-commerce has a significant number of female users most of the time,” Bose said. “Having a female leader helps with that perspective. So it is a very first-hand experience.”
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