How Chit-Chat At House Party Gave Way To What Is Now A Near $1 Billion Firm

In a world where nine out of 10 investing decisions are taken or led by men, and companies with female founders get only about 2 percent of the funding floating in the global market it is no brainer that starting up is far tougher for women than male entrepreneurs. And when the ecosystem becomes male-dominated every success story with female characters in the lead becomes the source of motivation for a lot of women who aspire to be their own boss.

What started off as a casual interaction between two neighbors at a house party a few years back is now making the loudest bang in the international start-up circle. Limitless hunger to chase their dreams have made 27-year-old Ankiti Bose and Dhruv Kapoor (28) owners of a near billion dollar start-up Zilingo in a span of just four years.

Ankiti was 23 working as an analyst at Sequoia India when she and Dhruv, who worked as software engineer at a gaming studio, realized that they both had ambition to build their own start-up and their skills if combined can work wonders. While they worked on perfecting their business idea Ankiti tried to learn as much as she could at her job where she evaluated start-ups. This hunger for knowledge helped her building the a business that checked every item on an investor's list. Thanks to this approach, on February 12, 2019, Zilingo raised $226 million funding valuing Zilingo at $970 million - almost a unicorn.  

“I kept raising my hand and said, ‘Teach me everything,’” Ankiti recalls the time before founding Zilingo. "I busted my ass, working 18 hours a day because it was so much fun.”

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In December 2014, the duo decided to put in $30,000 (Rs 21 lakh) each from their savings and founded the company. Zilingo is a fashion, beauty and lifestyle marketplace with headquarters in Singapore. It allows smaller merchants from Southeast Asia without an online presence to list their items for sale direct to consumers.

Ankiti's inspiration came from a visit to Bangkok’s popular Chatuchak market, which features more than 15,000 booths selling goods from across Thailand. She realized the sellers didn’t have sufficient opportunities to expand.

“We were a bunch of twenty-somethings with nothing except this dream and we decided to chase it." - Ankiti, co-founder, CEO of Zilingo.

The company started off by helping small merchants sell to consumers, and has since expanded into new areas. As the founders dealt with thousands of small sellers, they realized that many lacked access to technology, capital and economies of scale.

So they expanded, developing software and other tools to allow vendors to access factories from Bangladesh to Vietnam and also help with cross-border shipping and inventory management. Since 2018, Zilingo has also worked with financial technology firms to provide working capital to small sellers so they can buy raw materials to produce goods.

Listings are provided for free with the company charging a commission of between 10 per cent and 20 per cent on orders.

Zilingo posted revenue of S$1.8 million ($1.3 million) in the year ended on March 31, 2017, up from about S$434,000 since its inception though March 2016, according to the company’s most recent filing with Singapore regulators. Revenue grew 12 times in the year ended March 2018 and fourfold in the April to January period, according to the company.

The company that started only with a dream has grown to have offices in eight countries with 400 employees. It operates fashion e-commerce sites in Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines and is preparing to launch in Australia soon.

There's no stopping you if you are ready to not give up. So focus on acquiring knowledge and right skill sets and then jump in with a positive approach.

Credit: Bloomberg

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