The year 2011 was the most important as well as challenging for Richa Kar. Her mother felt ashamed of what she was planning to do and her father did not understand the concept very well. Besides shaping her dreams, her struggle was also to gain the confidence of her loved ones but all that is in the past.
In only five years, Richa made Zivame a company which is valued at more than $100 million (Rs 681 crore). Her determination and non-stop hardwork has made every one to sit up and take notice of this brilliant young lady.
Life had turned out very well for her. She had a comfortable life and a great corporate job in hand in Bangalore. An engineering graduate from BITS-Pilani, Richa did an MBA from Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies as she wanted to know how businesses worked. Her education got her a job with Spencers Retail and SAP as a retail consultant where she learnt a great deal about retail sector.
The birth of Zivame happened when she was tracking the online sales for Victoria’s Secret (largest American retailer of women’s lingerie) which was one of her clients at SAP. While the sales figures were touching the sky abroad, India did not serve the most essential inner-wears to its women. She had spent eight years in the corporate world by now and had a fair understanding of businesses. The idea was right there and she decided to pursue entrepreneurship.
I was not entering the e-commerce space because it was hot, I was doing it because she understood a need.
When her mother learnt about her plans she exclaimed, “What will I tell my friends that my daughter is selling bra-panty over a computer!”. Her father did not understand what Richa was planning to do but he did not discourage her.
To gain complete confidence in her idea, Richa visited lingerie stores and realized that women buyers feel very uncomfortable buying undergarments from stores as most of the sales people there were males. It was also a waste to expect any guidance or tips about styles and fitting here.
After eight years of working in corporate sector, she launched Zivame in 2011 with Rs 35 lakh that she borrowed from her friends and poured her entire saving into it. Richa says, “The worst case scenario would have been that this business doesn’t take off. But I’m an engineer and an MBA, so I would be employable.”
The initial days were tough as people made fun of her idea. Even getting a house on rent was tough. When the landlords asked what did she do she had to tell them that she sold clothes online. However, the bright side was Zivame (radiance in Hebrew) getting positive response from the buyers. She remembers that her first client was a man from Indore who was trying to buy stuff worth Rs 7,000.
The initial capital was burning out rapidly as Zivame was gaining a lot of attention from buyers. She knew she had to get venture funds pooled into the business soon. She came in touch with Vani Kola of Kalaari Capital and IDG Ventures who provided her with series A funding against 14% stake in the company. In 2015, Zivame raised a Series C round of Rs 250 crore from Zodius Technology Fund.
The company is doing extremely well and claims a 300% year on year growth. Richa’s dedication confidence and knowledge of her market is the most impressive thing for her investors. Her focus on business could be gauged from the fact that she got married over a weekend and was back to work on Monday.
“This has given me terrific experience. If I was in a corporate role, it would have taken me 10-15 years to get here. It’s like a super crash course in building businesses”
Richa has shown that a potential idea will succeed if you put your 100% in it. She is an incredible source of inspiration to the women entrepreneurs and has managed to change the consumer experience on a huge scale. People who made fun of her idea are her biggest admirers today.