is the one brand that talks to you consistently if you are a woman and an online shopper. In the business for over 3 years now selling Lingerie to discerning Indian women, Zivame has converted over 5 lakh Indian lingerie buyers into online shoppers.
Armed with an MBA and an Engineering degree from BITS Pilani, and a stint with a global technology company, Richa Kar recognized opportunity in an unchartered territory and launched Zivame.com in August 2011.
Interestingly, Ziva is a word in Hebrew meaning Radiance. So Ziva-me, literally means ‘radiant me’.
In this exclusive conversation with LifeBeyondNumbers, Richa talks about her learnings, her experience as a woman entrepreneur and the challenges she has faced in breaking into a market with a virtually non-existent online presence:
It has been almost three years since Zivame has been in operation. What are some of the learnings you have along the way for the brand?
In the last 3 years, we have grown and learnt from our mistakes, Zivame.com has already touched the lives of 5 lakh women across the country. Some of the learnings for the brand have been that there is so much social discomfort associated with lingerie shopping and in the online space buying lingerie without trying it on first was the first road block. In order to overcome this challenge Zivame has managed to provide comprehensive fitting guides and options for easy refund/reverse pick up.
As we grow, we plan to personalize orders and provide an overall wholesome experience for our consumers.
Women’s inner garments industry has always been offline dominated by either very high end players or very cheap and uncomfortable brands. How did you carve your niche?
Indeed there were reservations when we started out. As you know this particular product category requires not only touch & feel but also the fit and the idea of selling lingerie online was at that time new and unexplored.
At Zivame.com, we’ve wanted to provide lingerie to all women. This also meant providing them with all possible sizes in the price sensitive range and giving quality products. This vision has helped us in acquiring loyal consumers who share our vision and hence this niche was born. Our first order, which came in from Indore and was worth Rs. 7000, gave us the much needed first push.
On the lighter side, my family would say I’m in retail when someone asked what I did for a living as lingerie was not openly discussed and is still an intimate detail of a woman’s life. However, now they are more open about that fact that I am actually selling lingerie online – as they’ve realized that there was indeed a gap in this category and Zivame.com is fulfilling that need.
The sale of lingerie is a tough proposition as Women’s lingerie requires trial and fitting. The fits are different for different brands. Tell us about the challenges you face in e-tailing.
In fact, 8 out of 10 women don’t know their correct size or are wearing the wrong size lingerie!
We have proprietary content on the site that educates women on what a right fit should look like, we also have online product experts with whom our consumers can have a chat with. The fits are definitely different for different brands hence we have a guide for each brand with detailed description and imagery that will help you make an informed purchase.
Despite all this, if the consumer does not like the product after ordering it, we do a reverse pick up with money back or exchange policy.
Additionally, the team has always worked aggressively on enhancing consumer experience. For example, in the initial days I would pose as a customer service person, taking calls under the alias ‘Sindu’ to get first-hand insight into consumer trends and pain points.
Another time, we had this customer who had injured her leg right before her wedding, and needed help with shopping for her wedding lingerie. We helped her purchase her entire wedding and honeymoon lingerie online.
Zivame is involved in philanthropic activities. How does your brand fit into your association with Goonj?
Our brand believes in catering to the needs of every Indian woman, Zivame constantly strives towards empowering women and the Goonj initiative allowed us to do so. We wanted to reach out to women who don’t have the resources for proper clothing and our association with Goonj provided us with a platform wherein we could provide underprivileged women with clothing.
Zivame celebrated its second anniversary with the ‘Gift a Bra’ program which provided lingerie to less privileged women in consumers’ household or neighborhood. Every woman deserves the right to perfect fitting lingerie and we wanted to provide that with this initiative.
Does Zivame feel the need to retail offline, like start your own brand outlets?
No, we do not feel the need to retail offline currently, the internet channel allows us to maintain and respect the consumer’s privacy and as a lingerie category, privacy is key. Also, online retailing solves the problem of limited shelf space and it can reach out to pan India customers like no other channel can.
What is the current turnover of the company and plans going forward?
Over the years we have diversified into nightwear, shapewear, swimwear, accessories and more. We are getting close to 1200 orders a day and we are scaling rapidly with around 10-15% month on month growth. Over the next two years we will try and get as many women as possible to buy lingerie online.
Nearly 25% women are buying online for the first time on Zivame. We are looking to strengthen the experience of buying online in which technology will play a greater role. We are planning to earn revenues over Rs 400 crore in the next 2 years.
Zivame has a strong team who ensure things happen in the best possible way. Our strongest asset are our people, who are working together to achieve a common goal which is to fulfill lingerie needs of every Indian Woman. I am sure we’ll get there.
How difficult or easy has it been, being a woman entrepreneur?
I don’t think there is a difference between a man and a woman entrepreneur. The challenges and advantages are the same for both genders.
In fact, being a woman entrepreneur in lingerie as a category made it easier for me to relate with the product. I understood my customers’ requirements much better and the learning curve was higher. In terms of understanding market needs, positioning the product, the kind of assortment we needed to build and to talk convincingly to the brand partners it was an advantage as I knew the product category and was convinced in what I was building.
From having started from a one bedroom apartment as her office to a 100-member team, Richa surely has come a long way in a short span of 3 years. From the looks of it, there’s no stopping this girl until she has converted every apprehensive lingerie shopper into a Zivame fan!