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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

Asian retail start-up founded by young female entrepreneur scores $54m funding

Zilingo is 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

Zilingo recreates the Asian street market feeling such as this one  in Divisoria, Manila, Philippines, with its online retail platform street market. Erik De Castro/Reuters
Zilingo recreates the Asian street market feeling such as this one in Divisoria, Manila, Philippines, with its online retail platform street market. Erik De Castro/Reuters

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 startup co-founded by Ankiti Bose - a rare female founder in Asia’s start-up space - has now raised a total of $82m.

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 and Amazon. 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.

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Its new funds will bankroll brand-building as “competition heats up in South East Asia”, chief executive Ms Bose said. 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 Ms 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 start-up helps merchants manage everything from inventory to payments and wholesalers.

Women now comprise half of Zilingo’s management, which Ms Bose reckons helps the start-up relate to its users.

“E-commerce has a significant number of female users most of the time,” she said. “Having a female leader helps with that perspective. So it is a very first-hand experience.”