No other mobile marketplace has got it right: Zilingo
By Lum Ka Kay December 2, 2015
- Founded in May, raised US$1.88mil seed funding in Nov
- Wants to bring small sellers into the world of m-commerce
BANGKOK-based e-commerce startup Zilingo aims to ‘correct’ the mobile shopping experience in Thailand by creating an online presence for small sellers.
Its founder and chief executive officer Ankiti Bose declared that there isn’t an actual mobile marketplace worth its salt in Thailand.
“[Those that exist] have either not managed to get the product or the experience right. Zilingo will correct these problems,” she told Digital News Asia (DNA) via email.
Earlier in November, the startup – founded only in May – raised US$1.88 million in a seed funding round led by Sequoia Capital India, Teruhido Sato of Beenext Ventures, and Kunal Shah and Sandeep Tandon of FreeCharge.
Ankiti was formerly an analyst with McKinsey & Co and also Sequoia Capital in India. Her fellow founder and Zilingo chief technology officer Dhruv Kapoor, a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology, had worked with Yahoo and an American gaming startup in Bangalore.
Ankiti currently lives in Bangkok, from where she runs the day-to-day business operations. Dhruv flits between Bangalore and Bangkok to manage the engineering team. Zilingo currently has 30 people on board.
Ankiti admitted that it is a tough challenge maintaining communications within her team in India and Thailand.
The startup has quite a “sizeable Thai team,” she said, because it is very important to have local talent to drive most of the business development and marketing efforts, and to build connections and trust with local sellers and buyers.
“Maintaining communications cross-country and project managing all the teams to ensure that everyone is on the same page has probably been the toughest challenge.
“We basically overcome language and cultural barriers by doing two things: Ensuring that every team member, whether based out of India or Thailand, puts in the extra effort to understand and support the other person’s culture; and by remembering that everyone in the team is working towards one common goal.
“And that is to bring Thailand’s retail market online,” she quipped.
Bringing sellers online
A Thai vacation two summers ago impressed Ankiti on the potential of the-then unorganised long-tail retail sector in the country.
“Amidst feverish bargaining between buyers and sellers in Bangkok’s many shopping centres, we saw an opportunity to bring real value to thousands of smaller sellers who don’t have the resources to create an online presence for themselves.
“People love to shop in Bangkok, yet these sellers are completely offline at the moment,” she said.
Zilingo was founded to bring these long-tail Thai sellers online, providing them access to buyers across the world and giving the world access to Bangkok shopping through its mobile app, said Ankiti.
Currently, the app is only available on the Android platform, while iOS and web versions will be available in the “next couple of weeks,” she added.
She said Zilingo will also begin shipping to Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, but did not say when. [Clarified]
Over the next six to 12 months, the plan is to aggregate sellers in the Asean (the Association of South-East Asian Nations) region.
“The Asean nations are poised to become a tightly-knit economy, with digital buyers increasing more rapidly than in China and India,” said Ankiti.
“We’re building the infrastructure to open the door for smaller sellers to take advantage of this imminent boom – Zilingo will connect specialised production hubs across the region, creating an opportunity for colossal growth in long-tail retail,” she declared.
Zilingo allows sellers use its mobile app to list their products on its platform for free, and also provides them with free logistics and payment options.
“Everything is free for the sellers, from pick-up and packaging to delivery,” Ankiti said, adding that Zilingo charges a “tiny commission” on the sale of products on its platform.
Shoppers, for their part, get to “virtually experience” products through their interactions with the sellers.
“Shoppers will be able to chat with sellers, exchange photos, create wish-lists and take note of the products they are interested in.
“They can also order products via the app and track the delivery process,” she added.
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