Earlier this month, a press release hit the inbox of most tech journalists in India. It exuded enthusiasm. One of India’s more popular lingerie brands, Zivame would now have a new CEO. Shaleen Sinha, who earlier was the COO, will head the company. Sumeet Yadav, earlier the CEO of Nando’s India chapter, will take over as the new executive chairman. Nando’s is a South Africa-based casual dining restaurant chain.
This bit is from the release: “We are excited to have Sumeet strengthen the team at Zivame,” states Shilpa Kulkarni of Zodius Capital and a director on the company’s board. “Sumeet brings a wealth of experience in the apparel industry, and we look forward to his contribution in solidifying Zivame as a leading omni channel woman’s brand in the industry.”
On the face of it, this looks like the start of something new. But if you look closely, something doesn’t smell right. The company, which started in 2011, has pivoted twice. It started off as a marketplace, then pivoted into a private label brand and has now pivoted back to being a marketplace. If that isn’t enough, its founder Richa Kar resigned from the company earlier this year, in February. Then, Shilpa Kulkarni, director at Zodius Capital, one of Zivame’s investors, took over as executive chairman. She too relinquished her position, resulting in Yadav now taking over as executive chairman.
Of course, that’s not all. What started as an online marketplace, today has a strong offline presence as brand studios and trade tie-ups. Zivame claims to distribute merchandise in 200 multi-brand outlets across 10 cities and 20 exclusive brand stores which it plans to double by the end of the current financial year.
All of this has happened in the last two years. And despite all this effort, Zivame is losing out to competition. Add to that the fact that the company has been burning quite some money and it might have to raise more soon, if it doesn’t want to run out.
An email with a list of questions sent on 23 October to one of Zivame’s investors, Kalaari Capital, did not elicit any reply.
There is an opportunity in this sector to make money. Online lingerie market in India expands choices for women, especially in smaller cities where the options are limited and only fast-selling stock-keeping units are available. The online proposition adds sizes and choice to the process of lingerie shopping, unavailable to the larger demographic.
Back when Zivame started, and even today, it is a gap waiting to be addressed. Lingerie as a market is valued at $3 billion (Rs 19,000 crore). A very small part of it is online, but it is set to grow at a CAGR of 42%.