Small Beginnings as Anticipating Zilingo’s Investor Talk to Help Unveil Their Unicorn Hopes

Zilingo is looking west. At the American market. Zilingo’s solution handles the demands and hassle of an Asia-based supply chain for brands whilst eyeing a slice of the world’s largest consumer market. The strategy is in its early days since the company only began pitching in North America two months ago, but, claims Bose, there is the potential to leapfrog revenue from the consumer business. Zilingo said in February that revenue had grown four-fold over the past year, with 75% of sales coming from B2B activities. The company doesn’t further financial details, but its take-home revenue is around $200 million per year, according to an industry figure, but B2B responsible for nearly 90% of that figure .

Unlike consumer sales, Zilingo’s US business offsets customer acquisition and other margin-reducing costs to its consumer-facing partners. Increased scale—and the US part is key here—is what Bose believes can make the business profitable.

There’s no direct competition but the model has been tried before. MakeRight, a US startup that graduated Y Combinator, used technology to connect ethical factories in China and clothing designers but it closed down last year after being “unable to find product-market fit.” It’s fair to say Zilingo is further down that path, and better equipped.

Marvel is one brand that Zilingo has worked with to develop Private Collections

Zilingo needs to develop a local profile in the US where there’s little awareness of its name and brand.

The CEO of a digital fashion label that doesn’t work with the company told us that the offer of working capital loans and direct manufacturing partner links is “the dream.” However, they cautioned that many in the industry are confused by Zilingo’s varying services.

“There’s a need for more tech in sourcing products from Asia, that’s a fact. Having said that, it really depends on what you deliver in terms of services,” the person said.

Then there’s also conflict around the ongoing US-China trade stand-off. Zilingo is working to turn that in its favour by doubling down on recruiting factories in Southeast Asia—Bose said the majority of active manufacturers on Zilingo aren’t in China—but the tension isn’t likely to help.

Investor attention

Investor attention

Much of Zilingo may be unseen by consumers, but the company has attracted investor attention from day one.

Sequoia India, Bose’s erstwhile company, which counts unicorns Go-Jek and Traveloka among its Southeast Asia investments, is tightly intertwined.

“One day [Bose] came to me and said, ‘I hope it’s ok that I leave the analyst program early, I am very keen to start up.’ We have learnt over the years to back high quality founders and be willing to dream alongside founders. So I was like ‘we love and respect all founders, this is awesome, we would love to figure out how to support you’,” Sequoia India’s Shailendra Singh recounted via email.

Singh said he discussed ideas with Bose before she visited Southeast Asia to conduct more research. Ultimately, the firm led a seed round and Zilingo began working out of its Bengaluru office.