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The most visible side of Zilingo is its e-commerce marketplace through which sellers, typically small businesses, reach consumers. The focus is on Southeast Asian markets like Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines, plus India and the US through a global site. Today, the company claims to work with over 50,000 merchants and brands. But it is also active on the supply chain side, with some 5,000 factories and 350 raw material suppliers listed on its platform.

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But Zilingo’s business is an iceberg. Beyond the visibility of its e-commerce site, it has diversified to offer a range of seller-focused services. There’s the B2B business that provides software and services to online retailers and the manufacturers that work with them. Beyond helping manage stock and planning, Zilingo also provides access to financial products that include loans and insurance from partners like Singapore’s United Overseas Bank. Finally, there are also guaranteed sales volumes with Zilingo offering inventory buyback if targets aren’t hit.

Branching into financial services isn’t pathbreaking—Amazon and Flipkart do it in India—but Zilingo uses its connections within the fashion supply chain to help brands and retailers develop their own private labels. The idea is to bring the manufacturing power to any brand with a captive audience, be that an existing fashion company or just a brand with a huge audience.

Private labels are a high-margin business—22 to 25% on average in fashion—that brands, of late, have been increasingly segueing into. Be it India’s Future Group’s ploy to rise above the top 3% of India’s grocery retail or Flipkart-owned Myntra’s 30% revenue coming straight from private labels, it seems to be a no-brainer solution in making it, and making it fast.

Straight from the market

Straight from the market

Zilingo was inspired by Bangkok’s Chatuchak Market, where over 2,000 market stalls owners sell anything and everything from Thai clothing, artwork and furniture, to typical tourist trinkets, artisanal soaps, homegrown herbs, exotic pets, smoothies and tattoo services.
After visiting, Bose decided to build a service to help offline sellers tap e-commerce – that vision has since evolved to cover financing, insurance and other seller services. [Image: Zoe Goodacre/Flickr]

Bose describes Zilingo’s project as “Zara on an API” because it can massively speed up the time in releasing new clothing lines. Potentially, what takes six months can now be done in three weeks, she claims.

“Some of the world’s most popular names in fashion are on the brink of death. In the age of Instagram, where shoppers are making three times more transactions online than they were a decade ago, fashion needs to be fast and predictive. Fashion seasons are not four times a year, now they come 52 times a year,” Bose said.