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Yet, the company still profits from that battle. Its software gives it roots into the merchants it works with, but Zilingo doesn’t lock them into selling exclusively on its marketplace. It allows sellers to use competitive services like Amazon, Shopee, Lazada or others—such is the company’s belief that it offers something unique.

“All of us went to the B2C e-commerce market, but Ankiti cracked the code,” said Shannon Kalayanamitr, a venture partner with Southeast Asia-focused VC Gobi Ventures who co-founded Southeast Asia-based fashion e-commerce startup Orami.

“Many of us were doing the same thing in different ways, but Zilingo’s whole model is helping suppliers. And because they have so much data, it becomes a fintech play and much more.”

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It is understandable that the focus is on Bose, but that belies a strong inner core of C-level executives who work closely on strategy. They include her co-founder Kapoor, an IIT Guwahati graduate who spent time at Yahoo and anchors Zilingo’s Bangalore-based tech team. The other two are CMO Marita Abraham and COO Aadi Vaidya, both of whom were part of the founding team and are now based in Singapore alongside Bose.

Zilingo inclusiveness with competitive services runs parallel with its seemingly philanthropic focus on ethical fashion—after all the interplay of social media and social awareness has also seeped into consumer expectation from fashion retailers.

The American dream

Zilingo, with its existing network, can now include services that cater to changing consumer expectations. Bose claims Zilingo plans to add RFID codes to manufactured products to help brands know where an item was produced and by whom. It may even consider a blockchain-based solution for additional transparency, building on pilot rollouts that have been conducted by the likes of Walmart and IBM round fresh produce.

The American dream

The company claims this transparency is to eliminate unethical labour practices, such as under-age workers or counterfeit merchandise. Problems that are more common than not. In January, for instance, US brand Badger Sports ceased working with a China-based supplier after it was found to use forced labour in camps in Xinjiang. Adidas, Gap, Ikea and H&M are also reported to have links to such factories, which are often sub-contracted and, therefore, not directly visible to consumer-facing Western companies.

“The customer is [now more] discerning… they care about where [fashion] came from and the transparency across the supply chain,” Bose said when interviewed at a recent event.

“Was it made responsibly? Was it sustainable? Was it made in a factory where there was compliance to the law? Customers care about that sort of thing and things are really changing because of that,” she added.

Supporting Zilingo’s claim is Global Fashion Agenda, an annual industry study co-authored by Boston Consulting Group, which reported this year that over one-third of consumers have changed their preferred brand to a different one because “it credibly stands for positive environmental and/or social practices,” while a further 50% would consider switching in the future. However, putting a dollar figure on that market opportunity is tricky.