Lingerie brand Zivame’s success story proves how first-time entrepreneurs can strike gold by solving problems of product discovery.
Established in 2011 by Richa Kar, along with her husband Kapil Karekar, the online lingerie shopping platform gave women the freedom to shop for intimate wear in privacy, away from prying eyes of salespeople and fellow buyers in a brick-and-mortar store.
Its early success and adulation from investors and fellow entrepreneur community notwithstanding, Zivame’s growth story began faltering as the co-founders struggled to scale-up. Faced with slowing sales, Kar stepped down as CEO in February 2017. She resigned from the board in March and eventually exited the company she had co-founded.
To steady the ship, the management appointed Amisha Jain as CEO in May 2018. In her previous role, she had served as CEO at the apparel firm Arvind Sports Lifestyle and head of the digital centre of excellence at the Arvind Group.
Since taking over at Zivame, Jain has aggressively expanded to drive growth.
According to Jain, Zivame is the largest online lingerie platform in the $2.7 billion (Rs18,900 crore) market right now. About 82% of the lingerie brand’s business (Rs137 crore revenue in financial year 2019) comes from online. Yet she is focused on expanding offline. “We want to be present at every platform (distribution channel), where buyers are shopping,” she said.
In an interview with Quartz, Jain spoke about her early days at Zivame, the company’s innovation strategy, and expansion into new categories.
What were your immediate priorities when you took over as CEO?
I started off by making necessary changes in organisational structure. It was important to have the right kind of people driving growth.
Next, it was important to strengthen our back-end by streamlining our design and sourcing operations. Consolidation of vendors and optimisation of the supply chain were other key areas I focused on.
In a highly unorganised market, what are the key customer needs that the brand is solving for?
We see a clear mismatch in what customers need and what’s being put on the table by most brands. Indian women have unique body types. However, brands can be easily spotted pushing limited options to women owing to lack of alternatives and innovation. Clearly, choices in terms of right fit, label and right price are lacking in the bra market. Brand Zivame wants to solve all these problems and innovate to fulfil all innerwear needs of Indian women.
What about pricing? What is Zivame’s strategy to compete with branded and non-branded players in the market?
We want Zivame to be a part of every woman’s wardrobe. Our product should be accessible to all. Brand Zivame is in a sweet spot as our offerings are priced under Rs500. That’s the entry-level for us. We offer a wide range of product lines in this price segment right from seamless bra and padded and non-padded bras to wired and professional bras. For us, the in-house brand Rosaline is a prime example of a product that offers comfort at an amazing price. Then, we also have premium offerings.
You have expanded into shapewear and sleepwear. What motivated you?
About 55% of our business still comes from bras. At the same time, everything else, including sleepwear and shapewear, is growing for us. Getting into new categories is all about innovating for customers and fulfilling their evolving personal innerwear-related requirements.
We want to fulfil all wardrobe-related needs of women across traditional as well as western attire. Over a period of time, the team has developed a strong portfolio, offering products like thigh, upper body, and waist shapers. We are looking at further innovation with our sleepwear and shapewear category. For example, within leggings, one could look at cotton leggings and performance wear leggings. We are also big on lounge-wear.
How important is an omnichannel presence? What are your plans for offline space?
Our omnichannel strategy is all about being present at touch points where consumers want to shop. Omnichannel presence gives the brand alternative option to solve consumer needs. Besides selling online, Zivame now retails from more than 35 brick-and-mortar stores across the country. We plan to increase our store count to 60 by financial year 2020. Our offline presence is aimed at providing existing as well as new buyers brand experience where they can touch and feel the product.
We ensure that our brand experience across all shopping channels be it online or offline is consistent. We want to go wherever our customers are. We realised customers are increasingly shopping for fashion and innerwear products on marketplaces such as Flipkart. So, last year we launched our products on Flipkart and Myntra as well.
How do you go about introducing new innovations to buyers?
We continuously talk to our customers to identify their requirements. This is key to innovating successfully. We interact with our customers through our blogs and Instagram posts.
Again, innovation need not be a big one. Even small tweaks can go a long way in providing comfort and luxury to customers. For example, speaking to our buyers, we realised most women struggle while changing out of a sports bra. So, we just introduced a hook and eye in sports bra. It’s a small little innovation but makes all the difference. Most brands don’t talk enough to their customers and often fail to understand their requirements.
How is technology helping?
Technology, helps in personalisation. Customers are asked a few questions before they start shopping for a product. The idea is to understand needs better. Based on these answers, we have created 300 different types of body profiles. Based on these profiles, a buyer can easily identify the most comfortable and apt product for herself.
What are the other ways in which you are leveraging data collected online to improve shopper experience?
We continuously learn from data and based on it further build our product portfolio. Profiling customers makes it easier for us to make the right kind of recommendations to them when they return to the platform. Data also helps us track inventory levels in real-time.