Less than a year after raising under US$2 million in seed funding, Zilingo, a mobile-first marketplace that connects sellers/retailers in Thailand and Singapore to online shoppers across the world, has secured US$8 million in Series A funding.
A large chunk of this capital will be used to expand to Indonesia and aggressively gain market share in our current markets — Singapore and Thailand.
“We’re looking to build the next generation fashion marketplace with features that no one has quite explored. Developing features like AI, AR, and engaging consumers with video content also require significant human and financial capital,” Zilingo Co-founder and CEO Ankiti Bose told e27. “While our primarily markets are Singapore and Thailand, we do ship worldwide. We want to enter Indonesia in November and want to be a leader in its fashion space in 2017. We plan to enter the Philippines by mid-2017.”
The startup was founded in early 2015 by Bose and Dhruv Kapoor. Zilingo provides sellers (ranging from large shopping malls to street vendors) in Bangkok and Singapore with facilities such as free shipping, free packaging, door-step pickup and free and secure payment options, in addition to a mobile analytics dashboard and consultation on pricing strategy.
On the other hand, shoppers get access to a long tail of verified small sellers in the infinite markets of Thailand. Using the chat facility available on the app, buyers can exchange photos, create wishlists, take notes and virtually experience the product through their interactions with sellers.
The company primarily deals with fashion and lifestyle products. “We have consciously made a choice to be in all fashion and lifestyle categories because they are the ones that provide with sustainable unit economics. We want to become the leader in the region for these categories, so single-mindedly focusing our business and technology development in these categories is paramount,” Bose added.
Over the next year, the company expects a major chunk of users to come from Thailand and Indonesia. “These users are also incredibly interesting because they’ve skipped desktop web and are super mobile savvy. But most (outside the metros) have poor access to malls even though they have a hyper-social buying behaviour. For a business trying to scale and unlock value for such consumers, it’s pure gold,” Bose said.
In Thailand and Indonesia, users are more convenient with social shopping (online shopping using Instagram and Facebook). But social shopping has many limitations, says Bose.
“There are three structural issues with social shopping. One, lack of SKU comparison: If you’re interested in a white dress on a particular Instagram store, there is huge friction for the consumer to explore a similar white dress on other Instagram stores. Whether they want to compare prices, quality, or cut, opening multiple tabs and taking that much time to buy the right dress is simply sub-optimal. On Zilingo, you can compare across SKUs much more seamlessly,” Bose explained.
Second, trust. In Southeast Asia, there are still significant concerns about whether the product will actually reach you or the shop will simply take your payment and leave. In addition, products may arrive at your doorstep, but they look nothing like the photos that have been shown on the social media shop.
“Thirdly, you have limited payment options. On an Instagram shop, you’ll typically have to transfer the amount to the vendor before the product gets shipped. A particular customer may not have access to online transfer facility so they cannot purchase the item. With Zilingo, you have the option of cash-on-delivery, credit card, debit card, online transfers, net banking, payment at ATMs and supermarkets etc. This full suite of payment options unlocks pretty much all of the potential customer base of online shoppers,” she concluded.
The Thailand startup ecosystem has been growing rapidly of late. While it is still three years behind Indonesia, the number of deals and investment size have increased over the past two years.