Zivame, an online store that wants to revolutionize the (often awkward) way that women in India buy their underwear, has closed a $40 million Series C round.
The investment is led by new backers Zodius Technology Fund and Khazanah Nasional Berhad, a fund belonging to the Malaysian government, with participation from existing investors Unilazer, IDG Ventures and Kalaari Capital.
The four-year-old company, which has now raised over $45 million in capital, said it will use the fresh money to grow its business to India. In particular, CEO and co-founder Richa Kar said that the company will introduce physical “experience stores” — where women can be fitted and seek non-sales advice on their size — while the Zivame service will move to incorporate community-based features to help its female shoppers trade recommendations, product opinions and more.
Less Awkward, Better Fitting
Kar told TechCrunch that she and co-founder Kapil Karekar started Zivame to reimagine the lingerie industry and the difficulties within the buying experience in India.
“Women’s bodies are many different shapes and sizes, and retailers often can’t cover all body types. That means many women (who shop in stores) are forced to compromise on size,” she said.
Kar added that the physical retail experience is often difficult for women, who may have to go to a store staffed by men to buy underwear, while few retailers offer the requisite fitting services to get a woman’s size, and thus the fit of her underwear, right.
“We’re helping Indian women feel a lot more respected,” she said. “[We aim to] absolutely liberate Indian women compared to the offline retail process.”
Zivame overcomes these issues by stocking a wide range of different sizes and types of underwear to ensure that there’s something for every kind of woman. The company’s website offers simple guidelines and a video to help shoppers measure themselves, but its upcoming physical experience stores can offer an even more personal approach for those who are less certain, or unaware entirely, of online services.
“Our experience stores are aimed at enhancing the consumer connection,” Kar explained. “Customers can walk in and have a personalized experience to get their size, become aware of their bust shape, and know the kind of products that they could buy. We won’t be selling there, but visitors can place an order if they wish.”
Zivame plans to have 100 of these locations operational across India’s top tier cities within the next two years. Kar said that the initial rollout will happen in Bangalore, but the company will take its time and not expand the program until it is fully satisfied with the experience that it’s offering.
Other expansions — both geographically outside of India, and into other product categories — aren’t planned at this point. Kar told us that India will be Zivame’s sole focus for at least the next two years. That said, she did admit that international expansions could be possible thereafter since the company’s technology is scalable to other countries and locations.
Beyond underwear and bras, the company sells swimsuits, night wear, some sports gear and accessories, but any move into other verticals would need to fit with its core goals, the Zivame CEO said.
“We could get into other product categories, but we are very focused on the fact that we are solving a problem [with lingerie]. Is there something else where the offline experience is bad, or there is a small vertical that needs expanding? [We’re focused on] any categories that help women,” Kar explained.
More definite, however, is Zivame’s intention to grow a community of shoppers. The company already sells one bra per minute and 60 percent of sales are from its own-brand products, but Kar said she wants to encourage women to discuss topics and share ideas. No particular features were disclosed, but the general trend — Kar explained — is to let women find and interact with others who share their size and body shape. Finding others with these things in common can be difficult in real life, and Zivame believes its service can be of help here, too.
Elsewhere, the company has just launched its first native app — on Android, the most popular platform in India — to focus in on the opportunity of mobile, which it claimed accounts for 60 percent of its traffic.
The original version of this story incorrectly reported the round as $38 million, we’ve since updated with the correct figure.