The Woman Who Changed the Way Indians Buy Lingerie: Richa Kar
When people think of Indian women who have succeeded stupendously in the corporate world, they only bring up names like Indra Nooyi and Chanda Kochhar. There’s no denying the achievements of these leaders, but there are many more women who have built successful enterprises and excelled in the field of business. Among those women is the 36-year-old remarkable founder of Zivame – Richa Kar.
In 2011, armed with a degree in engineering and management, Kar started Zivame with ₹30 lakh, which included savings and loans from family and friends.
Kar had discovered a significant gap in the lingerie industry in India. Buying lingerie was an arduous task for women, especially because in most shops, salesmen would be measuring them for cup and band sizes. With Zivame, Kar changed that and provided a platform for women to be able to buy a variety of lingerie without having to step into a store. The website not only provides a range of products in lingerie, night wear, and shape wear, it also lets women measure their bra size with their bra size calculator.
In an interview to Firstpost, Kar explained why she chose lingerie as the central focus of her business.
“As part of my previous job, I was working on an assignment to study a global lingerie brand. That got me thinking about lingerie as a category in India. I soon realised that the customer experience in the category is very poor in India. Right from unavailability of size options to presence of male sales executives, every single step of lingerie shopping posed a bottleneck for a woman.”
The journey wasn’t easy for Kar, especially since most people didn’t understand what she really wanted to do.
“My mother was shocked at the idea. She said, “Apne friends ko kya bolungi? Meri beti bra-panty bech rahi hai computer par? My father did not quite understand what exactly I wanted to do.”
Kar has come a long way since 2011 but it hasn’t been easy. In a 2012 interview to Women’s Web, she said, “Every part of a start-up phase is challenging and setting up an entire company, being bootstrapped was challenging. Getting all the brands on board without any money or network was challenging but I guess conviction in one’s belief is the greatest driver. Doing all the paper work to set up a company, getting the e-commerce backbone ready, taking customer calls, packing and dispatching at the same time was maddening. The fun part of it was seeing all the boxes ready to be shipped every day at 3 o’ clock,”
Now, after several rounds of funding from investors around the world, Richa Kar has firmly established herself in the corporate world. “I want to make Zivame a billion-dollar enterprise in the next five to seven years,” Kar said in a 2013 interview to The Economic Times. But building a business from scratch and making it big doesn’t come easy.
“I work 9 am to 9 pm, I don’t do any housework as I have household help to take care of that, don’t socialise, don’t have time to interact with parents. I only work.”
Zivame’s success shows in the numbers. In 2015, the company managed to raise ₹250 crore from Zodius Capital and Khazanah Nasional Berhad, the investment holding arm of the Malaysian government. Slowly but steadily, Zivame is going from being an online aggregrator of lingerie to retailing its own brand. The bulk of their expenses are now going into developing their own brands and setting up stores across India. They are also setting up fitting salons across India, where women can ask experienced advisors for help with the right size and the right bra for them.
Now, in 2017, Richa Kar has decided to take a step back from the daily operations of Zivame and has handed over to Shaleen Sinha, the Chief Operating Officer. A statement from Zivame said, “Richa Kar continues to be the CEO of Zivame. She works closely with the board on strategic projects for the company. She has moved away from the day-to-day business operations.”
Richa Kar’s story is a lesson in never giving up on your dreams and working hard to achieve them. Not only did she succeed in a tough corporate world, she did so in an industry that had been long ignored and is still considered off-limits. To have survived that, and thrived, is a feat worthy of applause.
Tags: Richa Kar, Zivame, Shape wear, Indian Women, Bra, panty