What is Zilingo?
- Zilingo was formed after the ex-CEO visited Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok
- The company has three main properties, Z Connect, Z Trade and Z Spotlight
- Zilingo's board of directors fired its CEO Ankiti Bose over inconsistencies in accounting
Zilingo is a fashion ecommerce startup founded in 2015. The company is the brainchild of its former CEO Ankiti Bose who ran the company until her dismissal on May 20, 2022.
Bose founded the company after a visit to the Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok where she realised that the 11,000 vendors there did not have an online presence. As internet connectivity has been growing rapidly in the region, Bose realised that she could provide these vendors with the platform and financing needed to take their businesses online. The company was named Zilingo, a play on the word "zillion", after the 'zilions' of businesses that Bose would help platform with her company.
Also Read: Zilingo's COO resigns as company flounders
After it was founded in 2015, the company received seed funding from Sequoia Capital India before raising an additional $8 million in Series A funding. Initially marketed as a company that helped small businesses in South Asia grow and develop an online market, the market behaviour of the region didn't allow for growth.
In 2017 the company raised $18 million in Series B funding. The same year, it pivoted to become more business facing, and began to connect small manufacturers and wholesalers directly to retailers in the region. In September that year, the company was selling in eight countries and had added 5,000 merchants. In 2018, Zilingo received $54 million in Series C funding and continued its expansion. It was also the year that the US-China trade war began.
That same year, Zilingo dipped into its $10 million marketing budget to spend $1 million on a three-day trip in Morocco for nine social media influencers in the hopes that they would rake in 1 million new users. The marketing stunt drew only 10,000 new people to its platform.
Zilingo capitalised on the trade war and opened offices in the US in 2019 and was generating 80% of its revenue from its B2B operations. That same year, it raised $226 million in Series D funding with an evaluation of $970 million, putting it very close to unicorn territory. A unicorn amongst startups is when a privately-held company reaches $1 billion in evaluation.
However, cracks had become to form as the company's board was becoming increasingly wary of the amount of the money that Zilingo was burning. The COVID-19 pandemic did not help. In 2020, the company had to shutter offices in Australia and the US and even laid off employees in order to focus on its core business in Southeast Asia. The company then proceeded to shut more offices in India, Thailand and Indonesia. By the end of it all, Zilingo had laid off 12% of its staff globally.
In March 2022, the Zilingo board suspended CEO Ankiti Bose for inconsistencies in accounting. Towards the end of May, she was fired from the company.
In June 2022, Bose and her cofounder Dhruv Kapoor offered a management buyout to the board of directors where they would take over some of Zilingo's assets while liquidating the rest to pay off debtors.