Richa Kar was working in SAP as a techy when she got to work with a big conglomerate called Limited brand. It is the company that owns Victoria’s secret. The fact that the quarter of the sales were coming from their online portal had surprised her. However, she observed that nobody thinks of lingerie as a category in India. Richa came to a conclusion that lingerie is one of the most neglected aspects in India’s online store business. Subsequently, she came up with the business idea of Zivame.
Richa Kar was born on 17th July, 1980 in Jamshedpur. She belonged to a very conventional family. Her father used to work in Tata Steel and her mother was a homemaker. As a person belonging to a conventional family, she had no business role model at home. Richa completed her education from Bits Pilani in civil engineering and started working in IT sector as a Software Analyst in an IT firm. She always had an insatiable urge to know how a business works. Latterly, she started pursuing MBA from NMIMS in 2005 and completed in 2007.
After MBA, she worked as a Brand Communications Manager at Spencer’s. She was promoted as an area manager a year later. In March 2010, she got an opportunity to work with SAP as a Consultant – Business Process. At SAP, she learnt a lot about leadership and how businesses operate, which eventually became her passion that led her to become the founder of Zivame.
Richa had observed that online lingerie shopping was non-existent in India. People didn’t even think lingerie as a category in online portals. Moreover, good brands of lingerie weren’t even available in cities except the top 10 cities in India. In the initial stage, she wasn’t thinking about e-commerce. It was only the idea of the gap in the lingerie market in India that had persuaded her to explore the possibilities. Richa also observed that the distribution system of lingerie in India had many loopholes. In some parts of India, it is considered as a taboo and women also find it uncomfortable talking to vendors while shopping. Also, there are ranges of size which causes mix-up.
Even though, Suchi Mukherjee had come up with a similar venture that dealt with women articles, it did not have the category that offered lingerie products. The Zivame entrepreneur wanted to come up with a distribution system that can circumvent the problems of physical distribution of lingerie. She identified the opportunity and grabbed it, and that is when she ideated the e-commerce platform, Zivame. Richa thought that such an e-commerce platform that would handle the transactions of the lingerie business would also impart privacy it needs.
She designed the e-commerce website in such a way that it doesn’t only deliver the product but also educated the customers on how to choose the right fit. Zivame also had online product experts women can chat with, or ask queries. Apart from that, Richa Kar believes in providing good service to the customers. So, she made an arrangement for reverse pick up and money back / exchange kind of policy in case the customer did not like what was delivered. This enabled the customers to have trust in the venture and thus ensured the sustainability of her startup.
Kar family was initially very happy to know that Richa is venturing into entrepreneurship. However, they also did not take it seriously and thought that it is a passing fad. They had no idea that Richa was venturing into a forbidden territory that has social stigmas associated with it. When her parents learnt about Richa’s plan to launch an online lingerie store, they could not fathom the decision. Her father was unable to understand the idea behind this business. On the other hand, her mother was afraid of the embarrassment it would cause. Somehow, she could convince her parents and started the e-commerce business.
The major challenge she had faced was in the year 2015-16. The company had reported 84% increase in the net losses at Rs.54 Crore in FY16. She stepped down as the CEO in February 2017. Richa continues to be in the board and contributes to the organization in every possible way.
She was asked about her thoughts on women entrepreneurs in an interview with YourStory. Richa Kar’s perspective was that man entrepreneurs and woman entrepreneurs are one and the same thing. Both the genders need to work hard and the challenges and advantages are all the same. The Zivame founder also mentioned that being a woman entrepreneur in lingerie business makes it easier for her. She can easily relate with the product, decipher customers’ demands and be familiar with the dynamics of the market. Her idea about not having the need to differentiate the perceptions about man and woman entrepreneur is appealing. It inspires women to have courage and become entrepreneurs.
Today, Zivame has 5000 styles, 50 brands and 100 sizes of lingerie under its belt, with 2.5 million unique visitors a month and sells two bras a minute. It is because of her hard work, courage and commitment towards her entrepreneurial intentions, Zivame has been able to sustain itself in the highly competitive market. Richa Kar’s journey as an entrepreneur is inspirational and something young entrepreneurs should learn from.