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Richa Kar

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Richa Kar is the founder and CEO of Indian lingerie e-retailer Zivame. A native of Jamshedpur, India, she completed her undergraduate work in engineering at BITS Pilani in 2002. After a few years working in IT, she proceeded to the Narsee Monji Institute of Management Studies, completing her masters in 2007.

After completing her graduate work, Kar worked for Spencers and SAP retail consulting, gaining valuable retail experience that would carry her into the start-up world. During her time at SAP, she found herself working with the Limited, which owns lingerie company Victoria’s Secret. While she was studying the Indian lingerie market, she realized that the social discomfort surrounding lingerie shopping was causing myriad issues for both shoppers and retailers. To remedy this, she created Zivame, named from the Hebrew word for “radiance,” to help women understand their lingerie needs and browse and purchase styles without embarrassment.

With co-founder Kapil Karekar (who left the company in 2012), Kar borrowed Rs 30 lakh from friends and family to finance her new endeavor. They launched from a small office space on August 25th, 2011, receiving their first order 5 hours later. As the business grew, the company sought funding, raising $9 million in two rounds from investors including IDG Ventures, Kalaari Capital and Unilazer Ventures. Within three years of its launch, Zivame had grown from a small operation to a team of more than 200 members. It is now India’s leading online lingerie store, offering more than 5,000 styles, 50 brands and 100 sizes.

Companies and Investments

Zivame (Founder, CEO), SAP Retail Consulting, Spencers Ltd.

Lessons Learned

Even today, when we get new products or brands, I think from a woman's point of view and not a business owner. I ask myself, do I need this product? Does it make any difference to my life? Would I pay xyz amount for the product? Answers to these questions are the key to having a good product mix. (Richa Kar on making a product you would use yourself and putting yourself in your customers’ shoes, in her profile on Zivame.com)

When I was with SAP, I got to work with a big conglomerate called Limited Brands, which owns Victoria’s Secret. Here, I was surprised to see that more than a quarter of their sales was coming through their online channel. We don’t think of lingerie as a category. It’s one of the most neglected parts of the wardrobe of the Indian woman and that’s where my interest spiked and I started doing a lot of consumer research. I went to the departmental stores to actually see what was happening. I also met all the brands to understand the entire landscape. What came out from all of this was the understanding that retailers were only stocking the sizes that moved fast because of the limitation of the shelf space and in lingerie the number and sizes are much more. If you leave the top 10 cities, there was very less availability of good brands. So I started thinking how to solve the problem. And, then there was the thought of a distribution system that transcended the barrier of physical distribution. This is where I chose E-commerce as a channel to solve this problem. And therefore, lingerie and then Zivame, so it wasn’t really E-commerce that was my first choice, it was lingerie and identifying the gap in the market and addressing it. Internet is one of the most conducive channels and it maintains and respects your privacy because this category needs privacy. It has unlimited shelf space and it will reach out to pan India customers like no other channel can. (Richa Kar on identifying a problem and creating a real solution as a solid basis for entrepreneurship, in a profile on YourStory.com)

Also every order has a story. We also keep a track of whether the loyalty has increased or not. How much are they buying when they come back to our site? Every business tracks consumer behavior in this manner. All our customer care executives are women, and women love talking, so when a woman customer and the customer representative meet over the phone, they talk a lot, and this is something that gives us a direct and clear feedback. At such a moment, women get candid and share great stories of their lives as well. A lot of women interact with us on our website too and we get to know about their problems, or dissatisfaction with their sizes. And, we try to address these issues, either through products, through services or through consultation. And that’s how we evolve our product offering also. (Richa Kar on the importance of listening to and understanding your customer, in a profile on YourStory.com)

Hiring has to be right for a startup. People need to see the vision. Everyone likes the latitude that a startup gives. It’s not only about competency but also the mindset when it comes to hiring. (Richa Kar on the importance of hiring in a start-up, in an interview with The Next Big What)

Inspiring Quotes

Richa Kar's Quotes

I guess conviction in one’s belief is the greatest driver.

Richa Kar

If you are strong, focused and passionate about what you want to do, everything falls in place.

Richa Kar

Being able to fulfill a certain need is most gratifying.

Richa Kar

It’s gratifying but it’s never easy.

Richa Kar

Influential Books


Vani Kola