Zilingo is the top beauty and lifestyle marketplace allowing smaller merchants from Southeast Asia without an online presence to list their items for sale direct to consumers. It has raised Series D funding of $226 million nearing almost 1 billion valuation.
Aadi founded the Indonesia business and grew it from scratch to one of the largest fashion marketplaces in ASEAN today. He also set up the B2B platform and designed the entire logistics flow from 7 countries into ASEAN, primarily Indonesia to support the procurement needs of sellers. He soon took over the entire supply chain optimization at Zilingo and set up hubs in Bangladesh, Vietnam, Korea, China, Thailand, Myanmar, and etc.
Aadi took over as Zillingo’s Chief Operating Officer in 2017 and now drives the company’s P&L (USD1 Billion) and operational efficiency across business units including b2b and b2c – Aadi looks after more than 300 people in 6 geographies as they are expanding the team.
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Some of the highlights from the podcast:
- Aadi’s journey from banking to e-commerce.
- How Zilingo started- aggregating fashion merchants in ASEAN.
- Biggest challenges for small businesses in the industry- sourcing and financial services.
- The growth of B2B vs B2C
- How you can find 20 logistics partners to work with you on B2C, but on B2B probably there are 2 players.
- “We want to remove these middlemen and ensure only the right people or the people who add value stays in the supply chain.”
- How an IoT system could reduce the risk of pilferage – 5% to 10% of cargo can end up as lost items.
- “I think people need to be mature faster, absorb better and lead better.”
- [01:25] Tell us a little about yourself and how you ended up in e-commerce.
- [03:46] “The core learning that started to come up, especially in the Indian ecosystem of corporates was that things are lowly marred by inefficiencies.”
- [05:15] Even though Southeast Asia has a much better infrastructure both in terms of logistics and internet penetration, they are still behind in terms of the e-commerce evolution.
- [06:04] “No one was really aggregating the smaller businesses, which is what we wanted to do.”
- [06:40] “The idea of Zilingo was to aggregate small fashion merchants in ASEAN and bring them to light in terms of the digital economy and give them a platform to sell to consumers across the region.”
- [07:16] The challenge for smaller businesses are not actually selling, the bigger challenge for them was sourcing and finding the right financial service.
- [09:07] The growth in B2B was so high and fast that it makes B2C businesses look a bit smaller.
- [09:26] You mentioned at some point that you envisioned Zilingo as a one-stop solution for merchants and manufacturers. How do you envision that and how would that help people?
- [11:00] Our objective is to make the yarn to closet process as simple as possible. We want to remove these middlemen and ensure only the right people or the people who add value stay in the supply chain.
- [12:09] You’re in charge of supply chain optimization and you set up hubs in all those countries. Tell us a little bit about it and what does that mean? How do you make it happen?
- [13:00] Technology, in my view personally, is an empowerer. It is not going to replace the human touch. It is not going to replace these physical hubs that we’re trying to create.
- [15:00] In terms of business, how do you charge your clients?
- [17:04] ”You need to go from the top line approach first, install the things that will help improve the bottom line and then over time start monetizing.”
- [17:25] What are some of the biggest problems that you are facing in your operations at the moment?
- [18:00] When there is no comparison, it becomes hard not just for the people you work with- the investors, but also for the media to really understand what you’re trying to do.
- [19:05] You will find 20 logistics partners to work with you on B2C, but on B2B probably the number is two.
- [20:05] What is the simplest way to describe what you do and who you are as a business?
- [22:39] What helps a lot is that we are talking to our manufacturers and sellers all the time.
- [24:37] Tell us an example of a case study in terms of some actions that you took which created an impressive impact.
- [26:38] “What we do is we have a small team in China and Hong Kong that will aggregate these fabric manufacturers and get them on-board onto our platform and directly present solution to our clients.”
- [27:26] It was extremely challenging to get items delivered to all parts of Indonesia. Everyone was doing Jakarta, Bali, Sumatra, but either the timelines were like 15 days or no one was offering cash-on-delivery, which is like 90% of the beam method used in these countries.
- [28:56] Have you included sustainability in your agenda? How does it work for you?
- [30:22] The fashion supply chain is very fragmented with hundreds and thousands of manufacturers across the world and if you aggregate these businesses and bring some sort of efficiency, you will save not just time or money, but also the planet in some ways.
- [32:28] Do you have any plans of expanding to the Middle East?
- [32:55] As we’ve matured and grown over time, we realize the fact that it’s super hard to beat Asian supply both in terms of quantity and pricing. But you need to have a global vision in terms of the demand and we’re open to exploring demand in other parts of the world as well.
- [34:01] Which one of the initiatives that you’re doing do you think will make the most impact in terms of disrupting?
- [35:33] If there is an IoT and the inventors auto updated the systems the chances of pilferage theft reduces drastically. And again, this is not a small problem, because it’s a 5 to 10% lost items.
- [38:31] “If you don’t get a large chunk of these businesses on the platform and realize what the problem is, you’re going to be living in a dream void where you will be solving one small problem, which might not matter.”
- [39:00] How do you find the right type of mindset for your business?
- [39:39] “Specific experience does not matter a lot. Of course, it is important, but the most important part when hiring people is the attitude and some sort of alignment to the vision of the organization.”
- [41:42] What do you see in the next five to 10 years in terms of skill set? What should people focus on?
- [43:09] I think people need to be mature faster, absorb better and lead better.
- [44:28] What has proven to be some of the most successful things that have taken you to where you are today? And some of the challenges that you’ve gone through?
- [45:00] “You can’t sit and have a broken heart and be sad about things. I think you need to keep moving on because opportunities are all going to dry down.”
- [45:43] “Whoever you might become you need to stay humble because you are here to solve a mission, and the company and the mission matter more than who you are personally.”
- [46:03] What would be something that you would do as a leader consistently?
- [46:46] If you can deliver to me something 100% created after 10 days versus 80% in two days, I would prefer the first option. Don’t forget about the time aspect of things because things are moving really fast. So perfection plus time needs to work hand in hand.
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