London– Ankiti Bose is 27, a fashion junkie, and on course to become the first Indian woman to co-found a $1 billion start-up.
In four short years, she has grown her Southeast Asian e-commerce site Zilingo into a global platform with more than 7 million active users. With a rapidly expanding investor following, the start-up’s latest cash injection in February 2019 valued the business at $970 million.
Zilingo has become the most successful new economy venture in the region by Indian entrepreneurs, mopping up $226 million in the latest round from Sequoia Capital, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek and Germany’s Burda Principal Investments (announced on Tuesday). The startup has racked up a total $306 million in funding.
‘Cross-cultural sensitivity helped me’
Bose, who graduated from St Xavier’s College, Mumbai, with an economics and mathematics degree in 2012, says having empathy and being sensitive when dealing with people across cultures – from techies in Bengaluru to fashion gurus in Singapore to conservative Muslim merchants in Indonesia – has helped her.
Starting up for women entrepreneurs is not easy. Last year, India ranked at 52-just ahead of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Egypt and Bangladesh-on the 57-country list of Mastercard Index for Women Entrepreneurs. Among other major startup ecosystems, the US is ranked in the top five, while China is in the top 30.
The number of women entrepreneurs stood at 14% in 2018, according to a recent survey by Nasscom, up from 10% and 11% in the previous two years, respectively.
“Personally, a lot of men have been very helpful to me in my journey. But of course, if you have more women in venture capital and more female entrepreneurs, then things will get a lot better,” said Bose. She says having empathy and being sensitive when dealing with people across cultures-from techies in Bengaluru to fashion gurus in Singapore to conservative Muslim merchants in Indonesia–has helped her.