She has changed forever the way Indian women buy innerwear: Meet Richa Kar

Richa Kar, founder of Zivame, dismisses the ‘woman entrepreneur’ tag. She says her entrepreneurial journey was serendipitous. It may be chance that started her on it, but the online enterprise she built  is a testimony to her unflagging perseverance.

Beginning her career as a management graduate posted at Spencer’s in Kolkata, she later joined  the German multinational SAP as a consultant.

Kar had initially wanted to start a food and grocery start-up but her entrepreneurial plans soon morphed into a desire to change the way Indian women purchased intimate wear. She chanced upon the idea in March 2011 and, by May, she had big names such as Triumph and Jockey on board and was backed by an initial investment of Rs.3 million from friends and family.

She chose the Hebrew word ‘Ziva’ meaning radiance and, on August 25, 2011, ‘Zivame’ or ‘radiant me’ went live.

In her line of business, she has faced awkward moments and long delays to get clearances. She recalls how her mother was visibly uncomfortable telling others about her daughter’s business. Convincing payment gateway officials wasn’t smooth sailing either, given that her product brief talked about lingerie and accessories, which resulted in long delays in securing permissions.

Kar has followed a hands-on approach from day one, from listing every merchandise on the new website to helping pack boxes at the warehouse. “If you don’t get your hands dirty, then how do you expect your staff to do it?”She even took phone calls when her receptionist quit. “I would take calls under her name. I couldn’t tell the other person that this was Richa Kar, the founder, because that would have been odd,” she laughs.

She recalls several vacations and family events she missed because of work. Even her wedding was not spared. “One night before my mehendi, I was working on quarterly reports that I had to send the investors. And I was back at work the very next day after my wedding.”

Zivame has found great validation from investors, raising $3 million a few months after launch followed by another $6 million in 2013. In 2015, the start-up was part of a series-C round of funding where investors pumped in another $40 million. This was followed by an investment of Rs.1 million from Tata Sons’ chairman emeritus, Ratan Tata, last September.

In the next five years, Kar hopes to become a global fashion-focused brand for women. But looking ahead, she is cognisant of one fact that she claims will keep her anchored, “Whatever happens, whether Zivame makes it or not, it is my responsibility and the buck stops with me.”

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