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The Lingerie Revolutionary

Richa Kar, cofounder of Zivame, seems to have defied all odds in her journey.

Richa hit the news in January 2017 when Zivame, her lingerie startup was yet another pain point for investors running out of patience.

So far Zivame has raised nearly 50 million dollars in three rounds from IDG Ventures, Kalaari Capital, Zodius Capital, Khazanah Nasional from Malaysia, media mogul Ronnie Screwvala and the intransigent Ratan Tata known for his influential hand in shaking up larger and more powerful boards of employees than that of a startup.

For reasons unknown and in what is attributed to an investor led decision, Richa Kar has "stepped back from controlling daily operations" of Zivame. Although she still cites herself as CEO of Zivame on professional social media networks, Shaleen Sinha, the COO roped in from Aditya Birla group in November 2015 will be taking over daily running of the business.

Richa is said to have been put in charge of strategy. Zivame is now pivoting from just online to growing its physical store presence along with its own private label and more product categories. During FY 2016 according to ET, net losses increased by 84 per cent; inventory costs grew by 35 per cent and marketing costs more than doubled (more than 100 per cent increase) for net sales that grew by 38 per cent.

Nevermind the performance of Zivame as a business, what Zivame has done is trigger a social revolution. It's dissociating the need for bras and panties with shame and embarrassment. And Richa was the catalyst of all that.

This quote from Kar will long be in the annals of every media outlet, "My mother was shocked at the idea. She said, "Apne friends ko kya bolungi? Meri beti bra-panty bech rahi hai computer par? My father did not quite understand what exactly I wanted to do."

It was in 2011, armed with a degree in engineering and management and about 45,000 dollars that Richa decided to launch Zivame.

In an interview she gave in 2015, Richa says, "As part of my previous job, I was working on an assignment to study a global lingerie brand. That got me thinking about lingerie as a category in India. I soon realised that the customer experience in the category is very poor in India. Right from unavailability of size options to presence of male sales executives, every single step of lingerie shopping posed a bottleneck for a woman."

The act of starting a business that sell lingerie and promoting that business so publicly across all media has the indirect effect of challenging those age old stuffy conceptions that a woman's need for innerwear should be kept hush-hush. Zivame's recent TV ads for bras and positive body image campaigns like #FitForAll is nothing short breaking a few glass ceilings.

And what of how Indian men may relate to Zivame? Richa is a straight talking woman and does not mince her words. When she was once asked whether Indian men retaliate against such a public show of lingerie, Richa jokingly said, "As long as the pics are good…(laughs), they can keep looking at the pics, but will never buy."

Driven, insightful and unafraid, Richa's leadership style is also characterised by her work ethic. She is focused. In a 2013 interview with a media outlet she said, "I work 9 am to 9 pm, I don't do any housework as I have household help to take care of that, don't socialize, don't have time to interact with parents. I only work."

And knows what she wants. In this same interview from 2013 she said, "I want to make Zivame a billion-dollar enterprise in the next five to seven years."

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zivame richa kar ratan tata

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