With e-commerce transactions exceeding $10 billion USD in 2017, Southeast Asia’s internet economy is further projected to exceed $200 billion by 2025 according to a joint research report by Temasek Holdings and Google. Millions of new online customers are regularly joining the e-commerce ranks and the region’s e-commerce market is booming as a result. Fashion has been at the forefront of this growth and is the largest sector of the e-commerce market.
Here are the top 5 fashion startups that are commanding the “e-tailer” trend.
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Style Theory, Southeast Asia’s first “Fashion Sharing Economy,” launched in January of 2016. The Singapore-based startup is a subscription-based rental platform that allows users access to its collection of over 10,000 pieces of premium women’s clothing.
Style Theory´s attraction comes from the broad range of clothing it offers that covers everyday wear, to professional apparel, to outfits for special occasions. The $129 monthly subscription includes “unlimited rental of three pieces at a time, delivery, returns, and dry-cleaning services.” Style Theory aims “to fulfil every woman’s dream of having an infinite wardrobe,” according to co-founders Raena Lim and Chris Halim.
The app has a waiting list and an estimated 70,000 active users in two countries. Style Theory expanded into Indonesia in November of 2017, offering over 5,000 items from 160 local and international brands and grew twice as fast as when it debuted in Singapore. It teamed up with local ride-hailing and online payment company Go-Jek, for deliveries.
The company plans to expand to other cities in Indonesia, and currently has a team of 70 people in Singapore and Indonesia that includes buyers, packers, marketing, customer service staff, and software and data engineers.
Launched in 2015, Zilingo has grown tremendously since its inception. Now based in Singapore, Zilingo’s platform provides high-quality, cost-effective fashion to online customers in Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Australia.
Zilingo connects merchants across Southeast Asia and gives them access to a global audience. The company’s platform caters to merchants, retailers, and big brands for both consumer and business (B2C and B2B) sales. Among other services, Zilingo offers financial services from third parties and recommendations of upcoming trends from fashion icons. With 130 employees in six Asian cities, Zilingo has raised more than $80 million through four venture capital funding rounds. The platform now has over 10,000 sellers with plans to expand to other regions.
Founded in 2014, Sale Stock, a rapidly-growing e-commerce startup with a B2C (business to consumer) business model, sells modestly priced, quality modern clothing for men, women, and children. The clothing is made by the company in collaboration with various small and medium-sized dressmaker businesses.
Users can access Sale Stock via multi-platform sales channels, ranging from mobile app and websites to social media and messaging options. Orders are placed via its customer service bot, Soraya, and available 24 hours daily. Sale Stock’s Android app has over 5 million downloads and the company reports having 400,000 users throughout Indonesia. It has delivered over 4 million orders using third-party courier services.
With offices in six locations in Jakarta, Bandung, and Jogjakarta, and run by a local team of 700 employees, Sale Stock´s mission is to serve 1 billion customers. It reportedly was set to reach a break-even point earlier this year. The company closed a $27 million USD Series B+ funding round in December of 2017.
Founded in 2013 by David Jou, Bangkok-based Pomelo Fashion sells modern affordable clothing with monthly releases of new unique styles. The company partners with manufacturers and controls its value chain from source materials to design to retail, in order to supply quality, on-trend fashions at a reasonable price.
Pomelo is embarking on the current retail transformation in Asia by promoting so-called “online-to-offline commerce.” This business strategy gives customers the ability to try on pieces they’ve selected online at a convenient nearby location, dramatically reducing product returns–a persistent problem in fashion e-commerce. The company operated a pop-up store in Singapore and currently has two micro-retail stores in Bangkok. Pomelo Fashion is looking into another 800 micro-store locations at key shopping areas with high traffic in the region.
Operating in Bangkok, Singapore, Indonesia, and Seoul, the Pomelo team is a diverse and dynamic combination of experts in e-commerce, online marketing, engineering, and fashion. The company has raised a total of $31.6 million USD in five rounds of funding.
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Actress, TV host, and fashion entrepreneur Neelofa, launched Naelofar Hijab in 2014 under the brand NH Prima International, a company founded in 2004 by her and her sister, Noor Nabila. The brand promotes a reinvented hijab image that is “modern, stylish, practical, and hassle-free for confident women.” The objective of Neelofa and her team is to “revolutionise and simplify modest fashion” and change “the common stereotypes associated with women who don the hijab.”
Since its debut in 2014, Naelofar Hijab produced over 80 collections of tudung, shawls, and scarves, most of which sell out quickly. The company has also created two other labels: Naelofar Abaya, featuring modern and stylish abayas; and Lofalens, a brand offering “fashionable contact lenses.”
Neelofa was listed among the 300 honorees of the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2017 list in the retail and e-commerce category. And in 2016, the brand registered RM50 million MYR in sales with 10% of its revenue coming from international sales. Currently, the company employs over 100 stockers in Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore and the brand’s products are exported to 38 countries.
Southeast Asia’s e-commerce market has immense prospects for growth. The challenges for retailers are also numerous as they are required to navigate diverse cultural, religious, and social structures. These top-five fashion startups prove that fashion is a language spoken by the masses and if the consumer’s needs are put centre-stage, then that language can be translated into a successful business venture anywhere.