For American women, there is plenty of friction built into the process of purchasing lingerie. Cost, sizing, styling, access and lack of consistency in the products are among the ranking complaints. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a veritable legion of DTC brands and startup shops have sprung up in the last several years to fill the holes in the market – and even reshape it. Victoria’s Secret has seen its sales stall, as the brand has been accused of being out of step with the tastes of contemporary consumers.
But for consumers in the U.S. and the west in general, the market lacks a piece of friction that tends to be much more significant in the rest of the world. There is no taboo associated with women’s undergarments – which means they are fairly easy to find in a wide range of online and offline locations.
The situation has been quite different in India – particularly in 2011, when Zivame first launched with the goal of bringing a better, more privacy-focused lingerie shopping experience to modern Indian women, according to CEO Amisha Jain.
“Today, a modern Indian woman is pushing the boundaries of her personal style and is exploring Indian, western and fusion wear. Each of these different styles has to be paired with the right innerwear. Hence, with Zivame, we believe her innerwear is no longer an imposition, but an enabler of her personal style,” she said in an interview.
The quest to build a better innerwear experience for Indian women, however, did not begin as with the clothing items themselves. At its base, Zivame generally considers itself a tech-first company – specifically, a data and artificial intelligence (AI) company. Those were the foundations upon which the firm was built, and how it has achieved its powerful growth over the last several years.
“We are a new-age company, a digital company, and we look at technology as a big and extremely important tool that allows us to make a significant impact on the life of a woman,” Jain noted.
AI and data tech are applied to helping a customer find the right fit, even if she has no idea what that might be. Around 85 percent of Indian women do not know their bra size or body type, Jain noted, which means the challenge is finding a way to extract that information from customers who may lack the language or knowledge to provide it.
To solve this, Zivame has designed its “Fit Code” system, which uses data supplied by the consumer via a questionnaire they complete during their first shopping experience. This information is used to determine the wearer’s body type and proper fit. Not only does this help Zivame provide the optimal product to the customer, but it also educates the algorithm so it can make better predictions for future product needs. As of 2019, Zivame boasts that they have come up with around 300 specific body profiles via their Fit Code system – and that figure is constantly growing.
When the system is working at its best, the consumer should never have to measure themselves. The goal is for the algorithm to study their sizing needs well enough so that no one has to even pick up a tape measure.
Zivame is an increasingly big lingerie name in India, with over 35 retail locations of its own and shelf space at 800 or so other locations. On top of its brick-and-mortar presence, the company claims to have access to more than 28,000 postal codes for online deliveries, which is the source of the bulk of its sales to date.
The brand’s next wave, according to its CEO, is to expand its multichannel presence and reach more potential sales channels to meet their customers’ needs.
“If the customer wants to shop through WhatsApp or Snapchat, or wants to shop online or at a store, we want to make sure the Zivame brand is available,” Jain added.