September 17, 2015 / 11:58 AM / in 2 years

For India's largest lingerie e-tailer, privacy pays

BENGALURU (Reuters) - Discretion is paying off for India’s largest online lingerie retailer Zivame: its sales have risen five-fold in the four years since its launch and just last week, it received $40 million in funding from local and foreign investors.

Richa Kar, founder and chief executive of Zivame, poses inside her office in Bengaluru, India, September 10, 2015. REUTERS/Abhishek N. Chinnappa

The start-up is one of several e-tailers cashing in on the awkwardness many middle-class women feel buying underwear in public in this deeply conservative society.

It now plans to further boost sales by opening 100 “fitting salons” over the next three years where clients can get measured before making purchases online, its founder told Reuters.

“We made it cool to talk about lingerie,” Richa Kar, who is also Zivame’s chief executive, told Reuters. “We answered the question of whether lingerie is worth investing in.”

Physical stores ring in the bulk of the sales in India’s 110 billion rupees ($1.7 billion) lingerie market. These shops, however, range from pricey boutiques in glitzy malls to streetside stalls and makeshift shops where the sales assistants are often men.

Richa Kar, founder and chief executive of Zivame, poses inside her office in Bengaluru, India, September 10, 2015. REUTERS/Abhishek N. Chinnappa

Many women say websites give them a discreet, budget-friendly and comfortable alternative, fuelling growth in the online lingerie sector which consultants Technopak estimate at 70 percent a year, albeit from a small base.

The overall lingerie sector is growing at 16 percent, they added.

Zivame is currently valued at around $100 million. After its latest funding round, it counts Zodius Technology Fund and Malaysian state fund Khazanah Nasional Berhad as investors.

Other online lingerie retailers in India include Pretty Secrets and Clovia.

($1 = 66.4400 Indian rupees)

Editing by Clara Ferreira Marques and Miral Fahmy

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