Op-ed: Meet The Mother of Zalora, Lazada, Foodpanda, GlassesOnline & More
Listen to your mother because they're taking over the world.
News site have just broken the news about Zalando, Europe’s largest online fashion retailer is going public later this year.
If the planned IPO really happened, it would be Europe’s biggest tech IPO since 2008.
What does it mean to general fashion consumers like me, and you?
In fact, it doesn’t signify anything major. But if you know Zalora, you probably already known that the Berlin-based Zalando and ASEAN-based Zalora are “siblings” – they were born from the same biological “mother,” but they live in different countries. (If you work in the said companies, you know that the analogue is just a general explanation of their complex relationship.)
What you probably don’t know: there are many other siblings under the same “mother” too.
Let’s take a step back from the world of fashion and menswear, and dap into the world of e-commerce investment for a minute, because I’m very amazed by the fact that the 6-year-old fashion e-tailer is going public soon.
Actually, I’m more amazed by the fact that the “mother” – Rocket Internet – has grown exceptionally influential in the e-commerce world in recent years. Its empire has grown so huge to the extend that it started to intrigue me and I couldn’t help but to ask myself: what else they don’t do?
Breaking: Rocket Internet is going IPO too.
Remember when people started to worry about their privacy after realising Google have reached into almost every aspect of our lives? It was the time when they also realised Google isn’t just a search engine anymore. Rocket Internet is in a different league, but I think my curiosity stemmed from the same place.
Just how big is Rocket Internet?
Just how many fashion and lifestyle e-commerce websites are under Rocket Internet?
For the record, Rocket Internet do not solely own Zalando (as with the case with other e-commerce founded by Rocket Internet,) but they played an important part in founding the business. They currently own only 0.8% stake in Zalando.
Founded in 2007 by the Samwer Brothers (Marc, Alexander and Oliver Samwer,) Rocket Internet has been dubbed the “King of Clone” by the industrial insiders. Their business nature of “copying” business ideas from successful companies in US and then apply the same ideas in other parts of the world have received mixed comments.
“[They] simply copy existing high-growth web companies, from Airbnb to Pinterest – often selling the businesses back to the people who originated the idea. It’s a strategy that has made them plenty of enemies: “The Samwer brothers are despicable thieves,” serial entrepreneur Jason Calacanis tweeted in December. “How do they sleep at night?” (Wired)
For example, Zalando is said to be a clone of Zappos. Zalora is the ASEAN version of Zalando (so indirectly, a Zappos clone.) Lazada is a clone of Amazon. Bamarang is a clone of Fab.com (which eventually closed down after 6 months when Rocket Internet’s focus switched to Westwing.)
What Rocket Internet actually do: they launches companies (with cloned ideas,) “hires staff, and provides marketing, design, search engine optimization, and day-to-day management until the startup can fend for itself.” (BusinessWeek)
To date, Rocket Internet have more than 40 ventures across the globe under their belt. I refreshed the list by Gigaom with a few additions:
The list above may not be complete, and it is still growing.
Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with their controversial cloning model (or the “clone or not clone” dispute,) Rocket Internet definitely are wildly successful. They have built a huge empire envied by many.
It’s safe to say Rocket Internet is taking over the online shopping world.
In the case of GlassesOnline, they’re not founded by Rocket Internet, but it is not difficult to notice that they are the “Zalora of Eyewear.”
GlassesOnline is funded by Nova Founders, and the founders of Nova Founders Raphael Strauch and Mads Faurholt-Jorgensen are ex-Rocketers who left Samwers to form this new company. They’re sometimes dubbed the “Rocket Internet 2.0.” You can say Rocket Internet is the grand-mother here.
On the other hand, have you not noticed? There are already 3 foreign ventures (Zalora, Lazada, GlassesOnline) penetrating (and quite possibly already secured a big share of) the local online shopping market.
(Fairly speaking, the local bunch target different demography, and they’re veterans in the game, and some are equally powerful with the tie to Singapore SPH.)
It is not a bad thing, but it sure is an interesting invasion that warrants as a fruit for thought for local entrepreneurs.
I saw a mini invasion milestone right there when Zalora Malaysia entered Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week this year. Off the record, some fashion insiders questioned their entry into the shrine which was traditionally meant for orthodox designers, fashion creatives, and the presentation of new talents.
We had lunch with Zalora Malaysia’s directors after the show, and the team disclosed the company’s in-the-pipeline project to produce their very own, designed-by-Zalora RTW collection (and thus explained the KLFW invasion.) Not long after that, “The Zalora Label” was launched, followed by even more aggressive marketing with #OWNNOW TV ad.
Ultimately, it means more options for local fashion consumers. It is still a “win” for consumers.
Revisiting the initial question: Just how big is Rocket Internet?
Very big. And they’re bigger than ever.