The clothing industry is often called out for not being socially responsible, and Ram Radhakrishnan, CEO of Silq, says brands have a hard time finding a factory that meets quality and capability requirements while also being transparent in communication.
“The problem is not a lack of technology, but a lack of structured data,” he told TechCrunch. “None of the solutions have solved the problem yet, and the global pandemic exacerbated it.”
Radhakrishnan, who started the company with Kate Alexander and Vishnu Nair, spent years in India observing family members running factories, which ultimately inspired the idea for Silq. He came to the United States and worked in transportation, including stints at both C.H. Robinson and Flexport.
He noted that $2.8 trillion worth of merchandise came into the U.S. in the last year, and some $500 billion was spent in fixing supply chain inefficiencies, something he attributes to the inflation we are seeing now. In addition, companies are trying to get supply chain data, but have not been able to.
That’s where his company is stepping in with its approach to bring visibility and real-time data from the manufacturing floor to brands. Its technology helps users source, make and ship apparel, footwear, home goods and accessory brands.
In fact, Silq puts its own employees on the ground in facilities to provide updates during the production process that results in improved product quality and accelerated speed-to-market. The company provides brands with a production calendar designed and maintained by Silq.
“We show them what is happening on supply chain floors and provide validated data from people on site in five countries,” Radhakrishnan said. “Using the data, customers can make freight bookings because we can predict what will happen up to 45 days in advance.”
The company was in beta mode for half of 2021, but managed to bring in $10 million in gross merchandise value from the five countries it operates in.
Silq is focused on soft goods currently, but will move into broader categories of consumer goods in 2022.
It is also leveraging growth in markets it is not operating in, including Asia and Latin America, but Radhakrishnan expects to have a presence in those regions by the end of the year.
That growth is buoyed by $17.6 million in new Series A funding, co-led by F-Prime Capital and Flexport Ventures. Joining in the round were Eight Roads Ventures, existing investors RTP Seed and Forum Ventures and a group of angel investors. It gives the company approximately $19.6 million in total funding to date. As part of the round, Ben Gorman of F-Prime Capital joins the board.
Radhakrishnan plans to use the new funding to expand its footprint of factory partners around the world, grow its team of on-site merchandisers and quality inspectors across Asia and invest in technology development.
Speaking to the current bottleneck going on in the supply chain, Radhakrishnan said he doesn’t expect it to be clear until summer 2024.
“We don’t have infrastructure to handle throughput, so either we build some or it has to decrease,” he added. “Building infrastructure doesn't happen overnight, so the thing we can hope for is improving efficiency within the existing infrastructure, and that is what Silq does. This is going to have to happen in the next five years because infrastructure will take half a decade to build. Until then, any efficiency is going to come from solutions like us and others to leverage existing assets.”