Friday, October 1, 2021

2021: A Banner Year For Pakistani Tech Startup Investments

The year 2021 is turning out to be a banner year for Pakistani tech startups. At the end of the third quarter of the current year, technology startups have already raised $278 million, twice the funding raised in the previous 5 years combined. In per capita terms, this is still just over $1 per person, a lot less compared to neighboring India where startups attracted $20 per person

Venture Capital Investment in Pakistan. Source: Kalsoom Lakhani, i2i Ventures

The third quarter (July-Sept 2021) alone has seen startup companies raise $172.6 in 17 deals closed in the three-month period, according to data compiled by Kalsoom Lakhani of i2i ventures. The top deals closed in the third quarter were: 1. Airlift $85 million series B 2. Bazaar $30 million in series A and 3. QisstPay $15 million seed round. 

Source: Kalsoom Lakhani, i2i Ventures

The lion's share of the ,money ($117 million) went to E-commerce startups followed by Fintech ($35 million) and trucking platforms ($13.6 million). Male-founded startups got 46.5% while female-founded companies received 1.7% with the rest of the money going to startups whose founding teams include both male and female founders. 

Venture Funding in Pakistan Lowest Among Most Populous Nations. Source: Crunchbase

In per capita terms, startup investment in Pakistan is still just over $1 per person, a lot less compared to neighboring India where startups attracted $20 per person. As expected, the startups in the United States dwarfed all other countries in both per capita terms ($808) and in total size ($269 billion) of venture capital investments. 
Largest Global Market For Venture Funding. Source: Crunchbase

Pakistan's technology sector is in the midst of an unprecedented boom. It is being fueled by the country's growing human capital and rising investments in technology startups. A recent tweet by Swedish fund manager Mattias Martinsson captured it well when he wrote, "Have followed Pakistan for 15 years. Can't recall any time time when VC activity was anywhere near we've seen in the last few months. Impact of reforms kicking in?".  New laws have made it easier to create startups and offered greater protection to investors.  Digital infrastructure has expanded with over 100 million smartphones and an equal number of broadband subscriptions. 

With expanding Internet infrastructure and rapidly growing user base, Pakistan is now seeing robust growth in venture money pouring into technology startups. Pakistani startups have already attracted more than $278 million in funding in 2021, more funds than all the money raised by Pakistani startups in their entire history. A recent example is Kleiner Perkins, a top Silicon Valley venture capital investment firm, that led a series A round of $17 million investment into Pakistani start-up Tajir. The startup operates an online marketplace for small store merchants in Pakistan. The announcement came via a tweet by Mamoon Hamid, a Pakistani-American Managing Partner at Kleiner Perkins who led the investment. Last year, Tajir raised a $1.8 million seed round.  The company's revenue has increased by 10x since its seed round. 

Pakistan Technology Exports Trend 2007-2021. Source: Arif Habib

Pakistan's technology exports are experiencing rapid growth in double digits over the last decade. Total technology exports jumped 47% to $2.1 billion in fiscal year 2020-21. 

Pakistan University Enrollment Growth. Source: Encyclopedia of Higher Education

The foundation for Pakistan's digital transformation was laid with the higher education reform and telecommunications deregulation and investments starting in the year 2001 on President Musharraf's watch. With a huge increase in higher education funding, Higher Education Commission Chairman Dr. Ata ur Rehman succeeded in establishing 51 new universities during 2002-2008. As a result, university enrollment (which had reached only 275,000  from 1947 to 2003) soared to about 800,000 in 2008. This helped build a significant human capital that drove the IT revolution in Pakistan.      

Please watch the following video presentation for more details on Pakistan's technology startup ecosystem:


Ahmed said...

Dear Sir

Thanks for this post, I just saw a news some days ago which showed the rank of Pakistan in "GLOBAL STARTUPS" index. Mashallah the rank of Pakistan has improved in this index from 82 to 75. This shows that IT students who are graduating from different Universities of Pakistan are now realizing that how important are startups and I think Pakistani governmment is also taking startups seriously.

Riaz Haq said...

Ahmed: "rank of Pakistan in "GLOBAL STARTUPS" index. Mashallah the rank of Pakistan has improved in this index from 82 to 75"

The 2021 Emerging Venture Markets Report is based on 97% increase in venture capital funding in 2020.

In 2021, total startup funding has already jumped to $278 million so far (sept 2021), more than 5 times the 2020 figure of $50 million.

I expect a big jump in Pakistan ranking on Global Startup Index 2022.

aamir sardana said...

Pakistanis have to understand that they are intellectually,ideologically and genetically superior to Indians

Pakistanis are hemmed in by power,ports,road,input costs and logistics.

NONE OF THESE issues matter,in IT and ITES !

The Indian IT is staffed by South Indian Sambhar Dosas ! If this is the enemy,Pakistan should win every war !

On top of that, the edge is the depreciating PKR ! dindooohindoo

As per the Mahabharata,South Indians are a demonic race !

 "Yama and all the Demons", are in South India

 The Mahabharata, Book 13: Anusasana Parva: Section XCVII

He should make sacrificial offerings in due order; to Yama in the Southern region

 The Mahabharata, Book 13: Anusasana Parva: Section CL

 Unmachu, Pramchu, Swastyatreya of great energy,Dridhavya, Urdhvavahu, Trinasoma, Angiras, and Agastya of great energy, the son of Mitravaruna,--these seven are the Ritwiks of Yama, the king of the dead, and "dwell in the southern quarter".

 The Mahabharata, Book 13: Anusasana Parva: Section CLV

 Burning with the energy of Agastya, the Danavas, abandoning both heaven and earth, fled "towards the southern direction".

Ahmed said...

Dear Sir Amir Sardana

I agree with you that Pakistanis are intelligent,talented and skilled but I can't exactly say that Pakistanis are more intelligent than Indians or vice versa because I have noticed that in some areas Pakistanis seem more intelligent than Indians but in some areas Indians look more intelligent than Pakistanis.

Sir Sardana you must also know that Indians are very good in utilizing the talents and skills of their people , are Pakistanis good in utilizing the talents and skills of their people in the right way?

Also do Pakistanis have smart marketing and presentation skills as Indians do? Why is it that India is more famous than Pakistan in other countries? Thats because Indian media is smart in presenting and marketing its country in a positive way. Have you seen Pakistani media ever showing the true and positive image of Pakistan to its audience?

Sir according to my limited understanding and knowledge this intelligence, talent and skills is not really helpful and beneficial if the person is not educated or academically strong.

It is education and academic qualification which polishes the intelligence and skills of the candidate.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan #agriculture #startup Tazah gets #2 million pre-seed funding. It screens produce for quality, removes rotten produce. It sorts into categories for specific types of buyers. Now it offers 5 products: ginger, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes & onions.

The founders of Tazah Technologies, a B2B agriculture marketplace in Pakistan, met while serving leadership roles at Uber subsidiary Careem. Abrar Bajwa and Mohsin Zaka bonded during long working hours as the platform dealt with COVID-19’s impact. Eventually, the two started talking about creating their own startup. When asked how they got from ride-hailing to agri-tech, Bajwa told TechCrunch that the two grew up in farming communities. “We are from central Punjab and every family there has something to do with agriculture,” he said. “We had seen firsthand how farmers, or people who are involved in small holder farming, do not encounter social mobility based on how the deck is stacked against them.”

Agriculture is Pakistan’s biggest sector, contributing about 24% of its gross domestic product and employing half of its labor force, according to government statistics. But fragmented and complicated supply chains lead to inflated prices, food waste and low profits for farmers, all problems that Tazah wants to solve. The startup, which launched two months ago in Lahore, announced today it has raised a $2 million pre-seed round led by Global Founders Capital and Zayn Capital. Other participants included Ratio Ventures, Walled City Co, i2i Ventures, Suya Ventures, Globivest, Afropreneur Syndicate, +92 Ventures, Sunu Capital, Musha Investments and angel investors like senior executives from ride-hailing platforms Careem and Swvl, where Bajwa worked before launching Tazah.

There are currently about 300 small- to medium-sized sellers buying inventory through the platform and it moves multiple truckloads of produce per day. Right now it offers five main kinds of products: ginger, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes and onions. Tazah plans to expand into other vegetables and fruits, but wants to ensure that it can guarantee consistent supply and quality. For example, instead of just serving as a marketplace to connect farmer and buyers, Tazah also screens produce for quality, removing rotten produce. Then it sorts them into categories for specific types of buyers.

For example, potatoes are separated into ones for households, restaurants, small retailers, or to be made into French fries, based on what Bajwa and Zaka learned during market research. “We have spent months in wholesale markets, we’ve interviewed hundreds of retailers and we got to know that standardization of product is needed in Pakistan,” said Bajwa. “We get into the bottom of operations, because retailers will know what exactly is in the sack.” This has resulted in a monthly retention rate of more than 80%, and most customers buy from the platform about four times a week.

“We’re not just a box-moving operation because in one sack of potatoes, there can be multiple rotten potatoes, so you don’t want to just buy from farmers and then give to retailers. That doesn’t add a lot of value,” said Zaka. Tazah is currently focused on small to medium-sized sellers who are overlooked by fast-moving consumer goods and grocery product inventory providers because they aren’t able to buy at sufficient bulk. It’s also started talking to other customer segments, including B2C marketplaces, grocery apps and stores.

Increasing farmers’ profits and reducing food waste
Tazah’s founders say fragmented supply chains mean that about 30% to 40% of produce is wasted because they perish or are damaged each time they are unloaded, warehoused and reloaded onto a truck. The company wants to fix that by creating a shorter, more streamlined logistics infrastructure. It plans to keep costs down by working with third-party warehouse and trucking providers instead of owning its own facilities.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan #agriculture #startup Tazah gets #2 million pre-seed funding. It screens produce for quality, removes rotten produce. It sorts into categories for specific types of buyers. Now it offers 5 products: ginger, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes & onions.

“There is the traditional supply chain and we’re building a parallel customized supply chain that is a more efficient supply chain,” said Bajwa. “It’s almost like reinventing the wheel to build a supply chain that ensures products move as fast as possible from point of harvest to point of retail.” This means Tazah will make early investments as it works with its warehousing and trucking marketplaces for middle- and last-mile deliveries, establishing best practices for how to handle produce.

Since Tazah needs to make deliveries early in the morning, it operates small fulfillment centers in addition to warehouses to stay close to customers. Part of its new funding will be used to expand its fulfillment center network in Lahore, with the goal of being operational in the entire city by the middle of October, before expanding into new regions.

Over-harvesting also contributes to food waste, and one of Tazah’s goals is to build a data and analytics platform that will help farmers plan crops to make sure there is no oversupply in the markets they serve. Farmers typically sell their produce at markets, occasionally forming groups with other farmers. But they don’t have a lot of information about market places and supply/demand beyond their communities. They also often end up in debt to middlemen because they lack access to working capital.

While Tazah is currently focused on its supply chain work, it plans to eventually add financing options for farmers after doing research, like going through several more procurement cycles to understand what how much capital farmers need and how they are able to repay it. Some of the barriers they face include lack of formal credit histories or access to financial institutions that usually don’t open branches in rural areas. Sometimes they borrow working capital from intermediaries in the supply chain, or loan sharks who charge interest rates of more than 60%, creating cycles of indebtedness.

“Financing is something we are aggressively looking after because it’s a future play for us and we are working with farmers to know what they are doing, and how they are actually getting financing,” said Zaka.

Tazah’s founders hope to see more startups emerge to solve problems for Pakistan’s farmers. “Agriculture has been a mostly ignored sector in Pakistan from a technology perspective, and I think that as more people come into this, they’re going to help each other, as opposed to competing with each other,” said Bajwa. “We feel that as more people come in, it will be better because it will accelerate the problem solving in this very difficult space.

He added, “this is such a large space in Pakistan and it’s so inefficient that if we are even able to make a small dent, it’s going to lead to social uplift for hundreds or possibly thousands of farmers, improve the availability of fresh produce, result in less food tasted and reduce food price inflation.”

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistani financial platform Abhi Pvt. raised funds at a $40 million valuation just four months after introducing its business that allows salaried employees to access funds before payday.

The Karachi-based company’s bridge round was led by U.A.E.-based Global Ventures, which invested for the first time in Pakistan, according to Chief Executive Officer Omair Ansari. U.S.-based Next Billion Ventures, VEF AB, Rally Cap Sarmayacar and VentureSouq also participated in the fundraising, along with TPL e-Ventures and i2i Ventures, he said.

Venture capital funds have ramped up investments in startups across Asia. Pakistan, the world’s fifth most populous nation, received more than $300 million funding in startups this year, a record amount that is more than the past six years combined.

“Pakistan has trailed in its adoption to the internet economy and startup formation,” Noor Sweid, general partner at Global Ventures said in an interview. “The startup boom in Pakistan is attracting global attention.”

Abhi has seen “explosive growth” that’s prompted the bridge round, said Ansari, who left Morgan Stanley in New York and moved to Karachi for the startup. The company plans its Series A round early next year.

The early wage access platform will start operations in Bangladesh early next year, said Ansari. There is no such platform in Sri Lanka and countries in the Middle East, he said, providing expansion opportunities for the company.

The platform is an alternative to people asking their company, family or friends for cash, or making a credit card withdrawal to make ends meet until the next salary. The app takes less than 30 seconds and two clicks for a registered user to access the funds, with a flat 2% transaction fee. The funds are automatically deducted from the next paycheck. Abhi is also offering working capital to businesses.

The company is already working with 75 companies including ice cream joint Baskin-Robbins and online retailer Daraz in Pakistan. About half the staff at coffee chain Espresso have used the service after it went online, Ansari said in an interview at a co-working space in Karachi. The company is moving into a dedicated office next month.

Other than the app, about 10% users accessed funds by sending an SMS and 15% via WhatsApp. It plans to add more products including savings instruments. Abhi is set to become cash flow positive next month, the CEO said.

Co-founder Ansari was overseeing two funds at Morgan Stanley, and looking at investment opportunities in consumer companies and fintech in emerging and frontier markets. He had helped with early stage investments in fintech companies from China to Brazil.

He was also an adviser to VEF, which focuses on fintech in frontier and emerging markets. That’s when he came to the conclusion that Pakistan is being overlooked in terms of opportunities in that space.

“It didn’t make sense for me, Indonesia and Pakistan are literally the same country from a very 30,000-foot view,” said Ansari. “I’ve seen this work in other

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan Startups Draw Record Money, Helped by Covid and China's Tech Crackdown - Bloomberg

The startup scene in the world’s fifth-largest nation is having a breakout year.

More money has flowed into Pakistan’s nascent technology sector during 2021 than in the previous six years combined, with investors from the U.S., Singapore and the United Arab Emirates joining the rush. And one former Microsoft Corp. and LinkedIn Corp. employee has been involved in about half the fundraising deals.

Until 2018, Pakistan-born Aatif Awan was living the dream in Silicon Valley. After more than a decade working for tech heavyweights, he’d become an angel investor for American startups and bought a house in San Francisco. Then he went to visit his parents in Lodhran — a small town known for growing mangoes and cotton — and new opportunities became clear.

Many young nationals have left high-paying overseas jobs at places like Morgan Stanley, McKinsey & Co. and BNP Paribas SA to become entrepreneurs back home. The opportunity has also seen a few foreigners moving to Pakistan.

The country has “the last large population that hasn’t been tapped,” said U.S. citizen Jordan Olivas, 32, co-founder of QisstPay Inc. The Islamabad-based startup is modeled on Klarna Bank AB, a buy-now, pay-later fintech firm and Olivas’s former employer.

“Just the population size and the average age of the consumer alone creates a good market,” he said. “Up until this year there hasn’t been any big VC money coming in.”

In addition to rising interest from global venture capital companies, the entrepreneurial ecosystem is also benefiting from a growing network of local investors, incubators and shared working spaces. Pakistan’s government has also increased support for the tech sector after realizing its potential for exports.

The startup scene’s atmosphere is encapsulated at the Karachi offices of e-commerce startup Bazaar Technologies Pvt., which in August raised $30 million in the nation’s largest series A fundraising. Of more than a dozen investors, only one met with the company in person.

Tucked away in an old office building, it’s a modern workspace with gleaming floors and furniture that buzzes with casually dressed young workers. Co-founders Hamza Jawaid and Saad Jangda, both 28, respectively worked in Dubai for McKinsey and ride-hailing company Careem Inc. before returning home last year to start Bazaar, which operates a business-to-business marketplace for grocery stores.

Just a few years ago, startups in Pakistan struggled to raise funding. Risk-averse banks routinely turned down loan applications from entrepreneurs, while most cash-rich businesses and other private investors were not even willing to speak with them.

“In 2012, there were zero significant funding sources,” said Kalsoom Lakhani, co-founder of investment fund i2i Ventures. “You really had to have the network in Pakistan to raise your funds for business.”

“If you fast forward, there has been a support system that has been growing in speed around the startups,” she said.

A number of risks could slow the funding momentum. Investors may lose faith if Pakistan’s pace of digital adoption is slower than expected — and banks with big pockets have been failing for decades to convince most of the population to take up bank accounts. An abrupt change of government policy — such as a more punishing tax regime or stricter regulation — would be a real threat to the fledgling tech sector. Investors may also find it difficult to exit through Pakistan’s stock market since startup valuations are high relative to listed companies, according to Suleman Rafiq Maniya, head of advisory at Vector Securities Pvt. Pakistan being on the monitoring list of the Financial Action Task Force, a financial watchdog, is also a concern for investors and has created extra hurdles for startups.


Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan Startups Draw Record Money, Helped by Covid and China's Tech Crackdown - Bloomberg

For now though, there’s a lot of venture capital funding to be scooped up. “People realized this is a much larger force,” said Awan.

Several startups have found themselves attracting more money than they had initially sought, while ideas and the results of a small test-run can be enough to raise funds, according to people who asked not to be named since the matter is private. Some are also hiring staff at double or triple their current salary as they have money to spend, two of the people said.

“If you have a good team and a good idea, you’d come in and just revolutionize,” said Olivas. “There’s so much white space.”

Early-stage success stories include Airlift Technologies Pvt., a Lahore-based online shopping delivery platform, which in August raised $85 million in the nation’s largest single private funding round ahead of overseas expansion plans. Digital payments startup TAG Innovation Pvt. is now valued at $100 million after raising funds in September, while competitor SadaPay is projected to be the fastest-growing mobile wallet in the world in the five years to 2025, according to London-based fintech company Boku Inc. Neither company has begun fully fledged operations yet.

“What happened in China, India and Indonesia has started to happen in Pakistan, only faster,” said Awan. “The wheel has started turning now.”

Riaz Haq said...

#Paytm Stock Collapses After #India’s Largest-Ever #IPO. A wave of IPOs has swept India this year with bullish sentiment focusing on high-growth #technology companies. But as Barron’s warned last month—“India’s tech IPOs look too pricey.” via @BarronsOnline

Shares in Paytm dropped 27% Thursday in the group’s first day as a publicly traded company, after the fintech startup caught the attention of investors around the world in India’s largest-ever initial public offering.

Paytm (PAYTM.India) counts SoftBank (SFTBY), Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A and BRK.B), and Alibaba (BABA) among its backers, and has positioned itself as India’s answer to companies like China’s Ant Group. Its interests cover a range of finance and technology businesses but its primary focus is mobile payments.

Pricing its IPO at 2,150 Indian rupees, Paytm raised $2.5 billion in the largest float in Indian history. But the stock tumbled in its Mumbai trading debut, closing more than 27% lower at INR 1,560. Indian stocks have been on a tear over the past year, with the benchmark NIFTY 50 index up more than 39% from November 2020, compared with a 31% rise in the S&P 500.

A wave of IPOs has swept India this year with bullish sentiment focusing on high-growth technology companies. But as Barron’s warned last month—“India’s tech IPOs look too pricey.”

Riaz Haq said...

From Twitter:

Arif Habib Limited

During Oct’21, technology exports was up 29% YoY to $ 195mn. During 4MFY22, technology recorded exports worth $ 830mn contributing 39% to the overall services’ export and marking a 39% YoY jump.





#Pakistan #Economy #AHL

Riaz Haq said...

#India's #Paytm shares fell 37% in the first two trading days after #PaytmIPO. The disappointing performance of India’s largest #IPO will cool sentiment a bit, but a dose of reality could make for a healthier market. #payments #tech via @WSJ

That poor performance bucks the trend of this year’s technology boom in India. IPOs amounted to $14.6 billion this year according to Dealogic—already a record amount. And investors have reaped big profits. Shares of food delivery company Zomato and FSN E-Commerce Ventures, which owns online cosmetic retailer Nykaa, have both more than doubled from their IPO price. Goldman Sachs expects another $50 billion worth of IPOs in the next two years. SoftBank-backed hotel chain Oyo and logistics company Delhivery have already filed to list. Money has also rushed into the private market: Venture capital investment last quarter amounted to a record $14 billion, according to KPMG.

The large size of Paytm’s IPO—it raised around $2.5 billion—is one reason why the market is dealing with a bout of indigestion. But the company also priced its IPO very aggressively given there is still no clear path to profitability. Strong competition from Google and Walmart -backed PhonePe and potential regulatory risks added to investor concerns.

The Indian market as a whole has also gotten a bit frothy. The MSCI India has gained 27% in 2021, making it one of the best performing markets in the world. China’s regulatory crackdown has probably sent some foreign investors hunting for growth in India. The MSCI China is down 17% in 2021 and technology giants like Alibaba and Tencent continue to be harried by regulators.

Individual investors in India have added another big push. The number of trading accounts and overall amount of retail equity ownership both hit new highs this year. There have also been record inflows into mutual fund investment plans.

Earnings growth has been strong but is also largely priced in already. The MSCI India is trading at a 60% premium to Asia-Pacific ex-Japan, according to Goldman Sachs—compared with a long-term average premium of 27%.

Given India’s huge potential—a country of 1.4 billion with low levels of internet service use—there is no lack of interest in jumping into the market. But the Paytm debacle is a timely reminder that the market isn’t willing to pay any price for that potential.

The flop probably won’t halt the coming unicorn stampede into India’s market. But their IPOs may need to be priced a little more reasonably.

Riaz Haq said...

#Karachi-based #Pakistani #grocery #startup Krave Mart, which promises 10-minute delivery, raised $6 million in its pre-seed funding round, which was led by MSA Capital, ru-Net, Global Founders Capital and Zayn Capital. #technology #VentureCapital

A funding frenzy in Pakistan’s startup scene this year has seen investments cross $300 million after two e-commerce companies raised fresh funds.

Bookme, the largest online travel and ticketing platform in the country, raised $7.5 million in its Series A round, according to its founder Faizan Aslam. Bagallery, a beauty and fashion startup, separately raised $4.5 million in a similar round, co-founder Salman Sattar said. Both rounds were co-led by Zayn Capital, Lakson Venture Capital and Hayaat Global.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan #fintech #startup raises $11 million pre-seed round led by Tiger Capital. Firstminute Capital, Banana Capital, VentureSouq, Ratio Ventures and i2i Ventures, as well as angel investors Sriram Krishnan and Julian Shapiro also participating. #tech

“We started the research and began experimentations in late 2019,” said Iman Jamall, co-founder of CreditBook, in an interview with TechCrunch. “I was working as a service designer on a project for one of the largest Pakistani banks at the time and was observing different persona types to understand why financial inclusion is low at the level that it was at the time.”

The challenges that Jamall, one of the few female founders in the country, identified were cash flow, the role of credit and the social relationships around it, and the over reliance on “paper for everything essentially,” she said.

The over reliance on paper to maintain ledger and the always-running low cash flow is a challenge that merchants in many markets in South Asia and Southeast Asia share. As we previously covered, often these small businesses run on informal credit and rely on money they secure from selling their existing inventory to buy their next batch. The customers buy things for weeks and sometimes months before they clear the tab.

These shortcomings are hurting these small businesses and mom and pop stores and impeding their growth at a time when large e-commerce giants are attempting to court customers.

CreditBook today offers a bookkeeping app to merchants, enabling them to digitize the handwritten ledger that they have traditionally used to keep track of daily accounts.

The eponymous mobile app has amassed merchants in over 400 towns and cities, the startup said. CreditBook declined to reveal the number of merchants who are using the service, but said that the number of transacting users has increased by 10 times since last year.

Digital bookkeeping is the startup’s marquee offering today, but Jamall said CreditBook is working on building and testing financial products on top of it. It’s too early to unveil precisely what those financial products would look like, she said. (But it’s definitely not e-commerce, she said.)

Jamall offered some context around the areas CreditBook is exploring. “In Pakistan, what you do is that there is a huge whitespace in payments. But mobile money has started to gain traction, especially amid the pandemic,” she said, adding that the local regulator has also made a push in recent years to accelerate the adoption of mobile payments and is focusing on building an instant payments infrastructure. (Similar to India’s UPI, which in recent years has become the most popular way users transact online.)

It’s a massive opportunity. CreditBook estimates that there’s a $45 billion unmet financing gap for small businesses. Pakistan, home of over 220 million people, 60% of whom is under the age of 30.

“We are excited to partner with CreditBook and make Tiger Global’s first investment into Pakistan,” said John Curtius, a Partner at Tiger Global, in a statement. “The investment is a testament to the incredible traction and vision demonstrated by the team.”

Friday’s announcement builds on what has been a watershed year for Pakistan’s fast-growing startup ecosystem as several global investors, including Kleiner Perkins, Addition, 20VC and Buckley Ventures make their first bets in the country. Startups in Pakistan have raised over $300 million this year, more than previous six years combined. Grocery delivery startup Krave Mart announced earlier this week it had raised $6 million in its pre-seed funding round.

Riaz Haq said...

Tiger Global Joins Rush for Pakistan Startups With Fintech Bet
By Faseeh Mangi

Pakistan’s CreditBook, a firm that offers digital bookkeeping solutions to small businesses, has raised funds that marks the first investment by Tiger Global Management LLC in the nation’s booming startup space.

CreditBook has raised $11 million investment led by Tiger Global and Firstminute Capital LLP, according to a statement. Previous investors Better Tomorrow Ventures LLC, VentureSouq, Ratio Ventures Ltd. and i2i Ventures also participated in the current funding round.

The South Asian nation has seen funding in excess of $300 million this year into its nascent technology sector, more than in the previous six years combined. Pakistan has seen a wave of investments from many global venture capital firms, including Kleiner Perkins -- an early investor in Google and Inc.

“We have been studying the country and understand the country is at an inflection point seen before in other emerging markets,” said Sam Endacott, a partner at Firstminute.

Startup Fever Grips Pakistan, World’s Last Big Untapped Nation

Small businesses in Pakistan mostly operate using a manual register and handwritten entries in a nation that is mostly cash-based but startups are looking to change that. The nation is home to as many as 30 million micro-, small- and medium-enterprises that operate manually and deal in cash. Udhaar Book, a Pakistani cashflow management services provider for small businesses, also raised $6 million in early funding last month.

Pakistan’s central bank will pause interest-rate increases to preserve economic recovery after delivering Asia’s boldest hikes since September, Governor Reza Baqir said.

“We are going to take a pause to first look at the effects of the tightening we have already done,” Baqir told Bloomberg Television’s Rishaad Salamat and Yvonne Man. “Fiscal policy has been very complementary and is also withdrawing stimulus so a coordinated macroeconomic response, we think, will be number one to sustain recovery and keep inflation broadly in check.”

Riaz Haq said...

Shorooq Partners, a leading VC firm headquartered in the UAE and with offices across Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain,has been granted approval by Special Technology Zones Authority (STZA) for a Zone Enterprise license and will be opening their first office in Pakistan in theIslamabad Special Technology Zone.

Shorooq Partners is the leading technology investor across emerging markets, partnering with startups, and building enduring businesses through seed stage equity and debt funding with afocus on the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan.

Earlier this year, Shorooq Partners signed a MoU with the STZA to support efforts to build Pakistan’s technology ecosystem in the presence of the Honorable President of Pakistan Dr.ArifAlvi.Shorooq Partners was keen to establish a physical presence in Pakistan to support local founders and other local investors through a series of ecosystem initiatives.

As part of its new office, Shorooq Partners intends to invest and extend its one-of-a-kind value-creation arm to its portfolio companies in Pakistan and give them a real competitive advantage in the market.

Shorooq Partners was early in investing in Pakistan and have done more than 10 investments incompanies such as Airlift, PostEx, DigiKhata, Retailo, KTrade Securities and Tazah Technologies.

Chairman of STZA, Amer Hashmi, reinforced the government’s commitment to facilitating global venture capital firms in the Special Technology Zones.

“The presence of a VC firm like Shorooq Partners will be significant for Pakistan as it will bring global best practices that will enable Pakistani tech entrepreneurs and investors to forge connections on a global level, tap into other markets, and learn from top-tier founders and investors.”

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan's Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication has drafted “National Broadband Policy-2021” targeting the contribution of digital/broadband development to the economy to the tune of $5 billion investment and $20 billion revenue by 2025.

The draft policy also envisages up to eight percent contribution towards the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from digital/broadband development in the next four years.

One of the objectives of the draft policy is to ensure that 100 percent population living in tier-2/3 cities should have access to high-speed internet, an average per user internet speeds of 50Mbps in major cities and facilitate 75 percent of the internet users with digital bank accounts by 2025.

The draft policy aims at addressing some of the specific challenges; (i) the need for affordable access to broadband for all; (ii) to address the challenges concerning digital divide especially in unserved and underserved areas nationwide; (iii) overcoming the challenges in rolling out the required digital infrastructure and related financing models including extensive fiberization and efficient spectrum management; (iv) harmonization of existing tax regime on telecommunication services; (v) stimulating the development of local and relevant content and services; (vi) the need for improved and consistent broadband quality of service; (vii) urging the importance digital trust over telecommunication networks to promote wider use of digital technologies in all spheres of life; (viii) understanding the impact of internet in terms of socio-cultural developments, economic growth, and environmental sustainability; (x) lowering barriers for investments applied on existing licensees and for new investors in telecom sector and promoting public-private partnerships; and (xi) challenges vis-à-vis accelerated evolution towards adoption of Xth Generation technologies and fiberization, necessary for improving the state of broadband infrastructure.

The policy envisaged for furthering the initiative of “Digital Pakistan”; it is pivotal to craft a policy vision which is user-centric, market-oriented, simple to govern and all-inclusive in nature, laying a strong foundation to address outstanding issues expediently and exploring new opportunities in the most agile manner.

The National Broadband Policy–2021 aims to “revitalise the state of telecommunication by accelerating the efforts for digital inclusion of every citizen in any corner of the country to gain universal access to high speed affordable internet, enhance the use of digital space by providing equal opportunity for socio-economic wellbeing in a safe, responsible and healthy environment through evolving policy and regulatory measures required for timely and sustainable adoption of cutting edge technologies and digital infrastructure”.

Riaz Haq said...

The user-centric policy drivers on which the foundation of the National Broadband Policy–2021 is laid consists of the following four major pillars.

The first pillar will focus on the digitally divided people who are yet to be digitally included and will provide guidelines regarding use of existing fibre resources, facilitating infrastructure sharing, introducing national broadband networks and its role in the development of sustainable broadband infrastructure in public-private partnerships, reviewing the role of USF for sustainable penetration of broadband services in unserved and underserved areas of the country further enhancing the capability for use of already laid infrastructure, further assessing the rolling spectrum strategy and offering interventions for resource optimization as well as roadmap for inclusion of new mobile spectrum bands, facilitating the provisioning of rights of ways, plan for commercial use of data satellite and proposal for smartphone adoption and increased local manufacturing of internet devices/terminals in Pakistan.

The second pillar will help in organising matters related to enhancing the use of internet and for market enablement such as; roadmap for service-based competition, review of licensing framework, outlining the future course of OTT platforms and content management, broadening the role of Ignite as research and innovation enabler, facilitating the cloud infrastructure and internet exchange points, reviewing the quality of service rules for improving user experience, developing and implementing new services and technologies in public-private partnerships, supporting with necessary infrastructure and services for enabling social services in the digital space.

The third pillar will emphasise on the privacy and protection of user consuming internet and will help in creating awareness and propose a framework for securing identity and data online, ease of access for reporting criminal activity online, guidelines for constituting CERTs, standardising and implementing user privacy, propose common operating environment and standards for internet security, environment protection support, framework for standardising new technologies and services.

The 4th and final pillar of the policy would help user by providing a transformational roadmap for legacy services and technologies, review the role of different public sector organisations responsible for facilitating different telecommunication services, plan for adopting open source technologies and platforms, broadly identify future technologies and make provisions for early adoption, propose broad strategy for the adoption of internet of everything, and last but not the least provide guideline for international cooperation in ICTs.

Riaz Haq said...

Fatima Gobi Ventures
2021 has been full of growth for Pakistan’s vibrant #startup ecosystem. We are proud to have continuously backed #PakistaniEntrepreneurs as the most active #VentureCapital investor.

Congratulations to our portfolio for a remarkable finish to 2021 and a momentous start to 2022Rocket


$360 million raised by Pakistani startups in 2021

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan PM #ImranKhan invokes #SiliconValley as model for #startups. “We are giving SMEs bank credit facility, land for their businesses on lease and [are committed to] eradicating red tapism.” #technology #economy

Extolling the importance of startups and export-oriented small businesses to the country’s economic growth, Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Wednesday he wanted to emulate the success of Silicon Valley and make Pakistan a hub for new businesses.

Addressing the launch of the National Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) policy on Wednesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan vowed to take stern action against government departments and officials who created hurdles in the setting up of new startups and export-oriented businesses.

Saying that fresh incentives would be extended to such businesses, which he claimed had been ignored in the past, the PM said: “We are giving SMEs bank credit facility, land for their businesses on lease and [are committed to] eradicating red tapism.”

PM Khan said the SME sector was the biggest source of employment and had a considerable share in wealth creation.

Giving the example of Silicon Valley — the hub of startups and global technology companies in the US — he said youngsters around the world had become billionaires thanks to IT-related startups.

He said the government was facilitating young people in obtaining credit and other facilities and said he was happy that “$500 million investment in Pakistani startups is coming in from abroad”. This, he said, meant the country was heading in the right direction.

Talking about exports, the prime minister said that small countries like Singapore, which had a much smaller population than Pakistan, had surpassed us in terms of exports. “Singapore with a 5 million population has over $300 billion in exports, while Malaysia has $220 billion,” he said.

The PM said the government was trying to reduce regulations for SMEs to facilitate them. He particularly spoke about the no-objection certificate (NOC) regime, adding that inspections of businesses would be streamlined by using the latest computerised methods.

He recalled that the government had inherited multiple economic problems but said that despite challenges, the country saw a record rise in exports, remittances and tax collection figures.

He vowed to reach his aim of generating Rs8,000 billion in taxes during his five-year tenure, saying that work was being carried out with the help of the National Database and Registration Authority to develop a system to identify persons and entities that didn’t pay taxes.

The PM also announced that the government would not close down businesses or impose blanket lockdowns during the fresh wave of Covid-19, adding that this wave would be countered through smart lockdowns.

He called on the people to observe all standard operating procedures (SOPs) but said that the economy would not be shutdown.

In another meeting on the master plans of large cities, PM Khan said the government was placing special focus on their development as the real engines of growth.

The prime minister directed the concerned authorities to take all possible measures to clear hurdles to the completion of various development schemes on priority basis to provide maximum relief to their residents.

“Due to rural to urban migration, cities are facing multiple challenges and housing, job opportunities and civic amenities are scarce. It is necessary to work on special development packages for these big cities and they must be accelerated,” the prime minister said during the meeting.

He also directed the authorities to work in close coordination and launch a concerted campaign for the uplift of cities like Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Faisalsbad, Rawalpindi and Gujranwala.

Riaz Haq said...

Silent revolution in education
By Atta-ur-RahmanDecember 29, 2021

The state of university libraries was pathetic before the formation of the HEC. A digital library was therefore created that provided free access to 65,000 textbooks and 25,000 international journals. The Pakistan Educational Research Network was established, connecting all universities with high speed internet access. All students returning after PhD degrees from abroad were guaranteed jobs in universities. These and a host of other measures resulted in an astonishing 97.5 percent return rate of scholars sent abroad.

To boost the IT sector, I persuaded the CEO of Intel to join hands with Pakistan, with the result that some 220,000 school teachers were trained with funding from Intel in 70 districts of the country. To boost mobile telecommunications the ‘Calling Party Pays regime was introduced. Previously subscribers had to pay for receiving calls. The result was an explosive growth in the mobile phones sector from 200,000 phones in the year 2000, now to about 180 million phones. The internet was also rapidly spread across Pakistan and our first Satellite PakSat 1 placed in space, thereby securing the only slot available in space for this country.

The amazing progress made in a short period was applauded by the UN and other experts and Pakistan was considered a model for developing countries to follow. In an article, ‘Another BRIC in the Wall’, the world’s leading ranking agency Thomson Reuters applauded the quality of research publications that were being published in international journals as compared to the four BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – and concluded that the highest percentage of good quality highly cited papers was from Pakistan as compared to the BRIC countries. Some pseudo experts have tried to downplay these developments by publicising that some 258 papers have been retracted over the last 20 years. However about 20,000 papers are published annually from Pakistan in international journals and retraction of a small fraction of 0.1-0.3 percent of these is normal and comparable to the retraction rate from other developing countries such as India.

A number of excellent foreign engineering universities are now being established in Pakistan through our efforts. The Pakistan Austrian University of Applied Science and Engineering started functioning last year in Haripur in collaboration with eight foreign universities from Austria and China. Two other similar foreign engineering universities are now being established in Sialkot and Islamabad in close collaboration with local industry to help develop a strong knowledge economy. The focus of these new universities is on the new and emerging technologies such as AI, robotics, industrial biotechnology, new materials, energy storage systems, minerals development, bullet train manufacture and advanced agriculture.

The exciting initiatives now introduced by the HEC after three years of stagnation include the magnification of research programmes to support bright young faculty, a huge Rs13 billion knowledge economy task force project to send our brightest students for doctoral level training abroad, introduction of blended education in universities so that excellent online courses are integrated into the teaching programmes and encouraging university-industry linkages so that focus can shift from basic research to industrial and agricultural research.

Thanks to Prime Minister Imran Khan, a silent revolution is underway. The declaration of a National Education Emergency is now under active consideration so that Pakistan can tap into its real wealth – the 67 percent of its young population below the age of 30.

The writer is chairman PM National Task Force on Science and Technology, former minister, and former founding chairman of the HEC.

Riaz Haq said...

#Startups bringing #Pakistan's #farming into #digital age. Since October, #farmers in Chak 26 and pilot projects elsewhere have been given free access to the internet—and it is revolutionizing the way they work. #agriculture #technology via @physorg_com

Agriculture entrepreneurs are bringing the digital age to Pakistan's farmers, helping them plan crops better and distribute their produce when the time is right.
Until recently, "the most modern machine we had was the tractor", Aamer Hayat Bhandara, a farmer and local councillor behind one such project told AFP in "Chak 26", a village in the agricultural heartland of Punjab province.

Even making mobile phone calls can be difficult in many parts of Pakistan, but since October, farmers in Chak 26 and pilot projects elsewhere have been given free access to the internet—and it is revolutionising the way they work.

Agriculture is the mainstay of Pakistan's economy, accounting for nearly 20 percent of gross domestic product and around 40 percent of the workforce.

It is estimated to be the world's fifth-largest producer of sugarcane, seventh-largest of wheat and tenth-biggest rice grower—but it mostly relies on human labour and lags other big farming nations on mechanisation.

Cows and donkeys rest near a muddy road leading to a pavilion in Chak 26, which is connected to a network via a small satellite dish.

This is the "Digital Dera"—or meeting place—and six local farmers have come to see the computers and tablets that provide accurate weather forecasts, as well as the latest market prices and farming tips.

"I've never seen a tablet before," said Munir Ahmed, 45, who grows maize, potatoes and wheat.

"Before, we relied on the experience of our ancestors or our own, but it wasn't very accurate," added Amjad Nasir, another farmer, who hopes the project "will bring more prosperity".

Apps and apples

Communal internet access is not Bhandara's only innovation.

A short drive away, on the wall of a shed, a modern electronic switch system is linked to an old water pump.

A tablet is now all he needs to control the irrigation on part of the 100 hectares (250 acres) he cultivates—although it is still subject to the vagaries of Pakistan's intermittent power supply.

This year, Bhandara hopes, others will install the technology he says will reduce water consumption and labour.

"Digitising agriculture... and the rural population is the only way to prosper," he told AFP.

At the other end of the supply chain, around 150 kilometres (90 miles) away in Lahore, dozens of men load fruit and vegetables onto delivery bikes at a warehouse belonging to the start-up Tazah, which acts as an intermediary between farmers and traders.

After just four months in operation, the company delivers about 100 tonnes of produce every day to merchants in Lahore and Karachi who place orders via a mobile app.

"Before, the merchant had to get up at 5 am or 5:30 am to buy the products in bulk, at the day's price, and then hassle with transporting them," said Inam Ulhaq, regional manager.

"Tazah brings some order to the madness."

In the Tazah office, several employees manage the orders, but for the time being, purchases are still made by phone, as the part of the application intended for farmers is still in development.

The young company is also tackling a "centuries-old" system that stakeholders are reluctant to change, explains co-founder Abrar Bajwa.

Record investment

Fruit and vegetables often rot during their journey along poorly organised supply chains, says partner Mohsin Zaka, but apps like Tazah make the whole system more efficient.

Riaz Haq said...

Great potential for Pakistan’s IT upgrade
Various incentives given to sector including tech parks, tax breaks

Pakistan is experiencing a silent revolution in the IT industry.

Various incentives are being granted to the sector including the establishment of 15 software technology parks, zero income tax on IT and IT-enabled services export, zero income tax on Pakistan Software Export Board-registered IT startups and tax holidays for venture capital firms till 2024.

IT startups also remain on the radar of global investors and their exports continue to surge.

“The primary reason is that the requirement of ICT services in the global market has grown exponentially due to the pandemic and our rival countries were impacted due to Covid-19, so we got the overflow,” said Infotech Chairman Naseer Akhtar.

Tkxel Innovation and Technology Director Haseeb Khan believes that customers are attracted to Pakistani enterprises because of their service quality.

“For example, if you talk about web application development, we have expertise in .Net, Java, Python, Ruby on Rails and others,” he said. “Besides this, our organisation is a CMMI level-3 certified company, and we rank among top 1-2% of the global software companies in various authentic platforms.”

Facing the opportunities and challenges of the international market, Pakistan keeps finding ways to improve the capacity and seize the chance.

“Some services are advanced like artificial intelligence, blockchain, machine learning and internet of things and they are on top of the pyramid,” said Pakistan Software Houses Association Central Executive Committee member Badar Khushnood.

He believed that the upgrade of IT services was a must for Pakistan.

“We have every kind of service but most of them are at the bottom of the pyramid hence we need to bring ourselves higher to gain more export potential.”


According to interviews with senior executives of IT companies in Pakistan, one advanced technology that they mentioned the most was blockchain.

To talk about how Pakistan got started in this area, CEN consulted Jian Peng, Pakistan’s Honorary Investment Counsellor in China.

“The front-end research and development of blockchain technology requires huge costs, which would be too big an investment for one or several IT companies,” Jian said. “I suggest applying blockchain technology in public services as a start.”

The counsellor said that it could be applied in the fields of public medical care and public education as well. In this way, a large part of the initial investment risk could be reduced and it could also quickly bring economic benefits.

Jian said that blockchain technology has been slowly introduced in government service, medical care, education and other fields in China. THE ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON THE CHINA ECONOMIC NET

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistani start-up wins first place across South Asia in maiden Stanford SEED Spark Program,one%20mentorship%2C%20and%20live%20expert

January 21, 2022
Usman Aslam, TechJuice
National Incubation Center (NIC) Lahore at LUMS nominated start-up has won top laurels and a cash prize in the capstone business pitch competition in the Stanford Seed Spark Program for high-achieving entrepreneurs across South Asia. This was the inaugural cohort from Pakistan and was introduced by NIC LUMS.

“Our partnership with Stanford SEED Spark reflects our confidence in Pakistani entrepreneurs and their ability to compete with the very best talent globally,” said Saleem Ahmad, Chairman NIC LUMS Lahore, and Quetta at the graduation ceremony of Stanford SEED Spark’s inaugural cohort in Pakistan. “Our conviction is reinforced by the fact that all of NIC LUMS mentored start-ups made the top 20 finalists and have brought home much pride in also winning the top position across South Asia.”

83 ventures participated in the program, from across 17 collaborating institutions such as IIT Bombay, TiE Chennai and CII-Young Indians. The competition selected only the top 20 graduates as finalists. After a rigorous scoring process, the top three start-ups were selected to win a cash prize as well as a virtual showcase feature in the global Stanford SEED Spark gallery.

“Our collaboration with NIC LUMS for Spark’s maiden cohort in the Pakistan start-up ecosystem has been a great experience,” said P. R. Ganapathy, Regional Director, Stanford Seed South Asia. “We are thrilled to see the energy and enthusiasm that NIC LUMS nominated entrepreneurs brought to the program. We are looking forward to meeting more innovators and problem solvers from Pakistan to apply and make best use of a word-class online entrepreneurship program at their own pace and time.”

Speaking about her journey with the program, co-founder Sadaf Rehman commented,

“The Stanford SEED Spark Program was instrumental in helping us articulate our vision. The frameworks, expert sessions, as well as the one-on-one mentorship provided just the right mix to propel us beyond what we could have achieved on our own. I am deeply grateful to NIC LUMS for introducing this program to Pakistan, and for the networking opportunities and support that they have provided along our journey.”

Her venture,, provides fun, interactive coding classes to children aged six years and up, with the aim to promote critical 21st-century skills like problem-solving, creativity, and resilience. Within the first year of operations, the startup is reaching over 450 students in ten countries. She was mentored by LUMS alumnus Adeel Saya, Program Manager, Google in Zurich.

Another NIC LUMS-backed entrepreneur, Malik Waleed Tariq, founder of XStak, also made the top 20 finalist list. His venture is an all-in-one, self-service Retail Operating System that enables retailers to perform omnichannel commerce, marketing, payments, and business intelligence operations on a transaction-based pricing model. He was mentored by another LUMS alumnus, Ali Almakky, Strategy and Operations, JPMorgan, London.

Haris Anwaar, AWS Finance, Amazon, (Seattle) also joined the NIC mentors list with a start-up in the top 20 finalists.

The Stanford SEED Spark Program is a four-month training for early-stage entrepreneurs in the traction or growth stage and seeks to empower them with practical tools to refine and develop their businesses through an action-based curriculum, networking opportunities with peers, one-on-one mentorship, and live expert sessions. NIC LUMS brought the Stanford SEED Spark program to Pakistan and will be expanding it nationwide, with the second cohort due to begin in March 2022.

Riaz Haq said...

#Karachi-based #logistics #startup "Truck It In" gets $13 million round led by Global Founders Capital & Fatima Gobi Ventures. Others: Picus Capital, Millville, Wamda, Zayn Capital, i2i Ventures, ADB Ventures, Cianna Capital, Reflect Ventures, K3 Ventures

Pakistan’s Truck It In has raised $13 million in early-stage funding, the largest for a logistics startup in the Middle East, North Africa and its home country.

The Karachi-based startup’s seed round is jointly led by venture capital firms Global Founders Capital and Fatima Gobi Ventures. The other investors in the round include Picus Capital, Millville, Wamda, Zayn Capital, i2i Ventures, ADB Ventures, Cianna Capital, Reflect Ventures and K3 Ventures


From Dawn in September 2021:

Karachi-based startup Truck It In, a road freight tech platform, announced on Tuesday that it has raised another $3 million in an extended pre-seed round, taking the total amount to $4.5m which it will use to digitise Pakistan's logistics sector.

In a press release, the startup said it was the "largest pre-seed round in the regional trucking sector".

The funding will be used to expand Truck It In countrywide and make it the largest trucking platform in Pakistan, the press release stated.

The company's co-founder and chief executive officer (CEO), Mohammad Sarmad Farooq, said: "We're at the very early stages of transforming a critical industry and aim to help over three million businesses save $1bn annually in supply chain inefficiencies."

He added that the company's long-term aim was to "streamline and digitise the country's logistics sector to create a ripple effect on the economy".

The extended round was led by Global Founders Capital, a global seed and growth investor, along with Fatima Gobi Ventures, one of the most active multi-national venture capital firms in Asia. They had also led the earlier round, according to the press release.

In addition, Picus Capital, an early-stage technology investment firm, and Zayn Capital also joined the round this time.

"Truck It In has partnered with strategic investors that are helping it tap into their local supply chains and also leveraging their regional connections for the next growth phase," the startup said in its press release.

Truck It In, which started operations in 2020, had announced a pre-seed funding round of $1.5m in April.

"This opportunity represents 10 per cent of the GDP in Pakistan and the company aims to be the nexus of road freight in the country, helping businesses scale while improving the lives of its truckers," it had said at the time.

"We are going to solve the supply chain inefficiencies in a $25bn market, which is growing faster than its regional peers, to help unlock more than $1bn for Pakistani businesses," it had added in its announcement.

Riaz Haq said...

China, Pakistan to enhance scientific cooperation

Pakistan’s Special Technology Zones Authority (STZA) and Zhongguancun Belt And Road Industrial Promotion Association (ZBRA) of China at a virtual ceremony signed the letter that aims to promote information sharing on science and technology development experience, development of a complete ecosystem, new and emerging technologies, and construction and management of technology zones.

The ceremony was witnessed by STZA chairman Amer Hashmi, ZBRA president Zhang Xiaodong, Pakistan’s ambassador to China Moin ul Haque, and PM’s special assistant on CPEC Affairs Khalid Mansoor.

Under the framework, both parties vowed to facilitate exchanges between high-tech enterprises of both countries in the areas of semiconductors, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, robotics, fintech, blockchain, and biotech for mutually beneficial cooperation.

According to STZA, the collaboration was a cornerstone of its goal to transform the country’s human capital into a high-end future workforce with its tech industry and creating new opportunities for the country’s youth.

“STZA envisions that this partnership with ZBRA will maximize the potential capabilities of the tech industry of both countries,” it said. ZBRA is an organisation headquartered in Beijing, China and legally registered with the Beijing Civil Affairs Bureau. It works to serve Chinese enterprises for high-quality development of the Belt and Road, which will be achieved through projects docking, science, and technology parks cooperation, and

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan #Telecommunication : #PTCL Posts Highest Revenue Growth Since 2013.PTCL is the fastest growing #Fiber-To-The-Home (#FTTH) operator with highest Net adds within FTTH market in 2021. #broadband #Internet

The country's leading telecom and ICT services provider, Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL), posted 7% growth in its revenues, owing to a robust commercial strategy that cements its market standing.

The company has announced its annual financial results for the year 2021 at its Board of Directors' meeting on February 10, 2022.

PTCL Group

PTCL Group posted a revenue of Rs 138 billion in the year 2021 which is 6.3% higher as compared to 2020.
PTCL continued its growth trajectory by posting 7% YoY revenue growth which is the highest since 2013.
PTML (Ufone) also posted a revenue growth of 4.3% despite stiff competition in the market.
U Bank continued its growth momentum and has achieved 8.4% growth in revenue.
PTCL Group has posted a net profit of Rs 2.6 billion.

PTCL continued its strong performance throughout 2021. PTCL's revenue of Rs 77 billion for the year 2021 is 7% higher than 2020, mainly driven by Broadband and Corporate & Wholesale business segments.
PTCL registered highest Fixed broadband Sales and Net Adds in 2021 since 2015, which allowed PTCL to grow in the broadband business segment.
PTCL is the fastest growing Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) operator with highest Net adds within FTTH market in 2021.
The company has posted operating profit of Rs 4.2 billion, which is higher by 21% compared to 2020.
Net profit of Rs 6.9 billion is higher by 14% as compared to last year.
The company is continuously upgrading its existing infrastructure and network, besides expanding FTTH across the country to offer seamless connectivity for greater customer experience. Prompt deployment of FTTH and strong performance in Corporate and Wholesale segments are the cornerstone in PTCL's topline growth, which along with focus on cost optimization program, has significantly increased the company's profitability.

PTCL Consumer Business:

During 2021, the company's Fixed Broadband business grew by 11.7% YoY, whereas PTCL IPTV segment also grew by 13% YoY. Within broadband business, PTCL Flash Fiber, the company's groundbreaking FTTH service, showed a tremendous growth of 61.5%, whereas PTCL CharJi /Wireless Broadband Segment grew by 16.5%. Voice revenue stream has declined on account of lower voice traffic and continued conversion of customers to Over-The-Top (OTT) services.

Business Services:

Business services segment continued its momentum sustaining market leadership in IP Bandwidth, Cloud, Data Center, and other ICT services segments. PTCL's Enterprise business grew by 10% as compared to last year, while Carrier and Wholesale business continued its growth momentum and achieved 9% overall revenue growth. Similarly, international business growth was recorded at 4%.

Being the national telecom carrier and connectivity backbone in Pakistan, PTCL Group strives to provide innovative solutions to accelerate growth for a 'Digital Pakistan' through robust telecommunication infrastructure and a diverse portfolio of services with enhanced customer experience.

Riaz Haq said...

Rising #smartphone penetration in #Asia. #India, #Bangladesh and #Pakistan have new opportunities to #export online #labor to #America, #Europe. #Asia has the highest mobile phone users globally. #freelancing #gig #digital #economy

The region should adopt more cross-country collaborations, such as Go Digital ASEAN. These kinds of initiatives undeniably broaden the landscape of the digital economy and boost related infrastructures in the region. Meanwhile, national-level strategies like India’s National Digital Communication Policy (2018), 1st Policy for Digital Pakistan (2018), and Bangladesh’s National ICT Strategy need to be fully implemented and monitored as an utmost priority. Finally, South and Southeast Asian governments should foster a more sustainable digital ecosystem by promoting digital start-ups, removing entry barriers, developing human capital, and establishing national regulatory frameworks for the digital economy.


Digital transformation worldwide was already increasingly changing how companies make and offer their propositions and interact with their customers. But the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified this, with technology emerging as a critical means of resolving public health challenges and continuing to facilitate the new online consumer landscape. This accelerated digitalization is disrupting the world’s economy, making it one of the most significant growth engines for many developing nations.

What’s more, with the advent of rapid digitalization, Asian countries like India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Philippines are tapping new opportunities by exporting online labour to the West. In Bangladesh, for example, the digital economy is bringing employment to hitherto excluded sections of the population.

We are already seeing how digitalization is reshaping Asia. The digital transformation of South and Southeast Asia is opening a range of opportunities for its citizens, especially for younger generations. Many Asian countries are even in the lead globally in certain sectors of digitalization. For example, the Philippines and Malaysia have become the top two countries in e-commerce retail growth, increasing by 25% and 23% per year, respectively.

Asia countries are performing impressively on e-commerce growth
Image: eMarketer
What’s more, with the advent of rapid digitalization, Asian countries like India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Philippines are tapping new opportunities by exporting online labour to the West. In Bangladesh, for example, the digital economy is bringing employment to hitherto excluded sections of the population.

The pandemic effect
During the COVID-19 pandemic, digital connectivity in Asia played a vital role in overcoming the difficulties of conventional trade. The digital economy acted as a key enabling factor in the Asian recovery, Observer Research Foundation reports. According to Nikkei Asia, the pandemic has had a striking impact on Southeast Asia’s digital economy: 60 million people in the region became online consumers during this period. With this accelerated uptake of technology, there was an increase in nearly all e-commerce during the pandemic, with solid growth in sports equipment and supermarket items.

The pandemic had a beneficial effect on most areas of e-commerce
Image: Datareportal
Asia now accounts for nearly 60% of the world’s online retail sales. Asian-Pacific e-commerce is expected to nearly double by 2025, reaching $2 trillion, according to Euromonitor International. From online retail to ride-sharing services to exporting online labour, this digital boom is reshaping almost every aspect of business and social life in this region.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistani #Tech #Startup Bazaar raises $70 million from Tiger Global and Dragoneer to digitize #Pakistan's #retail. It’s a $170 billion market that comprises 5 million small and medium-sized businesses and enterprises across the country. via @techcrunch

Dragoneer Investment Group and Tiger Global are backing Bazaar, a startup that is attempting to digitize Pakistan’s retail with e-commerce, fintech and last-mile supply chain solutions, they said today, joining a growing list of high-profile investors making large bets in the South Asian market.

The two investors are leading Bazaar’s $70 million Series B funding. Existing backers including Indus Valley Capital, Defy Partners, Acrew Capital, Wavemaker Partners, B&Y Venture Partners and Zayn Capital also participated in the new round, which brings one-and-a-half-year-old startup’s all-time raise to over $100 million.

Bazaar is attempting to build what it calls an “operating system for traditional retail” in Pakistan. It’s a $170 billion market that comprises 5 million small and medium-sized businesses and enterprises across the country.

But these merchants are largely unbanked and offline today. Banks and other formal financial institutions don’t extend credit to these merchants because they don’t have a credit score. This gap has forced many of these shop operators to take loans from shark loan providers.

For those following the South Asia coverage, this challenge will sound very familiar.

Business-to-business e-commerce Udaan, logistics startup ElasticRun, and Dukaan, a startup that is helping shops go online, as well as scores of startups and giants including Reliance and Amazon, are solving a similar problem in India.

Bazaar is combining many of these offerings.

The startup’s B2B e-commerce marketplace, thanks to its network of a dozen fulfillment facilities, is helping merchants in 21 towns and cities across Pakistan procure items to sell.

These merchants also use the startup’s Easy Khata app, which helps them maintain bookkeeping. Bazaar’s financial arm, called Bazaar Credit, is offering these merchants, many of whom operate neighborhood stores, with short-term working capital financing.

Piecing together many of its services makes sense for a startup like Bazaar in Pakistan because it enables the startup to offer a more comprehensive set of values to a merchant, and Easy Khata is helping the firm win customers, Saad Jangda, co-founder of Bazaar, said in an interview with TechCrunch.

In August, “we had just started piloting our credit product and at the time we had partnered with a third-party,” he said. “Now, our credit product is developed completely in-house and is digitally enabled that connects to our last mile network. Everything from order generation to credit disbursement to cash collection is done completely by Bazaar,” he said.

“We acquire customers through Easy Khata, funnel them through commerce, and once we have enough data on the merchants, we start building a credit product atop of it,” he said, adding that the startup has issued thousands of loans in recent months.

Easy Khata has amassed over 2.4 million registered businesses across 500 cities in Pakistan. “But more importantly, Easy Khata is serving as both a core system of records and also helping us launch in new cities,” he said.

Merchants have recorded over $10 billion in annualized bookkeeping transaction value on Easy Khata, the startup said. “Our expansion within Pakistan in the last few months is a testament to how crucial Easy Khata is for us,” Jangda said.

The startup’s last-mile network, which was operational in just two cities in August of last year, is now adding three to four cities each month.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan’s startups take centre stage

#Pakistan’s #startups take centre stage. In 2021, 83 startups raised $350m. And so far this year, the sector has already raised $136m. #technology #economy #entrepreneurship #venture #investment #venturecapital #vc | Infographic | Al Jazeera

Kalsoom Lakhani, the founder of Invest2Innovate and general partner at its sister firm i2iVentures, an early-stage investor, says 2021 was a record-breaking year and says people will question if the momentum is sustainable.

“What’s really important is for the ecosystem to also be building the health overall,” she told Al Jazeera, referring to startups and investors preparing for things such as how to grow the talent pipeline to meet the needs of these fledgling businesses, or how to improve the policy and regulatory environment to help them grow. “So while this momentum is exciting, there needs to be strengthening of these pillars in order to create sustainability and longevity and the continuing growth of the startup ecosystem,” she said.

COVID-19 was a catalyst for the startup landscape in Pakistan, which saw investments rise from $65m in 2020 to $350m in 2021. Extended lockdowns and quarantines provided entrepreneurs the opportunity to create digital products with a human impact.

With more than 250 startups since 2015, an increasing internet penetration driven by low-cost smartphones – there were 184 million cellphone users at the end of 2021 – and affordable data, Pakistan is one of the final few untapped markets for startups and investors to offer internet-based services similar to those in other parts of the world. These services include ride-hailing, and food and grocery delivery, among others.

Faisal Aftab, CEO of Zayn Capital, a venture capital fund and one of the primary investors in the Pakistani startup landscape, estimates that Pakistani startups will be worth $50bn by 2030.

“Today the number sits at $1.8bn, if we count Daraz and FoodPanda, which people should, then we’re sitting at $3bn to $4bn. We’re looking at an easy 10 times growth here,” says Aftab. Daraz, an e-commerce platform, was founded in Pakistan and now offers its services in several countries, and Foodpanda is an international food and grocery delivery business.

“It’s profound what is happening,” says Aftab, referring to the many first-time investors that have mushroomed in the country to pour money into these startups in hopes of handsome returns down the line. Many of these startups straddle parts of the informal economy and will help bring that under the formal economy and the tax net for the first time, he adds.

The five largest disclosed startup funding rounds in 2021 were: Airlift ($85m), Bazaar ($30m), Tajir ($17m), Qisstpay ($15m), and TAG ($12m).

Invest2Innovate’s Pakistan Startup Ecosystem Report 2021 highlights the need for more attention directed towards startups to create a supportive ecosystem in which businesses can flourish.

Opportunities for growth, however, come with the challenge of finding the right human and capital resources to allow the building of infrastructure that can absorb the two million new people entering the workforce every year, the report says.

Recent reforms, including a legal framework for Electronic Money Institutions set up by the country’s central bank, the State Bank of Pakistan, have allowed new businesses to be set up and have led to an increase in investments. Another policy that led to investor cheer was the Digital Banking Policy, which was finalised in January and allows digital banks to not just be e-wallets, but also provide credit, investments, and other products.

The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, which oversees non-banking companies, has established legal definitions for startups, and the federal government has helped set up Special Technology Zones.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistani B2B #ecommerce #startup firm raises $22m in series A #investment round led by Sary, a B2B marketplace that focuses on the Middle East, North Africa, and Pakistan (MENAP) markets. Sarmayacar and Systems Limited also participated in the round.

Jugnu said that more than one million kiryana (mom and pop) stores in Pakistan lack access to convenient inventory procurement, and that over two-thirds of retail stores don’t get serviced directly by any organized distribution channel.

The startup aims to resolve these challenges by connecting retail stores and SMEs directly to manufacturers through its app.

Since its establishment, Jugnu has onboarded more than 30,000 kiryana stores across Lahore, Rawalpindi, and Islamabad, and it is currently expanding into other cities. It has also started offering buy now, pay later services for kiryana owners.

Jugnu was founded in 2019 by Sharoon Saleem, Yasir Memon, Syed Khurram Haider, and Ahsan Muhammad Khan.

In addition to the investment, Sary has also entered into a partnership with Jugnu.

“The strategic investment and alliance with Sary paves way for consolidation in the B2B space in MENAP, providing both companies with the ability to leverage diverse expertise and talent transfers across the region,” the companies said in a joint statement

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Pakistan’s Zaraye, a B2B supplies platform, raises $2.1M from Tiger Global and Zayn

Obtaining raw materials is a major pain point for Pakistan’s manufacturers, who need to have multiple phone calls with suppliers while waiting for rates, say the founders of Zaraye.

The startup, which runs a platform that connects manufacturers directly with suppliers, announced today it has raised $2.1 million in pre-seed funding from Tiger Global and Zayn Capital. This marks the first time Tiger Global has made a pre-seed investment in a Pakistani startup. Other investors include +92 Ventures, Alan Rutledge, Jack Rizvi and current and former employees of Careem.

The startup was founded in late 2021 by Taha Iqbal Teli, Hashair Junair Ahmedani and Ahshan Ali Khan, who went to school together. Zaraye provides manufacturing businesses with working capital, in addition to raw materials. It currently serves the textile and construction industries, with more than 300 partners and suppliers in about 20 cities.

Teli and Khan worked together at Careem, Swvl and other companies, while Ahmedani’s family worked in the conventional manufacturing business. “The manufacturing sector in Pakistan has been operating with very marginal innovations [for] decades, [with] WhatsApp being the only notable change in how processes have evolved. Zaraye intends to change that,” said Khan.

Materials on the platform include cotton yarn, which CEO Khan told TechCrunch is the single biggest raw material used for creating end-use fabric in the textile industry. For the construction industry, Zaraye provides cement, sand, gravel and crushed stone. The company is focused on smaller manufacturers, whose annualized revenue varies between $250,000 up to $2 million USD.

Typically, manufacturers connect with intermediaries or directly with suppliers and wait for them to furnish rates. Zaraye, on the other hand, gives more autonomy to manufacturers by allowing them to post their requirements and wait for quotes from suppliers. For suppliers, this means they can see consolidated demand from Zaraye’s network of buyers.

Based on data aggregated by Zaraye from the Pakistan Credit Rating Agency, Pakistan’s industrial manufacturing sector contributes to 20% of the country’s economy with $35 billion in raw materials annually, with raw materials contributing 60% to 65% of total costs for manufacturers, who need to deal with small net margins.

Riaz Haq said...

CPEC enters second phase of improving people’s livelihoods.
Smart Classrooms, CPEC project, is growing vigorously in 50 universities across Pakistan.
It is learnt that total of 100 smart classrooms will be built at 50 public universities in 49 cities.

Smart Classrooms, a project under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), is growing vigorously in 50 universities across Pakistan, which may inject new life into Pakistan’s education system in the near future.

According to Chen Chun, project manager from China Railway Signal and Communication Shanghai Engineering Bureau Group Co Ltd, in the smart classrooms, teaching can be realised both offline and online at the same time, overstepping the boundaries of time and space, and interaction between teachers and students will be much more enhanced.

“Moreover, through advanced information and communication technology from China, an intelligent system of data sharing and assessment will be established (in Pakistan),” he added.

“The smart classrooms will improve the accessibility of students from one location to the best teachers located at another place,” Umar Idrees, Pakistani site engineer of the Smart Classroom project told CEN.

It is learnt that a total of 100 smart classrooms will be built in 50 public universities in 49 cities from Hunza in the northernmost to Karachi in the far south, covering all the provinces and regions of Pakistan, which means the state-of-the-art educational resources will be better utilised and distributed over the whole country. It is indeed inspiring for students who currently lack high-quality educational resources in the country.

Chen Chun said the construction of the Smart Classroom project started in September, 2021. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the team had risen to many challenges in equipment and material imports, customs clearance and construction, etc.

“Now all the equipment and materials of the project have arrived at our warehouse in Pakistan. We’re striving to complete the whole project by November,” he added.

As CPEC entered the second phase of improving people’s livelihoods, education has become one of the key areas to develop to help Pakistan alleviate poverty and let more Pakistani people live a better life.

“The Smart Classroom project will benefit the university students in Pakistan, who are the pillar of the state in the future. It will greatly promote the development of higher education in Pakistan, supporting Pakistan to evolve into a knowledge-based economy,” Chen Chun concluded.

Riaz Haq said...

Kalsoom Lakhani
portfolio company
just announced their $17M Series A, led by
, their first deal in Pakistan. So proud to back an amazing team, bringing financial wellness to the region! 🇵🇰🚀


Pakistani financial platform Abhi Pvt. raised funds at a $90 million valuation within a year after introducing its business, the latest startup to benefit from investors’ increasing interest in the South Asian country.

The Karachi-based company’s $17 million Series A round was led by Speedinvest, marking the venture capital firm’s first bet in Pakistan, Abhi Chief Executive Officer Omair Ansari said in an interview. Global Ventures, VentureSouq, VEF, Sturgeon Capital, Rallycap, FJ Labs, Fatima Gobi, Sarmayacar and i2i Ventures also participated.

Pakistan is attracting investors eager to back startups in one of the last large untapped markets. Companies raised more than $350 million last year in the country, greater than the amount over the previous six years combined. Among the firms making their first-time investments in the country recently are Kleiner Perkins, Tiger Global Management and Dragoneer Investment Group.

Startup Fever Grips Pakistan, World’s Last Big Untapped Nation

The lending startup offers an alternative to people asking their employer, family or friends for cash to make ends meet until their next salary. It also gives small- and medium-sized companies financing for working capital requirements. The company has now become cash-flow positive.

“This is the first time you’re able to get this access in the country,” Ansari said in an interview. “As people and smaller companies get this access then it becomes something they want to keep using.”

The app takes less than 30 seconds and two clicks for a registered user to access the funds, with a flat 2% transaction fee. The funds are automatically deducted from the next paycheck.

Co-founder Ansari previously oversaw two funds at Morgan Stanley, and was looking at investment opportunities in consumer companies and fintech in emerging and frontier markets. He helped with early-stage investments in fintech companies from China to Brazil. He was also an adviser to VEF, which focuses on fintech in frontier and emerging markets.

The company has increased users to 650,000 from about 200,000 since a previous round in Novemberand also on-boarded over 150 companies. Individuals are accessing 15% to 20% of their monthly wage through the platform, Ansari said.

“Abhi has the potential to change millions of lives across MENA and South Asia,” said Stefan Klestil, general partner at Speedinvest. “It’s no wonder they have been able to establish themselves as one of the fastest-growing Pakistani startups.”

Riaz Haq said...

“It’s like drinking from a firehose”: Inside Pakistan’s tech investment boom
Pakistani VC Kalsoom Lakhani on the good, bad, and ugly of the recent funding boom.

In 2019, when Kalsoom Lakhani and Misbah Naqvi founded i2i Ventures, a $15 million Pakistan-focused venture capital (VC) fund, they hoped to sign about three deals a year. Now, they’re signing that many deals every quarter.

“I can barely keep up with the deal flow,” Lakhani told Rest of World. “My days are insane. My partner and I work anywhere between 10- and 14-hour days. I’m meeting about four to five new teams each week, in comparison to one or two a year back.”

Pakistan is in the midst of a massive boom in its tech startup sector: In 2021, Pakistani startups raised $365.87 million in VC funding, more than every previous year combined. By the end of the first quarter of 2022, the sector had received seven times as much funding as in the first quarter of 2021. The world’s fifth-most populous nation has also caught the fancy of some of the world’s largest VC investors: Tiger Global made its first investment in Pakistan in December and has since backed at least two more startups.

But Lakhani says these international investors are still not seeing Pakistan as a “strategic” investment destination but are, rather, simply “dipping their toes” into the country. In fact, the flood of funds has her worried. “There’s a lot of noise, and sometimes the valuations [that the startups are getting] are not priced right. What I would have laughed at a year ago is the norm now. I keep wondering, when did we become comfortable with valuations like these?”

Lakhani spoke to Rest of World, via Zoom from Washington D.C., about the reasons for the recent spurt, the change it has triggered on the ground, and why she’s cautious about the future.

As someone who has been a stakeholder in the Pakistani startup space for a while, what do you think of the recent funding boom?
It feels like we’re drinking from a firehose. The pace at which things are moving right now is probably 20 times faster than I’ve ever seen in the ecosystem. Earlier, on average, you would get a deal, and it would take a month or two to close. So, you had about six weeks to do due diligence, and by the end of it, you felt quite sure. Now, sometimes I have to do the due diligence in a week! You have international investors who aren’t really on the ground. So, they’re doing their diligence but not to the extent of checking things on the ground. These are early deals, so they oftentimes make decisions in a few days.

Not only are the first rounds happening really fast but the time between successive funding rounds is also getting shorter. I’ve seen people raising funds again within four months. Like, how? A company that we invested in raised their first and second rounds within six months of each other. As an investor, it felt like I was barely caught up with what was happening.

Will we see more international investors do their debut rounds in Pakistan soon?
Many international investors are looking at Pakistan right now. Tiger Global is actively looking at the market for more deals. Sequoia Capital has been looking at Pakistan for a while. There have been rumblings about Accel investing in the country. Dragoneer Investment Group has invested in the country. Among the newer funds, Vibe Capital and Buckley Ventures have already invested, and [British VC] Harry Stebbings’s fund 20VC has done some deals. Village Global [backed by Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg, among others] has a scout on the ground. [San Francisco–based] Global Founders Capital hired their first official person in Pakistan recently. There are a lot of people who have not even been to the country themselves but are scoping out people that can join them.

Riaz Haq said...

“It’s like drinking from a firehose”: Inside Pakistan’s tech investment boom
Pakistani VC Kalsoom Lakhani on the good, bad, and ugly of the recent funding boom.

What kinds of investment opportunities are available for these investors?
Like a lot of early emerging markets, most companies, especially the ones that are venture backable and raising funding, are coming up in the B2B or B2C e-commerce, fintech, and logistics. With a growing consumer class and digital adoption, these three sectors grow, often in relation to one another. I’m also seeing a lot of ideas that have a sibling version in another market — something might be the “Khatabook for Pakistan” or the “Stripe for Pakistan.” Founders still have to localize and innovate the model for the local realities, and a lot of international investors like pattern matching. While they may not know Pakistan well, they can understand the model because they’ve seen it work before.

Why are we seeing this sudden spurt in investment in Pakistan?
Before 2021, Pakistani tax residents were not allowed to set up holding companies outside of the country. So, if an investor wanted to invest in a startup operating in Pakistan, they had to invest in an entity within the country. That was a very big risk, as many foreign investors felt they didn’t know how to invest in Pakistan, and the process felt very opaque. In 2021, the State Bank of Pakistan changed that legislation, which meant that international investors could easily back an entity in Singapore or Dubai or Delaware [which operates in Pakistan]. At the same time, the pandemic forced a lot of international investors to get comfortable with investing without having been to a country. The idea of remote diligence became a thing.

Then, there was a lot of liquidity, and people were looking for avenues to invest, and if you wanted to put your money in places that are still relatively untapped, Pakistan is one of those markets. It’s the fifth-largest market in the world, and the addressable market is getting significantly larger with the consumer middle class growing.

Finally, the sophistication of founders in Pakistan has also improved pretty significantly. A lot of that has to do with Uber’s acquisition of Careem. Many people who worked at Careem started their own companies, and they already have a network to reach out to. There’s a massive network of ex-Careem people that are angel investors now. These young people have had significant experience working in a high-intensity, operationally heavy business and the exposure that others before them did not have. I’ve invested in two ex-Careem companies and [am] potentially investing in a third, hopefully, today.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan’s Fintech SadaPay Raises Funds Ahead of Mass Rollout
SadaPay is country’s most-funded fintech after $10.7 mln round
U.S. entrepreneur moved to Pakistan to start venture

Pakistan’s SadaPay raised additional funds to become the nation’s highest-funded fintech as it received permission for full-fledged operations that will allow it to add millions of new users.

The Islamabad-based startup scored $10.7 million in a seed-extension round, according to Chief Executive Officer Brandon Timinsky. The funding announcement comes a day after the central bank allowed it to offer financial services through its smartphone app.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan’s IT exports reach $1.94 billion within the first 9 months of the financial year 2021-22 (FY22)
However, due to political unrest, the country may not reach its desired target of $3.5 billion through IT exports.

Pakistan’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) exports have skyrocketed in the current fiscal year (2021-22). The IT export value continues to close down the $2 billion mark in FY22.

According to the latest data released by the State Bank of Pakistan, the industry maintained a solid rise of inflows, which totaled $1.94 billion from July to March in the current financial year 2021-22, representing a 29.2 percent year-on-year gain.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak, Pakistani enterprises and freelancers have been capturing the increased global demand for tech-related services as a result of remote working and e-learning arrangements. During that time, exports of ICT services increased in practically all areas, including software consulting, call centers, and telecom services.

The net exports connected to the IT industry exclusively, excluding additional services like call centers, were $1.47 billion in the first nine months of this fiscal year, accounting for 75.56 percent of the overall $1.94 billion in ICT exports.

In comparison to FY21, net IT-only exports increased in the current fiscal year. Last year, net exports were $1.12 billion, accounting for 74.72 percent of the $1.50 billion in export proceeds.

With a quarter remaining in the fiscal year 2021-22, IT exports are likely to reach more than $2.5 billion by the conclusion of the current fiscal year. Due to political problems in the country, Pakistan may not be able to reach the desired target of $3.5 billion which was set by the previous government.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistani startups raise over $200 Million
Sadapay raised a $10.7M seed round just after receiving their EMI license. Meanwhile, Abhi Pvt. raises a $17M Series A round.

Pakistani startups have raised over $200 million in funds with the recent Sadapay funding round of $10.7 million. According to the stats by Chief Executive Officer Brandon Timinsky, the Islamabad-based startup has become the nation’s highest-funded fintech.

The funding announcement comes a day after the central bank allowed it to offer financial services through its smartphone app.

Pakistan is seeing a rush of investors eager to back startups in the world’s fifth-largest nation, one of the last large untapped markets. A flurry of fintech’s is emerging in Pakistan, which has the world’s third-largest unbanked population, according to the World Bank.

Earlier, Pakistani financial platform Abhi Pvt. raised $17 million in a Series A round led by venture capital firm Speedinvest. The Karachi-based salary advance platform has raised funds at a $90million valuation within a year after introducing its business.

“All sizes of companies and their employees want the services we provide. The proceeds will support our exponential growth, and help us meet customer demand,” Omair Ansari, CEO at Abhi, said in a statement.

Reportedly, another startup Dastgyr is close to raising a $45 million Series A round as it gears up for expansion. The country’s startups raised a record over $350 million in 2021. From 2015 to 2022 YTD, Pakistani startups have raised a total of $728 million across 272 deals.

Timinsky, an American entrepreneur, came to Asia to explore new opportunities after a previous startup was acquired in the U.S. Last year, the fintech started operating in pilot mode, which restricted users to 10,000, before it got the Electronic Money Institution license from the State Bank of Pakistan on Monday.

The opportunity lay in “a huge population of young people with smartphones, high cellular-broadband penetration, sleepy incumbent banks, and massive policy reform by the government to support digitization,” Timinsky said when he first visited Pakistan.

Unlike conventional banks, Sadapay allows customers three free cash withdrawals in a month, offers round-the-clock in-app chat support, and opens an account in two minutes.

Riaz Haq said...

#PayPal Ventures leads $50M Series B for #Egyptian #fintech Paymob. The #MiddleEast #technology #startup has seen 4x monthly volume growth, and it is expected the company’s expansion into #Pakistan will yield even better results. via @techcrunch

Monday, May 9, is upon us, and today is a day of browser-cache-powered drama in the form of a Wordle word The New York Times decided was too controversial, but still existed for people who hadn’t refreshed their browser in a while. Find out what the word was, and why there was dramaaaaaaa, in Amanda’s piece. Incidentally, DRAMA would be a great Wordle word, so there’s that. – Christine and Haje

The TechCrunch Top 3
An offer they couldn’t refuse: It looks like Egyptian fintech Paymob snagged one of the largest funding deals in the region — a $50 million Series B, with PayPal Ventures and Kora Capital leading — based on its ability to turn cash-loving customers into digital users with its cards and wallets. That subsequently led to 4x monthly volume growth, and it is expected the company’s expansion into Pakistan will yield even better results.
Wall Street’s downward spiral continues, but not everyone is feeling it: The stock market was still showing red as we wrote this, so it might be good to hold off on checking your investments for a bit. However, not all is bad in the world of stock performance, and Alex and Ron took a look at four tech companies that actually did OK last week, despite the choppy markets.
Hacking your Tesla’s radio: If you are looking to get CarPlay into your Tesla, look no further than one of TechCrunch’s resident tinkerers Matt, who decided to give it a try on his Ford F-150 to show how easy it could be.

Startups and VC
If you’re a startup founder, money – specifically, your own wages – can be a sticky point. You need permission from your board to give yourself a wage bump, but how do you know whether you’re under- or over-paying yourself? We got a hold of a 250-company dataset that sheds some light on that question.

Over on TC+, Alex described the current stock market spiral as “joker detection,” which we are all for. Meanwhile, Connie talked with Sequoia’s Jess Lee to get a deeper understanding of how VC companies think about their deals.

Feed your brain with these tasty morsels:

Hug it out with linguistically progressive robots: We’re fans of startups with great names, and the now-valued-at-$2-billion Hugging Face may very well be up there as one of the best. The company is building the “GitHub of machine learning” and just raised $100 million to continue down that path.
Workin’ 9 to 5 (Indonesia edition): Atma, an Indonesian startup that wants to make job hunting less painful, raised $5 million in pre-seed funding led by AC Ventures.
Workin’ 9 to 5 (Middle East and Africa edition): For the Middle Eastern and North African market, Manara raised $3 million to grow the region’s tech talent pool.
So clever you can barely beleaf it: When machines take a closer look at plants, some fun things start to happen. Brightseed’s Forager is a machine-learning platform that identifies and categorizes plant compounds. It has already mapped 2 million, considerably more than is characterized in scientific literature. And it raised $68 million to get deeper into the science.
I fought the law and … well, the jury is still out, actually: Swedish startup PocketLaw — a contract automation software-as-a-service legal tech platform that is mainly focused on SMEs — has pocketed $11 million in Series A funding to fuel expansion in Europe.
Virtually unstoppable home improvements: South Korean startup Bucketplace, which operates a home decorating and interior app OHouse, is looking to continue capitalizing on the DIY trend, raising $182 million to add some AR to the mix.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan #Tech: MEDZnMORE Online #Pharmacy #Startup Raises $11.5M in Pre-Series A Funding Round led by Integra Partners, Nunc Gestion, Sturgeon Capital, and Alta Semper. #healthcare #medicine

MEDZnMORE, a Pakistani health-tech platform on a mission to reshape healthcare for over 220M people, has raised the largest investment of any healthcare startup in Pakistan.

The startup has raised $11.5 mn in Pre-Series A funding from Integra Partners, Nunc Gestion, Sturgeon Capital, and Alta Semper. Other Investors include AlTouq Group, ACE & Company, Key Family Partners, Reflect Ventures, Atlas Asset Management, and a few angel investors who are closely aligned with MEDZnMORE’s mission to transform healthcare in Pakistan.

The company had previously raised $2.6 mn in September 2020 which was the country’s largest seed round at the time.

The company, founded in late 2020 by Asad Khan, Saad Khawar, and Babar Lakhani, is a B2X pharma delivery platform that aims to solve problems that have persisted for decades in buying medicines and wellness products for consumers and retail pharmacies alike.

In a market riddled with counterfeit medicines, where over 40% of all dispensed medicines are either spurious or have lost efficacy; MEDZnMORE is looking to solve this epidemic of counterfeits by improving the availability of, and ease of access to, authentic medicines all across Pakistan.

MEDZnMORE partners with pharmaceutical companies and/or their authorized distributors across Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad, where it operates its warehouses, to deliver genuine products, and the best-in-class experience, to patients and retail pharmacies.

The company has seen phenomenal traction and has been growing ~42% month over month for the past 12 months and now controls over 1% of the Pakistani pharma market and delivers over 100,000 products from its 7 cold-chain enabled warehouses located across Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad every day.

Asad Khan, CEO MEDZnMORE, shared, “In a market of over 220m people, where public healthcare spending is only 1.2% of the GDP, and where 55% of all healthcare spending is out-of-pocket, people generally rely on medicines to alleviate their suffering, rather than spend on prohibitively expensive medical procedures.”

“Ensuring the accessibility of affordable and authentic medicines is essential. At MEDZnMORE our aim is to make health and wellness products available in all corners of the country,” he added.

Talking about the matter, Saad Khawar, Co-Founder MEDZnMORE said, “Constantly having to play catch-up with ever-increasing consumer demand has kept us humble and on our toes, and our journey has only just begun.”

He added, “We’re spending most of our energies on building scalable technology that can handle the complexities that come with a cold chain enabled Pharma supply chain and, getting together a world-class team that is passionate about reshaping healthcare in this country.”

“MEDZnMORE is solving some of the most pressing problems within the Pakistani healthcare space and has shown phenomenal traction in a very short span of time,” said Jinesh Patel, Managing Partner, Integra Partners.

Riaz Haq said...

How #Tech #Startup Markaz Raised $2.4 Million Seed Funding to Build A New Marketplace For #Pakistan’s Micro-Enterprises. Pakistan's retail market is worth $170 billion a year, but only 2-3% of that is online. #DigitalTransformation #Technology

At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the four founders of Pakistani start-up Markaz Technologies, noticed something going on around them. Like people all around the world, their friends and families were buying more products online than ever before; but crucially, they were purchasing from micro-enterprises via social media channels such as Facebook and Whatsapp, rather than the large ecommerce platforms.

The idea for Markaz, an online reselling platform that has just completed a $2.4m seed funding round, came from that experience, says Shoaib Khan, one of those founders. “My a-ha moment was when my mother told me she had bought some sheets through the Whatsapp account of a woman she had known for more than 10 years,” he recalls. Shoppers such as Khan’s mother were embracing ecommerce, but trust remained a huge issue; they wanted to buy from people they knew – or at least not from large and faceless corporations.

Khan and his co-founders, Fawad Hussain, Sameel Hayat and Umair Aslam, all of whom had worked in technology businesses in Pakistan and internationally, began looking into this phenomenon. They discovered a growing community of entrepreneurial traders who were buying goods from wholesalers and then reselling them to consumers via social media. These were small-scale businesses – often women looking to make extra money to support families, or to pay their way through education – but they had spotted a big opportunity.

Pakistan's retail market is worth $170 billion a year, but only 2-3% of that is online, Markaz points out. And while the rapid penetration of smartphones promises to drive that figure up rapidly, consumers are cautious. "People in Pakistan don't buy from shops, they buy from shopkeepers," says Khan. When moving online, they want to maintain that human interaction, he argues

Against that backdrop, Markaz is the founders’ solution to many of the problems that these resellers face as they seek to exploit the opportunity and grow their businesses. Often, sourcing high-quality products is difficult, with suppliers operating in different ways and visibility lacking. Cashflow can also be a problem, with resellers having to pay for inventory upfront even if they’re not selling it immediately. Logistics issues, including delivering to customers, make for additional headaches.

Markaz bypasses these difficulties by providing a platform on which multiple suppliers and resellers can connect. Resellers check out what is available, offer the goods for sale to their own customers, and then place their orders as and when they need to. Markaz takes care of the delivery, shipping the goods straight from the supplier to the reseller’s customer, and also manages payments.

Riaz Haq said...

ZoodPay, a Switzerland-headquartered buy now pay later platform that operates in different Middle Eastern and Central Asian markets has acquired Pakistani consumer lending fintech Tez, it announced in a statement today. The financial details of transaction were not disclosed but the statement noted that it is the first M&A deal in Pakistan’s young fintech space.

Founded in 2016 by Naureen Hyat and Humza Hussain, Tez offers nano-loans to unbanked and underbanked population across Pakistan through its digital platform. According to its website, it offers personal loans of up to PKR 10,000 ($50) that the users can pay back in installments. Tez has a fixed one-time fee for these loans, ranging between 10 to 20 percent depending on the loan amount and customer profile.

Backed by Accion, Flourish Ventures (Omidyar Network), Planet N, the startup had become the first licensed Non-Bank Financial Company (NBFC) in Pakistan in 2018, it said in a statement. It had raised over $1 million to date in financing. The Karachi-headquartered fintech had also won $100,000 in Visa Everywhere Initiative for Women competition, in 2019.

Commenting on the acqusition, co-founders of Tez said, “We started Tez with an ambition to make access to finance for the masses as easy as access to a mobile phone. We are humbled and thrilled by the confidence shown in our business model by larger regional players and look forward to the next level of development for Tez where our learnings in crafting the digital lending journey and managing risk can serve as a foundation for delivering consumer-centric lending solutions at scale, while creating credit histories for the masses.”

ZoodPay which currently operates in Joran, Iraq, Lebanon, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan has raised close to $50 million from Zain Ventures and Sturgeon Capital. With the acquisition of Tez, ZoodPay would expand its offerings to Pakistan.

“The company’s lending strategy is fortified by three integral elements of digital infrastructure including, (i) Acquisition of consumers and merchants via its diverse distribution channels including its own e-commerce marketplace and network of retailers and partners, (ii) Deriving rich transactional data from its internal universe of fintech, e-commerce marketplace and logistics, and (iii) Leveraging its proprietary credit scoring algorithms to assess credit risk and extend credit to both consumers and merchants,” stated the fintech in a statement.

It is not immediately clear if ZoodPay plans to launch its BNPL product in Pakistan.

Michael Khoi, CEO of ZoodPay said, “Pakistan is a market brimming with potential given the number of people seeking access to credit facilities. We’re confident that by combining ZoodPay’s unique ecosystem and experience operating in frontier markets with Tez’s local know-how, strong team and ecosystem partnerships, we’ll be able to positively impact the life of Pakistani people and empower them by giving them access to easy, affordable and reliable digital financial services.”

Nadeem Hussain, Chairman of Tez said, “The Pakistani startup ecosystem has hit its inflection point. In addition to sizable fundraises, acquisitions of local players by international players are starting to take place. This further validates the global value Pakistani startups are creating. Planet N was one of the first in the market to invest in startups. We are now seeing the first-mover advantage.”

Riaz Haq said...

What Special Technology Zones Mean For Pakistan’s Tech Industry

The Past 5 Years

A 2019 survey from Arpanet states, “Overall business has crossed 3.3 billion in the year 2018 and 2.8 billion in the duration of 2016-2017, as per the record of Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB).”

This shows that between 2017 and 2018, overall business increased by a total of $700 million. Before the special technology zones were even a concept, Pakistan became a global contender for exports and IT development.

Why create special technology zones if growth was already massive?

This type of growth is important in Pakistan’s strategy. The zones themselves not only encourage participation from native companies, but they’ve also set their sights on big business around the globe. The zones allow native companies to see less burden on their taxes. This means more resources to spend on internal development, employee retention and training and imports and exports.

Another reason for the zones is to nurture the younger generation of IT experts. A document published by the Pakistani government states that 10,000 students become IT graduates every year, adding to a pool of 300,000 IT experts. Furthermore, 60% of Pakistan’s population belongs to the 15 to 29 age group, meaning technology zones can encourage a higher number of jobs, along with investment in training and employee care.

As stated previously, the zone’s alternative objective is to encourage bigger businesses from the global IT market, whose presence within the country will become an even bigger authority in the overall technology industry across the world.

A Breakdown Of Special Technology Zones

The zones host many benefits and incentives, all listed on the STZA website. The two licenses available are for zone enterprises and zone developers.

The benefits for enterprises consist of tax exemptions, dividend income, capital gains and quality of life benefits, such as a forex account and no restrictions on oversea payments. The benefits for developers consist of the same, focusing on an exemption of property tax.

Combined, this opens property development incentives, from construction to ad hoc custom architecture, meaning businesses that take up residence there can exceed their potential for growth by a bigger margin than anywhere outside the zones.

Where are they located?

Currently, technology zones are located in Islamabad, Punjab, Sindh, KPK, Balochistan, GB and AJK, with some locations already being established and others in the process of being established.


Whilst it’s not possible to have control of government taxes, set up special technology zones or anything similar, there are takeaways we can use for ourselves here at home.

Pakistan’s economic growth can stand to teach us a lesson on how to operate our own businesses. Investment in youth can lead to a stronger workforce over time, meaning the capacity for future profits can be shared between all.

By having specific areas dedicated to an industry, you can nurture a workforce with skills that can be used anywhere. The true takeaway is collaboration and the opportunity to nurture your younger employees. Pakistan has shown all of us that long-term investment can indeed move a country into the big leagues. Imagine what it could do for you, on a smaller scale, in five years’ time.

Riaz Haq said...

Startups in Pakistan: The ecosystem (finally) takes off | McKinsey

Daniel Eisenberg: Based on demographics alone, Pakistan’s start-up ecosystem should already have been thriving for many years. It has, for starters, the fifth largest population in the world, approaching 230 million. And that population is both overwhelmingly young, with a median age of 22, and bi-lingual, with the fourth largest number of English speakers in the world. Add to that one of the fastest-growing middle classes, more than 100 million mobile broadband subscribers, and hundreds of thousands of tech professionals, and you have all the makings of a fertile market for new enterprises and digital services.

Yet until recently, venture or growth funding in Pakistan was barely a trickle compared to similar countries in the Middle East/North Africa region or in other parts of Asia. In the last couple of years, however, global VCs and other foreign investors have begun making significant bets on local start-ups as many regulatory and cultural barriers have started to soften.

To gain a better understanding of the changing dynamics of this start-up market, we are pleased today to be joined by two experts based in the region. Aatif Awan is the founder and managing partner of Indus Valley Capital, a Pakistan-focused venture fund he launched in his native country after working as a tech executive in Silicon Valley for several years. Abdur-Rahim Syed is a McKinsey partner based in Dubai who co-leads the firm’s start-up work in the region. Earlier in his career, he also worked in Silicon Valley.

Riaz Haq said...

Startups in Pakistan: The ecosystem (finally) takes off | McKinsey

Aatif, Abdur-Rahim, welcome to the podcast. Thanks so much for joining us today.

Aatif, you launched Indus Valley Capital in 2019 after working in high-ranking positions at both Microsoft and LinkedIn. What has been changing in the Pakistan start-up ecosystem in recent years that convinced you it was the right time to focus on it in this way?

Aatif Awan: The funny thing is I didn’t see myself moving back to Pakistan at all, let alone starting a Pakistan focused VC fund, until I found myself in a position where I knew I had to do it.

In 2018, after leaving LinkedIn, I decided to take a year off. I spent about half of it in Pakistan with my parents. That’s when some Pakistani founders started reaching out to me, seeking advice on growth, product, or fundraising.

It was mind-boggling that between 2016 and 2018 Pakistani start-ups were averaging about $10 million a year in VC funding, which is $0.05 per capita, or about one-third of a basis point of the G.D.P. That did not make any sense whatsoever. Next door, MENA was doing $800 million in annualized VC funding. And when you looked at the fundamentals in Pakistan, which I started looking at closely, it’s the fifth largest country with 200 million plus people. The median age is 22, which makes it the fourth largest Gen Z and younger population. It’s also the fourth largest English-speaking population and has had the fourth largest absolute increase in middle class.

So, the foundational elements were all in place, and then you had this population increasingly adopting the internet. We had more than 50 million broadband subscribers back in 2018. Now it’s 110 million. The tech talent to build those start-ups was there as well, with 300,000 plus tech professionals. I realized that it was just a matter of time, as we are at the cusp of this inflection point of a very large economy making that offline to online transition.

We’ve seen that happen in the U.S., in China, Indonesia, and India. Whenever that happens it creates massive opportunities for impact as well as financial opportunity. That made the decision obvious and quick for me. I knew if I didn’t do it, I’d regret it. I decided to move back and start Indus Valley Capital, which is a Pakistan-focused early-stage VC fund.

Daniel Eisenberg: Abdur-Rahim, you also worked in Silicon Valley early in your career. First at eBay and then at McKinsey, and you’re now based in Dubai.

For years the Middle East has far outpaced Pakistan in attracting VC funds, as Aatif pointed out. The gap now seems to be closing a bit. Why in your view did it take so long for Pakistan’s start-up ecosystem to start to take off, even though it had this foundation that Aatif was talking about?

Abdur-Rahim Syed: The gap is certainly closing, but the whole region is accelerating. If you take Saudi Arabia, the largest economy in the MENA region, they had $140 million of VC funding in 2020. In 2021, they had $548 million. That’s almost quadrupling in one year. Pakistan is on a faster trajectory, so the gap is closing.

As for why it took so long, if you look at the macroeconomy of Pakistan it’s been long dominated by agriculture, and by conglomerates that often have captive businesses. There’s not a burning platform, a driving reason to innovate, to take risks. I’ll give you one example. Take gross capital formation, which is a critical enabler of future growth. Pakistan’s gross capital formation in the last couple years has been roughly 15 percent of G.D.P, compared to 30 percent for India and 32 percent for Bangladesh. Hopefully this will change now that we have a significant acceleration in the start-up space.

Riaz Haq said...

Startups in Pakistan: The ecosystem (finally) takes off | McKinsey

Daniel Eisenberg: Aatif, you have a unique perspective with your investments in Pakistan right now. What sectors or horizontals are dominating as the scene emerges?

Aatif Awan: It’s been super exciting seeing this dramatic rise of Pakistani start-ups over the last couple years. In 2021, Pakistan raised close to $350 million in VC funding. That ratio of 80 to 1 relative to MENA is now at seven to one, which is in line with the G.D.P. ratios. If you break that down, a vast majority has been e-commerce start-ups. This is very typical of emerging markets. At the beginning you see founders going after the largest chunks of the economy waiting to be online. That tends to be e-commerce followed by logistics and that’s what has dominated in the Pakistani start-up ecosystem for the past couple of years. Fintech is now rising on the back of some positive regulatory changes, including the introduction of new Electronic Money Institution (EMI) and digital banking licenses. We have also started seeing a pattern in the digitization of education and the health sectors, which can have a major impact on the country.

Overall, in 2021 more than half of all funding was e-commerce start-ups, which was split between the B2C and B2B start-ups. On the B2C side it’s ranged from commerce start-ups offering quick delivery of groceries and convenience items, to online ticketing, pharmacy delivery, and fashion shopping. On the B2B side we’re seeing a rapid digitization of the informal retail sector, which is essentially mom and pop corner stores that we call kiryana stores in Pakistan.

In terms of notable examples, I’ll mention two of the most well-funded start-ups, which in full disclosure were our first two investments. Airlift is a quick commerce start-up that has raised over $100 million in funding. They offer 30-minute delivery of grocery, pharmacy and household items. They are also expanding to electronics and have some very notable investors. They’re backed by First Round Capital, which is one of the earliest investors in Uber, Square, Notion, and Roblox. They typically don’t invest much outside the U.S. Airlift also got funding from Josh Buckley and Harry Stebbings, who are some of the leading solo capitalists, as well as from founders of Twitter, DoorDash, TransferWise, and many other top start-ups in the Valley. The other one I would mention is Bazaar, which is a B2B commerce and fintech start-up. They’ve raised over $100 million in funding.

If you look at the last two years, there’s been a little over $500 million in fundings. Airlift and Bazaar consumed $200 million of that. Bazaar’s investors also include some top tier investors like Target Global, Dragoneer and Acrew. They are essentially building the operating systems for B2B commerce in Pakistan with a platform that covers the marketplace, last-mile logistics, software, and fintech offerings.

To put things into perspective, Bazaar is just two years old. What’s exciting to see is that in a large, untapped market, when these start-ups come, they can grow very, very rapidly.

Daniel Eisenberg: Abdur-Rahim, I’m not sure if it’s too early to judge, given how young these start-ups are, but how concerned are you about a disparity between early-stage capital and later stage funding. I know in some markets early-stage capital has been relatively easy to come by, but obtaining later stage funding has been more of a challenge.

Abdur-Rahim Syed: It is a concern. But it’s not an uncommon concern among similar markets. Were we to have this conversation two years ago we would be asking if there is enough capital for series A. At this point, it’s clear there is enough capital for pre-seed, for seed and for series A.

Riaz Haq said...

Startups in Pakistan: The ecosystem (finally) takes off | McKinsey

Daniel Eisenberg: As we come to the end, could each of you briefly give us a sense of where you hope the Pakistan start-up ecosystem will be in five to ten years?

Abdur-Rahim Syed: If you look at the core reasons why investors are excited, the facts are undeniable. The median age in Pakistan is 23 years; The U.K. by comparison is 41 years, and it will take a while for the Pakistan median age to get up there. There are almost 19 million either middle class or upper-class Pakistanis, which is bigger than all of Germany. The sheer size and the potential of the country is going to stay, which means that we are at the beginning of the journey for entrepreneurship and digitization in Pakistan. How quickly this grows is the question, not whether it grows. Will it reach similar levels as Indonesia and other pure markets? I’m sure it will. And I’m sure they’ll keep growing too, as there’s a lot of positive momentum. Many of the challenges we discussed are part and parcel of the growth journey of a digital growing, developing country.

Daniel Eisenberg: And Aatif?

Aatif Awan: In 2019 I was using Indonesia as a model to compare what’s in store for Pakistan. Pakistan looked, in terms of start-ups and VC funding activity, like Indonesia in 2009. So, there was this gap of ten years.

By contrast, today it looks more like Indonesia of 2014 and 2015. It’s very exciting that Pakistani’s start-up ecosystem is growing faster and the gap has begun to drop. The fundamental reason for that is that while Pakistan had a late start, a lot of that foundation was in place. The mobile adoption had taken place.

If you look at the $350 million of 2021, on the one hand, it’s very, very fast growth. But it’s still just 0.1 percent of Pakistan’s G.D.P. Imagine once that catches up to the ratio that countries like India have. I expect that Pakistan should be doing multiple billion dollars in VC funding every year, and given where the economy is, start-ups will become some of the biggest companies in Pakistan. In fact, these will be the major driving force for the Pakistani economy in five years, not the traditional businesses.

Daniel Eisenberg: Well, it’s going to be fascinating to watch as the growth journey continues. I want to thank both of you for taking the time to talk about this topic in such depth.

In addition to our guests, a big thank you, as always, to our entire McKinsey on Start-ups production team: Molly Karlan, Polly Noah, Sid Ramtri, Myron Shurgan, and Katie Znameroski.

And finally, thank you for listening. We hope you’ll join us again for McKinsey on Start-ups.

Riaz Haq said...

Farmdar, a #Pakistani #agritech #startup raises $1.3 million in seed round. It will provide data to increase farm output. #Pakistan is among the world’s top 10 producers of essential crops such as #sugarcane, #wheat & #rice, but it ranks 50th in yield

Farmdar uses deep-tech with high-res, multi-band satellite imagery to create actionable data for farmers and corporates. This data has a direct result on the efficiency and profitability of farmers and corporates.

The round has been led by Indus Valley Capital with participation by strategic investors from Pakistan, the Middle East, and US, including Deosai Ventures, Tricap Investments, United Distributors Pakistan Limited, The Community Fund VC, LMKR and K2 Global Ventures.

Launched in 2021 by childhood friends Muhammed Bukhari, Muzaffar Manghi and Ibrahim Bokhari who himself is a third-generation large farmer, the Farmdar journey began when the founders started exporting produce and discovered that Pakistani produce was considered low quality in the UK and UAE markets. The founders vowed to do something about it.

“We looked at supply chain improvements first, like cold chain, which allowed us to extend shelf life but our underlying quality was still poor. We then tried remote sensing and precision agriculture technology and it created a step change in quality and yield whilst reducing our input costs” said Ibrahim.

“Pakistan is amongst the top 10 producers in the world for essential crops such as sugarcane, wheat and rice, yet in terms of yield we rank 50th or below. It’s a massive yield gap. Farmdar is in a unique position to help increase yield and quality while reducing farming costs and minimizing waste. Pakistan is well placed to be a regional and global agricultural leader. The starting point for agricultural excellence is data and insight that can be actioned upon, accurately and quickly. That’s where Farmdar comes in.” quotes Manghi.

In light of a rapidly growing global population, the agritech’s vision is to create a food secure world and empower farmers in Pakistan with technology to gain control over their produce and its true value. Inherently, there is a human impact, and to that end many data-points for individual farmers will be free of cost, as is registration on the Farmdar web-app. Corporate farms, food processors, food companies and mills requiring more elaborate data and insight will be engaged with bespoke solutions and subscriptions.

By virtue of yield increase with waste and input reduction, Farmdar’s data also helps reduce the impact of agricultural activity on climate change. Farmdar is the only agritech in Pakistan to be a part of the Greentech Alliance.

“Simply using more land to grow more food isn’t the solution, it’s devastating for climate change” quotes the Muhammed. “Farmdar uses artificial intelligence to create data that helps optimize crop productivity by increasing yield, reducing harvest loss and input costs and monitoring diseases. We knew that this data was of immense value, but were surprised to see the widespread appetite for data both on the individual farmer and the corporate side. Accurate data at scale doesn’t really exist in Pakistan”.

Farmdar’s use of technology with remote sensing through satellites makes their growth scalable and aligns with the vision to solve a global problem of agricultural sustainability. The funding will not only enable Farmdar to scale rapidly across Pakistan and hire and develop the very best tech talent, but also apply use cases from Pakistan in foreign markets such as Thailand, Turkey, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Philippines and across the Middle East.

Riaz Haq said...

Faseeh Mangi
🔥Pakistan’s Dastgyr raises $37 million in the country’s largest-ever Series A funding

The deal is anchored by giant Veon (Jazz), marking its entry into Pakistan's startup scene

Dastgyr aims to become a unicorn and plans to enter a new country in a year

Pakistan’s Dastgyr Technologies Pvt., which aims to create an e-commerce platform similar to Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. for emerging markets, raised $37 million in the country’s largest-ever Series A funding.

The venture arm of telecommunications operator Veon Ltd. led the fundraising by contributing about 40% of the investment. The Dutch-domiciled giant serves more than 217 million customers in nine countries and is the largest mobile phone service provider in Pakistan.

Dastgyr’s funding is a bright spot for the South Asian nation that has suffered from the global tech downturn after a breakout year in 2021. Uber Technologies Inc.’s Careem Inc. unit has suspended food deliveries in the country, Dubai-based Swvl Holdings has paused operations and Airlift Technologies Pvt. has fired a third of its workforce.

“Pakistan’s startup ecosystem is at a critical juncture and only startups focused on addressing key challenges and adopting local solutions will survive and thrive,” said Aamir Ibrahim, chief executive officer at Jazz, Veon’s local unit.

Pakistan is mostly a cash-based economy but startups are looking to change that. Dastgyr, which means “helper,” is a one-stop platform that connects retailers such as grocery stores with multiple suppliers such as Nestle SA and Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc. Most traditional stores currently meet 100 suppliers a week or physically browse different markets to stack its shelves.

The online marketplace that started less than two years ago has been used by about 100,000 retailers in the five cities it operates. It seeks to keep costs low by connecting buyers and sellers over a digital platform, rather than buying and storing everything in physical warehouses. It plans to expand into 15 new markets in Pakistan and expand into a new country in 2022.

The company continues “to work relentlessly toward our vision of building an Alibaba for emerging markets worldwide,” said Zohaib Ali, co-founder of Dastgyr.

The round also included Zinal Growth Fund, DEG, Khwarizmi Ventures, Oman Technology Fund, Cedar Mundi Ventures, Reflect Ventures, Century Oak Capital, Haitou Global, GoingVC, Astir Ventures, K3 Ventures, and Chandaria Capital. Existing investors SOSV, Edgebrook Partners, and EquiTie also participated.

Dastgyr has started a Buy Now Pay Later offering and plans to introduce lending products for its sellers as well. It aims to become a unicorn in the next few years, Muhammad Owais, another co-founder, said in an interview.

While the company started by catering to grocery stores, it’s now venturing into new business-to-business categories, including cement, steel and other building materials. It is also looking at electronics, pharmaceuticals and other retail sectors, said Owais.

The funding marks another step in Veon’s evolution beyond traditional telecommunications. It has also applied for a digital banking license in Pakistan.

“As part of Veon’s transformation into a digital operator that delivers a growing range of services to our customers we are investing in leading digital companies like Dastgyr in the countries where we operate,” said Mohammad Khairil Abdullah, CEO at Veon Ventures. “These investments are the building blocks of the digital ecosystem that will enable us to deliver on our strategy.”

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan Ride-Sharing Startup Bykea Raises Funds to Fuel Growth

Pakistani ride-sharing and delivery startup Bykea raised $10 million from its existing backers to tap rising demand for online services in the South Asian country.

Bykea, which focuses on two-wheeler rides, said in a statement Monday it plans to use the funds to extend its services, which include food and e-commerce deliveries, as well as cash pick-up. The company’s investors include Prosus Ventures, MEVP, Sarmayacar, Tharros, and Ithaca Capital.

With 1.7 million active monthly users and more than 60,000 driver partners, Bykea offers services in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. It’s among an emerging crop of Pakistani startups attracting attention from global venture investors as mobile services gain popularity in the country of more than 200 million people.

“We see an enormous opportunity to serve the middle class by offering easy, affordable, and convenient transport and logistics solutions,” Bykea Executive Chairman Jonas Eichhorst said in the statement.

Riaz Haq said...

Startups in Pakistan have raked in a total of $284.89 million in disclosed funding across 45 deals in the first six months of 2022, according to Profit’s research of data from insights firms i2i Ventures, DataDarbar, and Crunchbase.

This investment in the first 6 months of the ongoing year is 182% higher than the first six months of the last year. (Note: 24SEVEN’s $6 million pre-Series A raise, which was raised earlier but announced on July 1, has been included in the total number for the first six months of this year)

Despite this, amid a global funding crunch, they are most likely to close the year with less funding collected than in 2021.

Till June 2021, Pakistan’s startups had raised $101 million in funding across 33 deals, according to data from i2i Ventures. The bulk of the funding in the ongoing year has come into B2B startups Bazaar, Dastgyr, Retailo, and Jugnu, which announced raking in $70 million, $37 million, $36 million, and $22.5 million, respectively, contributing more than half (58% or $165.5 million) towards the total funding raised till June this year.

After the B2B startups, sizeable funds have been raised by Abhi Finance ($17 million), NayaPay ($13 million), Truck It In ($13 million), MedznMore ($11.5 million), SadaPay ($10.7 million) and Bykea ($10 million). The remaining 31 deals are all under $10 million.
There are four big deals in this equation, and they are either Series-A or Series-B raises, which are understandably very large in amount because of the scale of operations at these stages. However, most of the seed stage and pre-Series A stage startups from last year have not announced any raise so far.

According to i2i’s deal-flow tracker, 46 startups were at the seed stage last year and five startups were at pre-Series A stage. Out of these 51 startups, only 3 Series A announcements have been made so far of Jugnu, Retailo, and Dastgyr. According to Crunchbase, one out of two (50%) seed-stage startups makes it to Series A stage. The ratio right now is abysmal, with only 5% of the startups from last year making it to the Series A stage. This only confirms that fundraising right now is difficult.

There are still six months to go before the end of the year and the aforementioned startups could be announcing Series A investments but it is almost certain that not most of them would be announcing such raises. The market downturn is actually getting intense and the situation is only going to get worse, which would have prompted startups to wait it out.
Profit has earlier covered at length the funding crunch that has hit global markets, which has also impacted the ability of Pakistani startups to raise funds. Being a frontier market, only crumbs will be reaching startups in Pakistan. But $271 million in funding in six months is an impressive number. Considering that the expectation in Pakistan’s VC circle was that in 2022, the final tally would hit $750 million mark for the entire year, because of the great momentum and attention from foreign investors last year. So how have the startups been able to raise this funding apparently during a funding crunch?

The answer to the question above is that the funding was not entirely raised during the investment shortfall this year. Fundraising can be a lengthy process, with startups continuously engaging with investors, and closing deals as they come. Investors put money in tranches. An investor could be releasing the funds for a startup in October whereas the next investor would release funds in December. The funding round could be announced when the target for the raise is achieved.

Some of the startups that have announced big rounds this year, we’re in the process of raising new funds since last year. For instance, Dastgyr had reportedly been in talks with Veon Ventures since December last year, and Bazaar, too, reportedly signed the term sheet with Tiger Global sometime in December 2021.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistani startups have raised $284mn in first half of 2022, but are expected to close the year at less than 2021
As the funding crisis deepens, additional $40-80mn only can be expected to be coming into Pakistani startups in the next six month

So if startups have announced their fundraising this year, this does not necessarily mean that they raised all of it during this year. They could have been negotiating with investors prior to when things went down south in the US market and announced when it is officially now a bear market, creating a wow moment in the process.
So what is the situation like now?

If a startup like Bykea scraps fundraising efforts because the terms are not favorable for startups right now, things are headed towards the worst. On June 15, 2022, the US Fed increased interest rates by 0.75 basis points, its biggest interest rate hike since 1994, to fight inflation.

The consequence of this would be that more money would be parked in the banks and less would be available for investment. Whatever crumbs were available for investment in Pakistani startups, there is going to be a shortfall of that as well in the days to come, except for Pakistani startup founders.

The equation is simple. There is a lot of dry powder that is waiting to be invested. It’s just that investors would want to invest in less risky assets. So even if a Pakistani startup is able to access investors that are willing to invest, they would offer investment at terms highly unfavorable for the startup. So startups here can either accept harsh terms or wait it out while trying to become sustainable on their own.

Whatever the case, the fundraising is going to go down and by the time this year ends, the overall raise is going to be substantially less than what was expected on the back of strong momentum from last year.

Kalsoom Lakhani, co-founder, and general partner at i2i, expects that startups might close the year at $350 million, which is about $30 million less than what was raised during the last year. Khurram Zafar, the managing partner at 47 Ventures, also predicts that Pakistan will close the year at about $350 million.

According to Faisal Aftab, co-founder and managing partner of Zayn Capital, the funding slowdown is going to get worse. According to his estimates, about $30-50 million can come into Pakistan’s startups in the next 6 months in the current situation. This would bring the final count for 2022 to $300-320 million for the complete year. The amount would be about $60-80 million short compared to last year’s funding, and less than half of what was the expected target for fundraising this year.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistani Startup Funding Shrinks by 41% in Three Months

Startup funding in Pakistan decreased by 41 percent to less than $104 million during the second quarter of the calendar year (CY) 2022, compared to $177 million recorded in January-March.

According to data collected by analytics firm Data Darbar, startups raised $103.8 million in funds from a total of 22 rounds in April-June CY22. This reduced the average ticket size by 58 percent to $4.94 million, from $11.5 million the previous quarter. However, financing increased when compared to $99.2 million from April-June CY21.

The top five rounds were led by Dastgyr ($37 million), Abhi Finance ($17 million), Medznmore ($11.5 million), Sadapay ($10.7 million), and Bykea ($10 million).

Sequentially, startups raised almost $277 million in the first half of CY22, indicating a 135 percent increase from $117.6 million in the corresponding period last year.

A stage-by-stage review of the financial data revealed that seed funding fell the most, from $35.9 million in the previous quarter to $19 million in April-June. This was the smallest amount at this point since the first quarter of CY21.

Series A funding fell to $54 million in the most recent quarter, down from $58.5 million in Q1. However, it increased by 52.7 percent year on year from $35.4 million recorded in the second quarter of CY21. Pre-seed investments, on the other hand, remained robust, totaling $8.2 million and up on a quarter-on-quarter (QoQ) as well as a year-on-year (YoY) basis.

E-Commerce had the largest inflows during April-June. In the previous three months, five e-commerce rounds totaling $42.6 million were completed. Other notable areas included fintech ($27.9 million in three transactions), healthtech ($13.3 million in two transactions), and transportation and logistics ($14.6 million in six transactions).

Fintech startups raised $27.9 million in three deals during Q2. While the value increased both on a QoQ and YoY basis, the number of transactions was the lowest since Q1 of CY21. Meanwhile, transport and logistics came in third, bringing in $14.6 million through six rounds.

During the period in review, the business raised $10 million in a Series B round. Additionally, five rounds attracted $8.2 million in Pre-Seed funding, while seven other rounds gained over $1.1 million in Accelerator funding.

Location-wise, Karachi led the space by a wide margin. Companies in the city attracted $90.9 million over 19 deals, accounting for 87.6 percent of total investment and 81.8 percent of all deals respectively. Meanwhile, Lahore raised just $1 million in a single round (, the lowest amount since 1QCY21. Meanwhile, female-founded and co-founded firms raised only one round of funding each, with $1.8 million for meqIQ and $500 million for Outclass.

Since the beginning of 2022, there have also been two exits. In the previous six months, travel firm GoZayaan purchased FindMyAdventure, while fintech ZoodPay acquired microfinance player Tez Financial Services Ltd. It is noteworthy that back in 2021, there were an identical number of departures observed in the space.

Due to cheap liquidity, global venture investments set new records in 2021. However, soaring inflation and rate hikes spoiled the mood this year, delivering a huge blow to the space and funding rounds that had been so common lately. Overall venture capital financing slowed both on a monthly and yearly basis between March and May.

The VC market crunch has caused companies to reassess their business strategies and slash expenditures. So far, 881 startups have laid off over 141K individuals, and Pakistan is no exception. Several high-profile players have announced huge layoffs and withdrawals from certain services or marketplaces in recent months. Among them are Airlift, Truck It In, Retailo, Tazah, and Swvl.

Riaz Haq said...

The world’s most active investor is on the prowl in Pakistan
“I’ve never met investors who are this prepared.” Tiger Global is making swift and aggressive moves in the country's startup scene.

The world’s most active investor is on the prowl in Pakistan

Despite being the fifth most populous country in the world, Pakistan has long been ignored by international tech companies and investors: PayPal services are unavailable in the country, Amazon’s e-commerce website doesn’t operate here, and Apple didn’t even have an official reseller in Pakistan until recently. Although Pakistan has been touted as the world’s last big untapped market and drawn almost $366 million in funding in 2021, local investors continue to worry that global venture capital (VC) firms aren’t serious about the country.

That changed in December 2021, when Karachi-based CreditBook, a digital ledger app, raised a pre–series A round co-led by Tiger Global. The single most active investor in the world, Tiger Global made an astonishing 335 deals last year. Pakistani investors and entrepreneurs say its arrival in the country marks a new era. “Their presence is a very big deal. It shows the market is ready, and it’s here to stay,” Faisal Aftab, co-founder of Zayn Capital, told Rest of World.

Tiger’s footprint in Pakistan has spread quickly since: The New York–headquartered investment firm participated in a $70 million series B round for e-commerce firm Bazaar in March and in a $2.1 million pre-seed round for B2B supplies startup Zaraye in April.

These investments by “the world’s biggest unicorn hunter” could go a long way in nurturing and strengthening Pakistan’s startup ecosystem, which is eagerly awaiting its first billion-dollar venture

Tiger Global has played a vital role in the success of the startup ecosystem in neighboring India. It backed some of the country’s most iconic tech ventures, including e-commerce major Flipkart (now owned by Walmart) and ride-hailing major Ola. In 2021, it was the most active private investor in India by dollar value, deploying $2.25 billion in the country.

Tiger Global’s moves in Pakistan are designed to replicate the firm’s success in India. CreditBook, Bazaar, and Zaraye all have Indian counterparts: OKCredit, Udaan, and OfBusiness, respectively.

All of Tiger Global’s investments in Pakistan so far are B2B companies that cater mainly to the retail sector, which accounts for over 18% of the country’s GDP and is largely undocumented. “It’s about the total addressable market. The segment is massive and undocumented, and they bring in experience in similar models across different countries,” said Aftab, whose firm, Zayn Capital, is a co-investor with Tiger Global in at least two Pakistani startups.

True to its global reputation of being aggressive and quick in decision-making, Tiger Global has moved swiftly in Pakistan. “I have never met investors who are this prepared,” Hasib Malik, co-founder and CEO of CreditBook, told Rest of World. “They were able to understand exactly what we were doing and what phase we are in and go deep. As a result, conversations or questions that would happen in the third meeting were already happening in the first because of the preparations they had, without us providing them anything. This was super impressive and sped things up.”

The executives at Zaraye had a similar experience. A B2B raw materials procurement app currently catering to textile and construction industries in Pakistan, Zaraye started looking for funding in late October 2021. In mid-November, one of the company’s angel investors introduced the executive team to John Curtius, who leads Tiger Global’s software and B2B practices. In early January, Zaraye co-founder Ahsan Ali Khan and his team got on a call with Curtius, and 30 minutes later, the deal had been signed off. Typically, such deals can take up to four rounds of calls and interactions to be finalized, Khan said.

Riaz Haq said...

The world’s most active investor is on the prowl in Pakistan
“I’ve never met investors who are this prepared.” Tiger Global is making swift and aggressive moves in the country's startup scene.

Tiger Global’s continued presence in Pakistan is, despite the current global funding crunch, a source of comfort for entrepreneurs in the country, even as the American investor itself is going through a rough patch. By May, the firm had clocked year-to-date losses of 52%, forcing it to cut management fees amid a string of public market downturns and private markdowns.

“Investors trust Tiger’s acumen, and their presence signals to other big names in VC of Pakistan’s potential, many of whom are still looking for deals here, even though their plans slowed down due to market conditions,” says Zayn Capital’s Aftab. Another major investor, Sequoia Capital Southeast Asia, has made an undisclosed investment in a Pakistani startup, multiple sources told Rest of World. Sequoia did not comment on the investment.

“From a macro view, having such names is extremely important because it only builds our position of strength and encourages other investors to come in,” CreditBook’s Malik said. “Just having that name makes other people on the cap table more confident about the company,and de-risks your proposition to other investors. It also helps the way you attract talent, who now see you as more stable, and gives you significant market advantages, be it senior leadership or even hiring outside Pakistan.”

Riaz Haq said...

Tiger Global to slow startup investments for two quarters, eyes new fund later this year
The firm is sitting on 'billions' of dollars of dry powder, according to sources

Tiger Global, one of the biggest winners from the technology bull market, plans to decelerate the pace of its investments in startups for two quarters, the latest in a series of high-profile investors becoming cautious as the market embraces a downturn.

The New York-headquartered firm — which invested in 361 deals in 2021, according to PitchBook — is evaluating the market conditions and plans to limit the number of new checks it writes til December, Tiger Global partner Alex Cook told founders recently, according to sources familiar with those conversations.

Cook met several founders during his visit to Bengaluru earlier this month, offering advice and assuaging market concerns about the firm’s recent performance. Cook also assured that Tiger Global is sitting on dry powder in “billions” and will continue to back “best internet-enabled” startups, the sources said.

The firm is also on track to raise a new fund later this year, Cook said, according to the sources.

Tiger Global had an eventful 2021.

The firm, which manages over $20 billion, benefitted from the rise of share prices of tech companies such as Zoom during the pandemic. But by May of this year, it had lost two-thirds of all the gains it made in the stock funds since its founding in 2001, according to multiple reports. TechCrunch reported in May that Tiger had nearly depleted its current fund, and in the same month, journalist Eric Newcomer reported that Tiger was looking to raise a $1 billion crossover fund.

Cook told founders that it was still a little early to say how much capital Tiger Global will be able to accumulate for its larger fund, the sources added, requesting anonymity as the conversations were private.

The slowdown on new investments comes as investors globally sound alarms and hit the brakes on making large backings as they scramble to assess the rout in the stock market that has sharply reversed much of the gains of the 13-year bull run.

Still, Tiger Global’s move is significant because it wrote more checks than any other U.S. investor last year, according to PitchBook.

Investors across the globe have become more selective in recent months and have slashed valuations of private firms across many tech sectors worldwide, including emerging markets. Indian startups raised $6.9 billion in the quarter that ended in June, down from $10.3 billion during the period between January and March this year, according to insight platform Tracxn.

(Some of the deals announced in the previous quarter were agreed upon and finalized as early as January, hence the Q2 figures don’t accurately reflect the deal-activity of the quarter, many investors said.)

Some investors — including reportedly Coatue — have cautioned that tech stocks may fall further and more painful days could be ahead for startups.

The tightening of valuations has additionally trickled down to startups across each stage, including those at seed and Series A phases of life, according to several investors with whom TechCrunch spoke.

“We are in a ‘sliding knife’ market and things have only partially propagated into earlier and earlier companies. For example, series B/Cs have dropped 30-70% but the repricing is inconsistent. Some companies have been getting high valuations over the last few months while others can not fundraise at all. Series A valuations have dropped maybe 20-30% but likely should drop 50%+ from highs,” wrote Elad Gil, a prolific early-stage investor, in a recent blog post.

Riaz Haq said...

Tiger Global to slow startup investments for two quarters, eyes new fund later this year
The firm is sitting on 'billions' of dollars of dry powder, according to sources

The tightening of valuations has additionally trickled down to startups across each stage, including those at seed and Series A phases of life, according to several investors with whom TechCrunch spoke.

“We are in a ‘sliding knife’ market and things have only partially propagated into earlier and earlier companies. For example, series B/Cs have dropped 30-70% but the repricing is inconsistent. Some companies have been getting high valuations over the last few months while others can not fundraise at all. Series A valuations have dropped maybe 20-30% but likely should drop 50%+ from highs,” wrote Elad Gil, a prolific early-stage investor, in a recent blog post.

“Series seed rounds have come down some but will likely drop further as more series A reprice harder as investors seek each round to be 2-3X the valuation of the prior round (the traditional standard). Private tech is for some stages where public tech was towards the beginning of this year. Hitting a new startup market valuation stable point is likely to take another quarter or two barring a recession or additional public market drops. These things take some time to fully propagate to all stages, founders, and investors,” he added.

Previously best known for investing in growth and late-stage startups, Tiger Global made some apparent changes to its strategy in 2020 and made over six dozen investments in early-stage deals last year, according to an analysis by TechCrunch.

Some investors have publicly criticized late-stage investors’ growing interest in writing seed and Series A deals, worrying that it’s unclear whether those funds will continue to remain as enthusiastic about supporting younger firms when the market takes a turn.

Cook told founders that the firm is bullish on identifying and supporting early-stage startups and will continue to back such deals in the future, the sources said.

Tiger Global has invested $6.5 billion in India to date, according to a source familiar with the matter, a figure that makes it one of the biggest backers of startups in the South Asian market.

A Tiger Global spokesperson declined to comment Sunday evening.

Riaz Haq said...

State of Startup Funding - H1 2022 Emerging Venture Markets Report


• Pakistan has aggregated $249M in H1'22, accounting for 75% of last year’s total funding
• The region closed a total of 35 deals in the first 6 months of the year
• Pakistan recorded the largest E-commerce round across EVM’s this year so far with Bazaar’s $70M Series B


EVM H1 2022 Venture Investment Report is one of MAGNiTT’s flagship productions. It takes a comprehensive look at the ins and outs of venture activity across Emerging Venture Markets including MENA, Africa, Turkey and Pakistan.

After a record-breaking year in 2021, the EVM VC ecosystem amassed $5.1Bn in H1 2022 over 754 deals, aggregating 70% of total investment raised in FY 2021. A slowdown in VC activity as a result of global market pressures, however, has surfaced over Q2 2022 and is expected to continue through the next 2 quarters of the year.

In a top story for the VC ecosystem in EVMs, Exit activity across MEAPT reached a new half-yearly record in 2022. Over the first 6 months, the ecosystem recorded 67 Exits, 20 less than that closed last year, yet 18 more than FY 2020. Mega Deal prominence this year was not only another funding highlight, but also attracted over $2Bn in funds across Bahrain, KSA, UAE, Kenya, Nigeria, and Turkey accounting for more than 40% of total capital raised across EVMs over H1 2022.

On the industry front, FinTech continues to reign both in terms of deal count and funding raised across Emerging Venture Markets. The sector was led by the African region accounting for 60% of the total funding raised across the MEAPT region.

Take a look at some high-level geography-specific insights from the report below.

Riaz Haq said...

Top #SiliconValley VC firm Sequoia backs #fintech #startup Dbank in its first #Pakistan investment. $17.6 million seed round, largest in Pakistan, is co-led by another Silicon Valley VC Kleiner Perkins. Brazil’s Nubank, Askari Bank, Rayn also participated

Sequoia, the world’s most influential venture fund, has made its maiden investment in Pakistan, joining a growing list of high profile investors who have backed young firms in the South Asian market in the past one year.

Islamabad-headquartered startup Dbank said on Thursday it has raised $17.6 million in a seed round, the largest in Pakistan, co-led by Sequoia Capital Southeast Asia, the recently unveiled $1 billion fund, and Kleiner Perkins. Brazil’s neobank Nubank, Askari Bank, Rayn also participated in the round, the Pakistani startup said.

Dbank is a fintech startup that will attempt to expand the reach of financial services in a “transparent and friendly” manner in Pakistan, taking on the informal credit system that tends to exploit those in need with exorbitant and unpredictable interest rates, said Tania Aidrus, co-founder of Dbank, in an interview with TechCrunch.

Johan Surani, VP at Sequoia Southeast Asia, said in a statement that Dbank will attempt to “democratize banking,” however the startup wishes to keep its roadmap under wraps for now, Aidrus said.

Nearly half of the population of Pakistan, home to over 220 million people, currently don’t have bank accounts. “We want our users to be in control of their money and to make informed choices,” said Aidrus.

She has started Dbank with Khurram Jamali, both of whom have studied the challenges the unbanked population faces closely at their previous stint at Google, where they worked on payments rails for the company’s Next Billion Users initiative. Aidrus then briefly joined the Government of Pakistan as Chief Digital Officer.

State Bank of Pakistan, the country’s central bank, has aggressively explored opportunities in recent years to modernize the nation’s payments infrastructure to increase financial inclusion in the country. The country has developed Raast, a real-time payments system, for instant digital transactions and also built NADRA, a digital identify platform.

Riaz Haq said...

DealCart is focused on price-conscious Pakistani consumers

The price of consumer goods has been soaring all around the world, creating a major budgeting headache for many people. Social commerce startup DealCart wants to make life easier for shoppers, at least in Pakistan. The company announced today that it has raised $4.5 million in pre-seed funding just three months after their operational launch. The round was led by Shorooq Partners with participation from Fatima Gobi Ventures, Vibe Capital, 500 Global, i2i Ventures, Julian Shapiro, Rally Cap Ventures, Alex Lazarow and several “strategic angel investors.”

Founded by Haider Raza and Ammar Naveed, DealCart wants to address the low usage of e-commerce among middle and lower-income segments in Pakistan, even though more and more people have access to smartphones and the internet.

DealCart allows users to buy in groups and share deals through WhatsApp and other social media platforms. By participating in group buys, consumers are able to unlock lower prices. Customers have the option of either joining existing groups or creating a new one and sharing a link to their social media. When that number hits a threshold (usually about four people) within a 24-hour period, lower prices are unlocked.

Before launching DealCart, Naveed was a senior director a ride-hailing app Careem, overseeing operations across the Middle East and Pakistan, while Raza launched and scaled mobility startup Swvl in Pakistan, and also worked at Careem.

The founders told TechCrunch that their past experience gave them extensive experience building and scaling startups across Pakistan and the MENA region. As inflation got worse in Pakistan, they said it became clear that helping people save money on where they spend most of their income was their mission.

“Despite the burgeoning growth of smartphones and internet penetration, e-commerce usage remains low among the middle and lower middle-income segments that constitute the majority of the country. As such, the current e-commerce landscape in the country is skewed toward large ticket electronics, fashion and the convenience proposition provided by quick commerce which is expensive and can largely be afforded by the smaller upper income segment of Pakistan,” the founders told TechCrunch in an email. “The majority of Pakistanis are price conscious and the current e-commerce landscape does not cater to their needs.”

DealCart is able to offer lower prices because it sources products directly from manufacturers, works with locally-manufactured brands (while helping them reach a larger consumer base) and lowering its customer acquisition cost through its consumer growth features. These savings allow DealCart to afford efficient warehousing and last-mile delivery compared to other e-commerce and quick commerce platforms.

Items available through DealCart include cooking oil, rice, wheat, pulses and sugar; tea and milk; fruit and vegetables; baby formula and diapers; beverages; and household care products. Currently, DealCart purchases inventory from manufacturers and holds it at their warehouse. Once orders are confirmed from customers, products for group buys are delivered by 11PM.

Raza said DealCart’s target market already spends upwards of 50% of their household income on groceries and essentials, and the startup is able to give them financial relief through lower prices.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan’s #fintech #startup OneLoad secures $11 million in funding. This #investment round led by Sarmayacar and Shorooq Partners. Other investors include Gates Foundation and IFC.

The company said that "the strategic collaboration with regulated financial partners and banks has led to daily disbursements worth Rs10+ million, which created horizons of accelerated growth for numerous micro-retailers across the country."

OneLoad operates through its 40,000 agents and conducted about $100 million in transactions last year. The company wants to increase daily transaction to one million a day from the current level of up to 400,000, founder and CEO Muhammad Yar Hiraj was quoted as saying by Bloomberg.

Under digital products and payments, OneLoad offers mobile top-ups, internet packages, and media and entertainment services. Under banking access, OneLoad enables money transfers, utility bill payments, deposits and withdrawals for digital wallets, wallet account opening and biometric verification, and government-to-person (G2P) payments – in partnership with banks.

“We are excited to bring new partners to the company like Sarmayacar and Shorooq Partners,” Hiraj was quoted as saying in the PSX notice.

“Working with them brings valuable tech and venture capital expertise to the company and pushes us to continue to innovate and evolve with the regional and global markets. Our vision is to fully digitise the financial needs of the unbanked and the financially excluded masses in Pakistan," he said.

Riaz Haq said...

Faseeh Mangi
* Pakistani startup PostEx has acquired a logistics company to make it the nation's largest e-commerce delivery firm
* It started in 2019 by going door-to-door to small shops for business
* The combined entity will handle 50,000 orders a day


Pakistani startup PostEx, a provider of courier and financing services to online merchants, acquired logistics company Call Courier in a deal that makes it the nation’s largest e-commerce delivery firm, according to its founder.

The combined entity will be handling about 50,000 orders a day, a scale that makes it profitable, founder Muhammad Omer Khan said without disclosing a value for the deal. The acquisition gives PostEx delivery operations in 500 Pakistani cities, compared with its previous base that consisted of just the three main ones.

“While others are going on the backfoot and slowing down, we plan to become even more aggressive,” Khan, who is PostEx’s chief executive officer, said in an interview in the southern city of Karachi.

Pakistan, whose population of about 230 million makes it the world’s fifth-largest nation, is attracting interest from global investors as its online businesses gain users. The country’s startups raised more than $350 million in 2021, a record, with several global venture funds investing for the first time. PostEx raised $8.6 million last year in one of Pakistan’s largest early-stage funding rounds.

More than 90% of e-commerce deliveries in the South Asian nation are paid for in cash, resulting in long delays before the merchants receive the proceeds for the sale. PostEx offers these businesses upfront payments before deliveries are made, giving them liquidity. The financing services help PostEx stand out from the region’s other delivery companies, Khan said.

Pakistan’s e-commerce industry has lured the most investment in the recent funding rush. The majority of the population still hasn’t switched to online shopping, providing room for the sector to grow and transactions to reach $10 billion before 2025 from about $6 billion now, Khan estimates.

Khan started PostEx in 2019 with a friend, going door-to-door to small shops to convince them to allow the company to handle their deliveries. The acquisition more than triples its number of employees to 2,400.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan #PropTech #Startup Scene a Standout Among #EmergingMarkets.A huge, young/growing population needs #housing & other #realestate services.The country’s only #unicorn — EMPG, the Emerging Power Market Property Group — came out of the proptech sector

Because Pakistan’s black market is three times the size of the nation’s legitimate economy, real estate is the only industry outperforming other asset classes, said Arif.

A country of 230 million people with a median age of 23, Pakistan is embracing proptech innovation as a means to more efficiently increase housing availability and other real estate services. The proptech industry in turn is providing new job opportunities for Pakistan’s growing number of highly educated young people.

Atif Bin Arif, founder and CEO of Karachi-based MyGhar, a coliving startup that provides furnished private and shared rooms with all-inclusive billing, said his decision to start the company was based on his trying to rent an apartment in Islamabad, the country’s capital. He found that Pakistan’s residential culture was a problem for a young bachelor looking to rent.

“You know, we live with our parents over here,” said Arif, who was raised in Toronto and moved back to Pakistan 10 years ago to take over his family’s travel and hospitality business. “It’s just a cultural norm that families live together and move out when they get married.”

However, Arif wasn’t married as he looked for an apartment.

“That was the first time I moved between cities as a temporary move,” he said. “As a single male, that was one of the most daunting tasks I have ever come across. If you visited 10 properties, 10 out of 10 landlords would say no to bachelors because they would think they’re going to come and ruin the place. So, culturally, that was a problem.”

It took Arif nearly two months to find a place.

“Also, it was expensive,” he added. “They would ask for three months’ deposit, three months advance rent, and one month of broker fees. It was a completely offline process. I would be going on classified websites, visiting properties, and physically exhausted. That’s where the Eureka moment happened: I am someone with resources and it’s taking me this long and it’s this daunting of a task? Imagine the average individual.”


“Funds cannot be parked anywhere except [in real estate],” he said. “I realized that’s where I wanted to be. There was no dedicated housing solution. And I thought that if I can create furnished spaces that are move-in ready that people can book on a monthly basis, completely flexible and digital, we might be solving one of the most pressing needs in the housing industry in Pakistan. That’s what we’re out to build.”

The market is huge and growing. About 500,000 Pakistanis graduate college annually, and one-fifth of those move to city centers, Arif said.

Pakistan’s foreign direct investment in June 2022 was $271 million, according to CEIC. The country’s only unicorn — EMPG, the Emerging Power Market Property Group — came out of the proptech sector.

Given Pakistan’s vast market potential, its housing challenge is not the only area where proptech startups are looking to provide solutions. The workplace is being disrupted and digitized, as well.

“We provide flexible workspace solutions across coworking enterprise offices,” said Omar Shah, co-founder and CEO of Colabs, a Lahore-based proptech firm founded in 2019.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan #PropTech #Startup Scene a Standout Among #EmergingMarkets.A huge, young/growing population needs #housing & other #realestate services.The country’s only #unicorn — EMPG, the Emerging Power Market Property Group — came out of the proptech sector

Having seen the traditional Pakistan real estate market that has existed for decades — one he characterized as grossly inefficient and expensive — Shah realized it was ripe for digital disruption.

“I did this because it was the sharing economy,” he said. “The whole concept of the sharing economy is that the same spaces are used by multiple people. And as we move towards a more flexible world, people realize that these solutions are more organized and better fitted in terms of what we’re all doing.”

Colabs bills itself as the fastest-growing flexible workspace in Pakistan. It provides back-office services; HR payroll accounting, for which it is developing a SaaS platform; and an entrepreneurial division for events, workshops and training that acts as an accelerator for other startups.

Similar to MyGhar’s Arif, Shah sees great opportunity and growth for Pakistan proptech.

“I am a former investment banker and investor,” said Shah. “I spent nine years doing private equity venture capital in London and across emerging markets, including Dubai, Latin America, Turkey and Africa. I moved back three years ago to start COLABS. Today we are the top company in the country in terms of speed of growth. We are managing about 1,200 seats across multiple locations. In the next 12 months we hope to get up to 3,000 seats.”

In March, Colabs raised a $3 million seed round from venture capital firms in Pakistan and internationally, said Shah. “Our investors include Fatima Gobi Ventures, Indus Valley Capital, Shorooq Partners, Kinnow Capital, Zayn Capital, as well as angel investors.”

Also, like MyGhar, COLABS is part of a Singapore-based holding company, said Shah. “It’s very common in Pakistan to have your holding company in Singapore, or the Cayman Islands, or Delaware,” he said. “The holding company makes it easier for investors to raise money at the seed or series level by having a foreign audit.”

Although U.S. investment in Pakistan-based proptech startups remains rare, interest in the market is growing, said Zach Aarons, co-founder and partner at MetaProp, a Manhattan-based early-stage proptech startup investment firm.

“A few reasons why I’m excited about the proptech ecosystem in Pakistan is that it’s such a large and young country,” said Aarons. “It has a favorable regulatory environment for fintech and an inefficient current real estate market. Plus, it has high mobile phone penetration and very quickly growing internet access.”

In fact, over the last 18 months, U.S.-based general technology venture capital firms such as Tiger Global Management and Kleiner Perkins have begun slowly to invest in Pakistan proptech startups, said COLABS’ Shah. However, he admits that Pakistan still trails far behind other emerging proptech markets such as India, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam.

As a Pakistan-born immigrant to the U.S., Farhan Masood, president and CTO of Soloinsight, a leading workflow automation and security proptech company founded in 2018 and based in Chicago, has a unique perspective on what’s happening in his homeland.

“I think things are changing now,” Masood said of Pakistan. “Things have drastically changed. If you look at the amount of investments that are coming to Pakistan, proptech is the most [exciting]. Ask any Pakistani, ‘What’s your dream?’ The dream is to own a house.”

In such a huge population, home buyers and renters are met with major inefficiencies due to a lack of product as well as no established financing, government support or conventional mortgage systems, he said. “You don’t have any of that support, so the market isn’t right for a huge amount of business.”

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan #PropTech #Startup Scene a Standout Among #EmergingMarkets.A huge, young/growing population needs #housing & other #realestate services.The country’s only #unicorn — EMPG, the Emerging Power Market Property Group — came out of the proptech sector

In such a huge population, home buyers and renters are met with major inefficiencies due to a lack of product as well as no established financing, government support or conventional mortgage systems, he said. “You don’t have any of that support, so the market isn’t right for a huge amount of business.”

As for Soloinsight, it is a somewhat rare Pakistan-U.S. proptech startup, Masood said.

“We started in Pakistan and moved to the United States and now focus on some of the most iconic buildings and Fortune 500 customers,” said Masood, who received the so-called “genius visa” after attending the MIT Business Acceleration Program.

“I’m actually a dropout, but I have a lot of contributions and patents around authentication, facial recognition technology, machine vision and data analytics. I’ve worked with national databases for identity management,” Masood said of his more than 23 years of working to make building infrastructures secure.

Soloinsight has 114 employees, 104 of whom are based in Lahore, with the other 10 in Chicago. The company’s leading product, CloudGate, is a visitor identity and access management (VIAM) platform that delivers security and an intuitive guest and host experience at multiple locations via the cloud. The startup has integrated its product with access control and visitor identity firms, such as Honeywell, Johnson Controls and LenelS2.

Despite the various types and degrees of ongoing chaos in Pakistan — including a parliamentary no-confidence vote in April that ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan and recent catastrophic flooding — MyGhar’s Arif is bullish on the country’s proptech potential.

“It’s a huge opportunity,” he said. “I think the fact that there’s less competition here is the opportunity, which is why we’re all here. It’s why we work day in and night out, regardless of the economic and political turmoil.”

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan’s embedded finance platform Neem has raised $2.5 million in a seed funding round as it works to support underbanked communities in the country.

The Karachi-based startup targets communities across sectors including agriculture, MSMEs, e-commerce, logistics, healthcare and others. It offers a lending platform that its partners use to provide tailored lending products to consumers and MSMEs. Neem is also working on a banking-as-a-service (BaaS) platform, which will go live in December, that will onboard partners to embed wallets and payments and offer financial products such as insurance and savings customized to specific community’s needs.

Three-year-old Neem was founded by Nadeem Shaikh, Vladimira Briestenska and Naeem Zamindar, who previously worked as fintech entrepreneurs, operators and VCs.

“Most of the [existing] players are providing a B2C solution; we are a B2B2C solution. If you look at the embedded finance space, it is a $167 billion opportunity,” Shaikh said in an interview with TechCrunch.

Owing to COVID, the strong growth in digitization has helped Neem embed its finance services across private and public sectors.

Citing industry figures, Shaikh said about 53 million people in Pakistan are currently underbanked. Over time, the startup plans to go beyond Pakistan and support underbanked communities in other developing markets.

The seed funding, which the startup aims to use to expand its existing team of 20 people, roll out the BaaS platform and capitalize licenses, was led by Hong Kong-based SparkLabs Fintech. The funding round also saw the participation of Pakistan’s investment banking firm Arif Habib, Cordoba Logistics and Ventures, Taarah Ventures, My Asia VC, Concept Vines and Building Capital. Additionally, partners at Outrun Ventures, the founding partner at Mentors Fund and fintech veteran and ex-CEO of Seccl also participated in the seed round.

“We have strong conviction about Neem’s mission to enable financial wellness for underbanked communities, and have full confidence in the Neem leadership team to realise this vision amidst macro challenges across the globe,” said William Chu, managing partner, SparkLabs Fintech, in a prepared statement.

The startup was bootstraped before receiving the seed funding.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan sees growing culture of innovation amid tech startup boom
By Hamna Tariq and Uzair Younus

Pakistan’s startups and technology sector witnessed unprecedented growth during the COVID-19 pandemic. 2021 was a record-breaking year, with technology startups raising $350 million, while over $227 million was raised in the first half of 2022; Pakistani startups have raised $322 million in 2022 so far. Additionally, Pakistan’s information technology (IT) services sector has emerged as the largest net services exporter in the country, with IT exports more than doubling from $1.19 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2019 to $2.62 billion in FY 2022.

Another key component of the country’s technology sector is freelance work, where individuals provide technology services to global clients through platforms such as Upwork and Fiverr. This talent pool has experienced a tremendous increase in their earnings during the pandemic. While exact data for cumulative freelance earnings is not available, Pakistan is ranked as one of the largest freelance markets in the world. The national government has set a target of earning over $3 billion from this sector by 2024.

However, a tightening global macro environment coupled with increasing domestic political instability is a cause of concern for the sector, especially the domestic startup economy. To understand the risks and opportunities facing the technology ecosystem, the Atlantic Council’s Pakistan Initiative interviewed several experts within and outside Pakistan. The analysis below highlights the current state of the ecosystem and the impact of ongoing economic and political instability in Pakistan. It also outlines recommendations for key stakeholders including policymakers seeking to further globalize Pakistan’s technology sector to unlock both export earnings and foreign investment opportunities.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistani startups raise $328m in first 9 months of Calendar Year 2022
Despite investor scepticism, amount raised equals 87% of total funding in 2021

In spite of heightened investor scepticism stemming from geopolitical tensions and mounting fear of a global recession, the total funds raised by Pakistani startups, in the nine months of 2022, stood at $328 million. This amounts to 87% of the total funding in 2021, as per Alpha Beta Core’s Deal Tracker.

“The third quarter of 2022 has had more early-stage deals with total seed and pre-seed level rounds accounting for 90% of the total deals. The average deal size in the third quarter of 2022 clocked in at $60 million versus $7.3 million last quarter,” said Khurram Schehzad, CEO of Alpha Beta Core (ABCore).

Speaking to the Express Tribune, startup Investment Specialist, Kapeel Kumar said, “The more room for failure we leave, the more we also create room for success in its wake.”

“The one reason Pakistan is witnessing the boom is because the country is, after all, one of the few untapped frontier markets,” he noted.

“Most investments are within B2B or B2C e-commerce, fintech and logistics. This is a trend that can be observed in a lot of emerging markets as the ecosystem starts to grow,” he added.

“The total deal value in the third quarter was recorded at $48.6 million with a total of 11 deals,” said ABCore CEO Schehzad.

“The top deals closed were DBank at $17.6 million, OneLoad at $11 million, PriceOye at $7.9 million and DealCart at $4.5 million. Other notable deals this quarter were Neem and SnappRetail at $2.5 million each and Mahaana at $2.1 million,” he added.

Explaining the impact of startups shutting operations in Pakistan, Kumar said, “The closing of tech-startups in the last six months is alarming. In Pakistan, this will weigh heavily on the entire startup ecosystem, which is unfair to the many startups performing and creating employment.”

“The success of some startups is being fueled by the country’s growing human capital and rising investments in technology startups,” he added.

“We look forward to a better closing of 2022 as compared to that in 2021. Pakistani startups still have much better survival rates (both in terms of size and numbers) than the rest of the region or the world,” Kumar commented.

“Owing to our massive population, we have an incredible potential of growth within us,” said Noman Ahmed, CEO of SI Global Solutions.

He highlighted that “Fintech and e-commerce alike have brought in a significant chunk of this funding. The need of the hour is to create consistency and compliance, and support may be needed in order to sail through this passage to enable startups to continually thrive ahead. With this new found funding, we must collectively focus on bringing Pakistan at par with the Western world. There’s absolutely no doubt that Pakistan is positively brimming with talent.”

“As leading professionals in the tech world, it is upto us to revolutionise Pakistan’s technological landscape by nurturing, guiding and shaping this pool of talent. It is imperative that this work begins at the university level. Final projects and thesis submissions should focus on creativity and new ideas that may be brought to life with support from the startups on ground. We must rise to the challenge and work on expanding our horizons within the tech world,” urged the SI Global CEO.

Riaz Haq said...

Kalsoom Lakhani
1/It's the end of Q3, so u know what that means -- time for the
deal flow roundup! In Q3 2022, startups in #Pakistan raised $65.5M via 15 deals, bringing our YTD total to $340M. In Q3 2021 in comp, startups raised $177M via 22 deals, so *yes* the slowdown is/


Kalsoom Lakhani
2/ is very much upon us (OR it was just a REALLY slow summer -- every VC I know, except us apparently 😂, went on holiday/took a pause). Most significant deals in Q3 was
(co-founded by
), which raised $17.6M from
& was/


Kalsoom Lakhani
3/ Sequoia's FIRST check in PK. Revolving Games also raised $13.2M, which was also exciting given their shift into Web3 & making blockchain games & One Load raised $11M from
. Fintech had the best quarter, which makes sense given/


Kalsoom Lakhani
4/ the macreconomic conditions shrinking consumer behavior & floods impacting certain sectors over others. Fintech raised 58% of funding in Q3 (vs e-commerce, 19%). The most interesting dev in Q3 was ACQUISITIONS: most significant being Digital Ocean's acq of Cloudways for $350M/


Kalsoom Lakhani
5/ tho our sense is local/regional consolidation will continue in the current environment in the future, which is a positive trend for the PK market as a whole (exits! yay!). Comp PK to Egypt & Bangladesh (thx
for their data), 2022 YTD in Egypt is $382M/


Kalsoom Lakhani
6/ (PK was $340M as a reminder) & Bangladesh Is $94M -- the slowdown is felt everywhere, but we're not doing THAT bad at least. You can read our full analysis here (& kudos to
on our team for this AWESOME work):


Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan’s Digital Lending Revolution
Not only is increased digital lending the need of the hour, it is also a very attractive business proposition.

The cruel spiral of poverty plagues generations once it takes grip. It takes money to make money. This is especially true of emerging and undocumented economies like ours. It takes money to educate one’s children, without which income prospects greatly diminish for the next generation. It also takes money for a small business owner to invest in stock or supplies. Without this, no income is generated from the business which feeds a disproportionate number of people downstream. Often, health issues can devastate families and their fortunes because a head of household was not able to afford medical treatment.

Poverty is not new. However, we have, for the first time in history, witnessed such a massive and rapid deliberate reduction in the world’s poverty. China systematically lifted 800 million people out of its poverty spiral over a relatively short 40-year period. There are many lessons in this for Pakistan, the biggest of which is that it is indeed possible to turn the corner for our people.

China relied heavily on digital technologies that financially included a significant portion of its population, and also connected them for commerce with each other. Mobile smartphone penetration, online connectivity, digital payments, and online commerce became key catalysts of income mobility. The ensuing digital footprints paved the way to provide credit to people who were previously undocumented and thus un-lendable. There is no debate now that access to credit is one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty. And today, digital access to credit can reduce poverty at scales and speeds previously unimaginable.

Pakistan has recently undergone its digital revolution. Today 80% of adults in Pakistan have access to internet-connected smartphones. About a third have made digital payments. Seventy percent of new bank accounts over the last five years were contributed by mobile wallets. Our chowkidars, mazdoors and corner store owners are all on WhatsApp and avidly consuming TikToks. E-commerce, although still relatively small with a market size of about six billion dollars annually, has shown one of the fastest growths globally. Key catalysts of income mobility are now present for us to take advantage of.

So why do less than two percent of our population receive loans from formal financial institutions? Because formal financial institutions employ traditional ways of establishing creditworthiness, by collecting documents. The size of our undocumented economy is at least as large as our formal economy and comprises the vast majority of our population. With no signals of creditworthiness, money is not lent. With poor signals of creditworthiness, money is lent but de-risked by pledging tangible assets, which are uncommon among the poor.

The scarcity of credit given by banks to consumers and small businesses is further compounded by the fact that it is hard work to give small loans with cumbersome and expensive physical processes. There is little incentive to serve these key segments, especially compared to the easy, safe and large lending appetite of our government. Nearly three-quarters of all the money deposited across banks is given to the government in the form of loans or investments by banks. This voracious appetite and easy profit from the government has crowded out private sector needs.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan’s Digital Lending Revolution
Not only is increased digital lending the need of the hour, it is also a very attractive business proposition.

The good news is that the recent influx of venture capital into start-ups has led to the emergence of many new innovative financial technology (fintech) companies to solve these problems. Signals such as salary information, sales receipts and supply purchase data are being digitised and leveraged to establish creditworthiness with great success. Pakistani innovators benefit from the learnings from other emerging markets that previously cracked these problems with great success, including China, Indonesia, Africa and others. It should be no surprise that digital lending has started to make great progress in Pakistan.

For digital lending to truly take off in Pakistan, three key pieces of the ecosystem need to come together in a symbiotic manner: banks or money suppliers, fintechs and digital data-generating platforms. Banks are flush with cheap deposits from zero mark-up current accounts and therefore have the capital to lend. Fintechs, whose licences are governed under progressive lighter weight regulations, efficiently package small business and consume uncollateralised loans by acquiring and scoring them digitally. And finally, the platforms that collect the digital footprints of small businesses and consumers through transactional workflows, provide reliable signals for lending. They also embed financial services from fintechs into their platforms. The good news is that there are already several examples of all three stakeholders collaborating to lend in Pakistan with stellar results.

Pakistan’s five million micro and small businesses are stuck in a stagnant cash flow-starved hand-to-mouth status quo. Yet, they constitute 40% of our GDP and employ almost 80% of our non-agricultural workforce. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) lending data from fintechs shows that access to capital increases SME income by an average of 30%. Digital lending at scale to small businesses will have a tremendous impact on our economy, employment and standard of living. Similarly, less than 0.35% of people have received housing loans and consequently, home ownership remains dismally low. It is clearly in the country’s interest for responsible digital lending to take off.

Not only is increased digital lending the need of the hour, but it is also a very attractive business proposition. We have seen the entry of several well-funded foreign lending apps that have sprayed thousands of loans using sparse scoring data. As a result, their first cycle loan losses are exceptionally high, requiring expensive pricing to cover defaults. Many of these apps are unlicenced and engage in predatory practices. Customers are misled through claims of reasonably priced loans while hidden fees result in expensive triple-digit markup rates. Furthermore, the address books of customers are often harvested and their contacts are harassed if loans are not repaid on time. Most people who take loans from these apps are first-time borrowers with little financial literacy and can easily become over-indebted. Access to affordable credit with dignity is an important measure of a society’s evolution.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan’s Digital Lending Revolution
Not only is increased digital lending the need of the hour, it is also a very attractive business proposition.

Clearly, increased regulatory oversight is urgently needed to keep pace with the innovations in digital lending that we are seeing in the field. Informal players like these loan apps and your local electronics store do not share loan repayment behaviour with credit bureaus. This results in financial institutions approving loans that are unlikely to be repaid, ruining future credit access to a vulnerable segment that can benefit most from them. This must be carefully monitored and regulators must encourage lenders to utilise high-quality data to minimise defaults and keep loans affordable for greater impact. For example, low default rates of working capital loans that leverage actual business transactional data through embedded digital workflows allow small businesses to negotiate better rates. These digital loans scored using rich data give power back to small business owners who can in turn profitably grow their businesses and hire more workers.

In addition, as data becomes more sought, stored, and potentially shared, our consumer data protection laws will be tested and likely need to be updated. We will inevitably hear about large-scale data breaches and their aftereffects. While data leaks must be prevented and privacy protected, platforms across the ecosystem must also integrate and share data responsibly. This must happen with consumer consent. Combined data sets will produce richer signals to unlock more opportunities. Seldom in human history have we had such powerful tools to uplift our population in such a short period. One hundred and ten million digitally connected and transacting Pakistanis will produce rich footprints to enable lending for themselves and their businesses. When regulated and executed responsibly, digital lending has the potential to uplift millions of Pakistanis out of poverty and significantly raise Pakistan’s GDP. Amid the doom and gloom, exciting times lie ahead.

Riaz Haq said...

Investors, including HBL, participate in Finja’s Series A2 Funding Round
Finja, Pakistan’s largest dual-licensed SME digital lending platform, announced fresh capital injection as part of its $10 Million Series A2 financing round, with participation from notable investors including Sturgeon Capital and HBL.

Finja, Pakistan’s largest dual-licensed SME digital lending platform, announced fresh capital injection as part of its $10 Million Series A2 financing round, with participation from notable investors including Sturgeon Capital and HBL. This investment round is multi-dimensional and includes equity, debt, and off-balance sheet capital. This is HBL’s second investment in Finja after its initial participation in the company’s Series A1 round.

With this injection, Finja has the capacity to finance more than $50 million over the next 12 months to catalyze the potential of Pakistan’s SME sector. This has set the stage to further scale Finja’s existing digital co-lending program to support its overall vision of empowering Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and their supply chains with digital credit.

This financing is a significant step towards more fully utilizing Finja’s credit engine, which continues to prove its scalability and accuracy, cementing Finja as the sustainable choice for SMEs throughout Pakistan.

Qasif Shahid, Co-Founder Finja remarked, “The future of the financial services industry lies in collaboration between fintechs and banks. Moving away from vertical silos to open banking systems and embedded finance. This puts Finja in a winning position as it ramps up our capability to offer small and micro businesses digital products.” He further added, “With this new injection and our laser focus on optimizing our organization, we will now be turbo charging digital lending to SMEs through our association with HBL”

Finja today has emerged as one of the leading digital lending platforms in the country clocking a total lending throughput of PKR 7 Billion at the back of extending approximately 150,000 loans to 35,000 Karyana stores in 30+ cities. Finja also works closely with FMCG distributors and helps them to buy supplies upstream on credit and also provides purpose built working capital lending lines to SMEs scored through Finja’s proprietary AI/ML algorithms.

Kamran Zuberi, CEO Finja Lending Services, remarked that Finja is the first financial services entity to package capital in small amounts of PKR 50,000 and for periods of 7, 14 and 30 days to Karyana stores for availing credit to buy supplies and improve their sales. “We score these retailers from data that we get from our partnerships with multiple FMCG principles, hundreds of distributors and new-age market aggregators that operate mobile apps for small retailers to order supplies from.”

Riaz Haq said...

Waada Buys Rival to Become Pakistan’s Top Insurance-Tech Startup
Pakistan’s insurance penetration is 0.7%, trailing neighbors
Nation to see further consolidation as funding slows: investor

Waada becomes largest technology led insurance start-up in Pakistan - 24/7 News

Pakistani online insurance startup Waada acquired a local rival to create the South Asian nation’s largest player in the field, seeking to benefit from growth in the burgeoning market.

The Karachi-based company took over MicroEnsure Pakistan, a unit of MIC Global operating in South Asia and Africa, in an all-stock deal, according to a statement Friday. The brands combined have 1.5 million active customers, Waada said, without disclosing the deal value. Waada also said it’s closed a seed round of $1.3 million from local angel investors and foreign venture capital firms.

Pakistani online insurance startup Waada acquired a local rival to create the South Asian nation’s largest player in the field, seeking to benefit from growth in the burgeoning market.

The Karachi-based company took over MicroEnsure Pakistan, a unit of MIC Global operating in South Asia and Africa, in an all-stock deal, according to a statement Friday. The brands combined have 1.5 million active customers, Waada said, without disclosing the deal value. Waada also said it’s closed a seed round of $1.3 million from local angel investors and foreign venture capital firms.


Waada, The Insurance start-up has announce that the company has become the largest player among all technology-led start-ups in the country’s insurance segment after acquiring its rival company MicroEnsure Pakistan.

The Announcement was made on the startup’s Social media handle LinkedIn, In the announcement, it has been confirmed that deal has been locked however, company has not disclosed the details of the deal yet.

Separately, the company also announced a $1.3 million seed funding round. According to international news agency, the all-stock deal will bring the number of active customers of Wada to 1.5 million. “Waada aims to add customers using online sign-ups and has a goal to distribute 10m policies in three to five years,” it said.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan:Insurance market grows by nearly 22% in 2021

The insurance industry posted gross annual premium of PKR432bn ($1.9bn) in 2021, 21.7% higher than the PKR355bn chalked up in 2020, according to data compiled by the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP).


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Hong Kong Insurance Awards 2022 winners feted
Taiwan:Cathay Financial Holdings to raise at least US$1.4bn

Riaz Haq said...

HEC grants $525,000 to 15 startup businesses to boost entrepreneurship
Muhammad Faisal Kaleem

The Higher Education Commis-sion (HEC) has granted $525,000 to fifteen start-ups under the Innovator Seed Fund (ISF) program with the purpose to enhance the entrepreneurship, Daily Times has learnt.

As per available information 15 start-ups have won grants of up to $35,000 each in the Pitching competition. Initially, as many as 26 entrepreneurial teams shortlisted out of 186 applicants who have participated in the competition.

Chairman HEC Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed applauded the talent and potential of university students, graduates and researchers with regard to presenting solutions to local challenges.

He, however, underlined that Pakistan definitely faces problems, yet it is certain that problems bring opportunities with them, adding that various achievements of Pakistani academia and industry in the spheres of technology and innovation, he stressed that the young generation was blessed with the capabilities to sort out solutions to the challenges facing the country.

While recalling the start-up program, Dr Ahmed highlighted that Pakistan’s start-ups saw a record-breaking year of fund-raising in 2021 with over $350 million in funding. He noted that with collective and persistent efforts, this fledgling ecosystem can flourish further and safeguard Pakistani entrepreneurs through regulatory, networking, and funding opportunities.

During the pitching ceremony earlier, Dr. Shaista Sohail said Pakistan currently has the largest number of young people ever in its history, which makes it one of the youngest countries in the world. “This huge generation of young people can be the biggest asset of the country, if we are able to reap its potential by empowering and uplifting them.” She stressed the need for providing the youth the right kind of education and skills as well as the opportunities to fulfil their roles as responsible, productive citizens, and drivers of economic growth.

She noted that in many countries, startups and entrepreneurship play a very important role in job creation. She further observed that Pakistan’s startup ecosystem is still in its embryonic stage compared to other nations of the world. “There is a dire need to propel our efforts towards promotion of technology and innovation-based Startups in the country and to boost the overall Startup ecosystem,” she emphasised.

The grant winning start-ups included ezGeyser, mimAR Studios, Funkshan Tech Pvt. Ltd., and truID Technologies Pvt. Ltd. from National University of Sciences & Technology (NUST); Savvy Engineers Pvt. Ltd. and Arm Rehab Technologies from International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI); Avero Life Sciences from Institute of Management Sciences, Peshawar; Wonder Women from University of the Punjab; Orko Pvt. Ltd., Boltay Huroof, and Poter Pakistan from NED University of Engineering & Technology (UET), Karachi; VisionRD and Oxbridge Innovative Solutions Pvt. Ltd. from Bahria University Islamabad; 110 Innovate from IBA-Sukkur; and Shahruh Technologies Pvt. Ltd. from UET, Lahore.

Riaz Haq said...

Mobile banking doubles, internet banking grows by 51.7% in FY2021-22
As internet banking, POS, and eCommerce transactions post strong growth, the digital payments ecosystem is picking up steam

The overall number of payment cards, however, decreased during the year, from 45.9 million in 2020-21 to 42.4 million in 2021-22.

Bring in the fintech

According to the State Bank’s annual report, the four fully licensed EMIs (electronic money institution); Sadapay, Nayapay, Finja and CMPECC, combined had 262,558 total active accounts and 514,961 payment cards issued to their customers. Last year’s numbers on EMIs were not available for a comparison on how these numbers have grown.

The SBP has in the past has often emphasised on the potential fintech can play to boost digital payments and financial inclusion.

During his speech at the Institute of Banking Pakistan Annual Award Ceremony, Jameel Ahmad, Governor SBP stressed on the need for banks to revisit their traditional approach to service delivery and adapt quickly as digitalization shifts the balance of power from banks to tech savvy entities, hinting at the growing trend in fintech.

“Leveraging digital technology is essential not only to promote financial inclusion, but also to ensure that the industry keeps pace with emerging global trends,” opined Ahmed.

Speaking on the importance of technology, Ahmad quotes M-Pesa, a Kenyan fintech. “An often-cited success story is that of M-Pesa in Kenya, where it single-handedly drove mobile financial services availability and successfully raised financial services access in Kenya. “

Ahmad pointed out that a number of factors already exist in Pakistan that can help drive digital financial innovation and proliferation of a tech-based financial ecosystem. He pointed out that the nation has a fully functional digital ID system, ubiquity of mobile devices, penetration of mobile and broadband services, availability of faster payment rails, remote account opening process, and facilitative regulatory environment for enabling the entry of non-bank entities into the financial arena.

The Central Banker also points out that while fintech has brought competition, it also presents the sector with an opportunity to create synergies and mutually beneficial partnerships.

“Banks and Fintechs can partner with each other to provide innovative products for customers that are otherwise not viable on a standalone basis. For banks, such partnerships can help with penetration in untapped segments like retail businesses and Micro and Small Medium Enterprises, yielding beneficial outcomes for all stakeholders,” he said.

Encouraging the banks that are yet to make consistent and sustained moves toward technological transformation, Ahmad told them to make use of the digital bank frameworks and the instant payment system, RAAST, to position themselves for the future.

Riaz Haq said...

ONE Network, Cybernet complete first phase of cross-country long-haul fiber network

A new ultra-low latency long-haul fiber network is being deployed jointly by One Network, the largest ICT and Intelligent Traffic and Electronic Tolling System operator in Pakistan, and Cybernet, a leading fiber broadband provider. The network will span the entire length of the country and provide much-needed capacity and redundancy to the communications, internet, and media infrastructure in numerous cities, towns, and districts.

The first phase of the project, which includes 1,800 km of fiber network along motorways and road sections linking Karachi to Hyderabad (M-9 Motorway), Multan to Sukkur (M-5 Motorway), Abdul Hakeem to Lahore (M-3 Motorway), Swat Expressway (M-16), Lahore to Islamabad (M-2 Motorway) and separately from Lahore to Sialkot (M-11 Motorway), Gujranwala, Daska and Wazirabad have been deployed.

Both partners are now moving expeditiously to install and test a multi-terabit transport network and attain ready-for-service (RFS).

The second phase which includes Hyderabad to Sukkur, Multan to Pindi Bhattian (M-4 Motorway), Hazara Expressway (E-35), Hakla to D.I.Khan (M-14 Motorway), and Islamabad to Peshawar (M-1 Motorway) has commenced and is expected to go live by Q1 2023.

Based on learnings from disruptions due to infrastructure damages in recent floods, the project has implemented extra measures to withstand natural calamities. All critical components including optical networking equipment, distribution networks, and power systems are deployed in such a manner that they continue to function in a range of disaster scenarios. Furthermore, the network is being enhanced through multiple rings, and swap arrangements with other network providers to provide an unprecedented level of reliability.

Asif Siddique, CEO of One Network, said: “This national long-haul project is the backbone to enable One Network to deploy state-of-the-art platforms for electronic toll collection (ETC) and intelligent transportation systems (ITS) for our National Motorways – the economic backbone of our country. Built along the national motorways, the fiber transmission network will provide a robust information highway linking many Pakistani cities, towns, and districts. The infrastructure has been built, and will be maintained, by keeping in mind the capacity and communication needs for our nation and its citizens for the next 25 years”. The infrastructure shall also be available for all cellular mobile operators to provide quality of service to their 3G/4G subscribers along the motorway routes. “We are building safe and reliable long-haul fiber infrastructure with an aim to contribute to improving quality of service and digitalization efforts of the government of Pakistan,” added Mr. Asif Siddique.

Danish A. Lakhani, CEO of Cybernet, said, “Our goal is to provide a high-capacity fiber network that continues to function in critical times. With careful planning of the fiber plant including ring-based protection and regular, proactive maintenance we aim to construct a robust national fiber backbone for use by everyone – but one which will be owned and managed by local Pakistanis. Such a backbone will not only serve the people, businesses, and institutions of Pakistan but also meet the needs of international customers who require high-capacity, cross-border connectivity.”

The new long-haul network will also provide tremendous benefit to Cybernet’s own broadband service (StormFiber) by enabling the company to provide multi-terabit transmission uplink to its broadband access network.

“This transmission network will enable us to further our mission of transforming the Pakistani economy by bringing gigabit fiber broadband service –at an affordable price— to households and businesses in every major city of Pakistan. We are on track to roll out our FTTH-based triple play service to the 25th city in Pakistan by the end of the year”, added Lakhani.

Riaz Haq said...

Starlink’s technical plan being studied by PTA, other stakeholders

ISLAMABAD: The Starlink Internet Services has yet to satisfy the Pakistan Tele-communication Authority (PTA) and other stakeholders over its technical plan—being evaluated for the launch of services in the country, official sources revealed to Business Recorder.

According to official documents of the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication and the PTA, the technical plan submitted by Starlink is under evaluation by relevant stakeholders. The Government of Pakistan is in consultation with all stakeholders including SUPARCO, LEAs, PTA, and FAB to analyse the Starlink technical and business plan, as regional and various international countries are taking cautious approach to allow or deny Starlink due to respective satellite regimes as well as security aspects.

The documents further revealed that security clearance of Starlink and related technical vulnerabilities assessment especially its data hosting outside the country and utilization of laser technology from satellite to satellite without using Earth Gateways is being analyzed by Law Enforcement Agency. Further action of granting licence or otherwise will be taken by the PTA after clearance from all stakeholders.

In accordance with existing regulatory provisions, Long Distance and International (LD1) and Local Loop (LL) licencees of PTA are allowed to provide satellite-based telecommunication services in respective licenced region(s). Starlink Internet Services Pakistan (Pvt) Ltd (Starlink) which is owned by Starlink Holdings Netherlands BV, applied for LDI licence for Pakistan on 24th February 2022 along with 14 x LL licence for all Telecom Regions of Pakistan on 29th April 2022.

All stakeholders were intimated and Starlink case is being analysed from technical perspective on non-exclusive, non-interference, and non-protection basis.

Starlink Internet Services Pakistan (Pvt) Ltd (Starlink) approached Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to permit Starlink (SpaceX) to operate in Pakistan. Traditional satellites are operating in Pakistan in Geo Stationary Orbit (GSO) (at an altitude of 36000 kms). However, Starlink differs from GSO technically, as it operates in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) at an altitude between 250 to 500 kms, thus, provides low latency connectivity.

Starlink/SpaceX satellites can also communicate with many Ground Stations at a time and conversely, one ground station can connect to many starlink satellites. Satellite-to-satellite connectivity also exists through laser technology to effectively expand footprint in all areas.

Internet bandwidth is normally accessed from ground station within the country, where services are extended through starlink thus, optical fiber cable bandwidth is up/down linked through space stations and internet services are provided to the end user in the country.

The PTA officials on Monday also briefed the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication on the Starlink issue which met under the chairmanship of Senator Kauda Babar.

Officials said that this technology is still in its early stages and further progress could not be made due to some security concerns. Senator Afnanullah Khan said it was an excellent technology for providing internet services in remote areas and it was not appropriate to forego it just because of security concerns.

Chairman Committee, Senator Kauda Babar, formed a sub-committee to settle the matter and bring it to a logical end. The Sub-committee will sit with all the stakeholders and resolve the issues.

The officials revealed that SpaceX’s Starlink currently uses beta version which is not fully secured. The committee was informed that the technology was reportedly used in a drone attack in Ukraine while it was also reported in Afghanistan as well. The committee constituted a sub-committee to look into the matter and report back to it.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan inching towards establishing vibrant network of IT parks

ISLAMABAD-With digital growth going through a rapid evolution, Pakistan is inching towards establishing a vibrant network of state-of-the-art Information Technology (IT) parks aimed at providing young professionals a launching pad to execute their innovative ideas and contribute to the national economy efficiently.

The software technology parks would not only generate employment opportunities for IT professionals but also attract millions of dollars in precious foreign exchange, boost the IT industry, and increase exports, once they are completed and become fully operational.

Currently, work on establishing the IT parks in Karachi at the cost of Rs. 41 billion and Islamabad at the cost of Rs 13.72 billion is underway. Experts believe that after their completion, they would provide job opportunities to around 35,000 IT professionals collectively.

Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Syed Amin-ul-Haq said the Karachi IT Park would be a gateway for an innovative future and strengthen the economy. “Karachi IT Park is the largest IT project of its kind in Pakistan, which will benefit not only the citizens of Karachi but also the IT professionals and companies of Sindh and the rest of Pakistan,” he added.

Riaz Haq said...

Jazz and Huawei Successfully Accomplished Nationwide Rollout for FDD Massive MIMO in Pakistan

Jazz and Huawei have commercially deployed FDD (Frequency Division Duplexing) Massive MIMO (Multiple Input and Multiple Output) solution based on 5G technology in a large scale. The solution has been developed and tailored to the needs of boosting network capacity and user experience.
This customized solution has been the first launch of Jazz and Huawei, supporting Jazz leap into the 4.9G domain. This innovative solution has tremendously enhanced the network capacities along with superior 4G experience for the valued subscribers. The average network traffic increased by around 30% and the average single user speed increased by around 170%.

Jazz’s Chief Technology Officer, Khalid Shehzad said, “We see that our customers are increasingly using high-bandwidth applications which resultantly puts pressure on existing network capabilities. Massive MIMO essentially allows us the freedom to provide more data at greater speeds, enabling our customers to use the enhanced services on their existing 4G devices. Network speeds will be faster than ever, which will significantly improve the end-user experience. Jazz is committed to developing an ecosystem that supports the government’s Digital Pakistan vision and the evolving technology needs of individuals and businesses.”

Huawei provides the industry's unique intelligent beam scheduling and intelligent beamforming technology which are native for 5G. Massive MIMO improves the capability of the handsets to transmit more efficiently. Currently Huawei FDD Massive MIMO has been deployed in more than 70 networks and over 20,000 units have been shipped. The level of collaboration between Jazz and Huawei goes beyond to more domains. For example, the first 400G transmission, the first core network cloudification, the first large-scale commercial use of VoLTE, and the first 3G sunset city. In Pakistan, Jazz maintains a leading position in network performance and innovations, and it leads the development of the entire ICT industry.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan’s Agriculture-focused Fintech Digit++ Obtains Approval from State Bank

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), the nation’s central bank, has reportedly granted approval to the test launch of the country’s very first agriculture-focused Fintech platform, Digitt+ (providing an Electronic Money Institution or EMI permit).

Digitt+ is supported by Akhtar Fuiou Technologies (AFT), the firm revealed this past Friday.

According to the firm, the aim of this agri-Fintech app is to fully digitize the agricultural ecosystem, enable greater financial inclusion for local farmers and unbanked consumers via its tech, partnership, relationship with agri-businesses and FMCGs operating in Pakistan.

As reported by local sources, Digitt+ has teamed up with FuiouPay, an international payment solutions provider, in order to offer a market-based alternative to the traditional banking system.

As explained in the announcement, FuiouPay provides holistic enabling solutions via their 75 intellectual property licenses and proprietary software solutions.

Qasim Akhtar Khan, Founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Digitt+, noted that the firm will offer financial technology solutions to farmers residing in the country, who will have the option to open bank accounts and also gain access to credit and digital financial services – including easy bill payments, digital commerce, investments as well as fund transfers.

As noted in the update, the approval from the State Bank of Pakistan is a key milestone.

This ongoing initiative has the potential to address persistent food security issues, significantly improve yields and enhance human welfare in Pakistan, directly affecting local farmers and merchants, he stated.

Notably, Pakistan has been a significant agriculture powerhouse for many years. Agriculture employs around 50% of the nation’s workforce and also contributes approximately 25% to the GDP.

While this is considerable, the industry doesn’t have adequate access to financial services from the banking sector.

Ahmed Saleemi, CEO of Digitt+ explained that using tech to create digital financial products focusing on micro services to build a platform that should support the delivery of these solutions for the retail Agri market and corporate sector can be achieved via the provision of business tools.

Riaz Haq said...

Kalsoom Lakhani
1/Happy New Year! It's 2nd to last day of 2022, so that means time for the Q4 roundup of #Pakistan startup ecosystem funding, put together by our
Insights team. This was a ~slow~ quarter w/ startups in Q4 raising $14.9M, bringing our 2022 YTD total to $355M./


2/ The good news: our 2022 YTD number just *barely* surpassed our 2021 YTD number ($354M vs $355M), BUT it still did (woo!). The bad news: pace of funding slowed down significantly towards end of year -- in Q4 we raised just 8.6% what we did in Q1. This is both push & pull/


3/ a LOT of startups held off on raising at the end of the year in Pakistan & may open rounds early Q1 2023 (I know this qualitatively as a PK-focused VC who speaks to our portfolio companies often, this isn't a data-driven observation) & so too, a lot of VCs slowed down pace/


4/ towards the end of 2022, (us included!). My good friend
rightly predicts macro uncertainty will continue in 2023 so buckle down, but I do believe good companies w/ good economics will continue to raise in 2023 (tho vals will go down & it will take longer./


5/ On Monday, our Insights team will put out a pretty epic EOY roundup for ur viewing pleasure, so stay tuned! You can read our roundup & subscribe for more:
All raw data can be found here:

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Health Startups to transform under AKU-AP's Incubation Programme

National Health Incubator (NHI) is a first of its kind healthcare focused incubation programme designed to enable the development, deployment, and commercialization of select innovative and technology-driven solutions. It is run by Accelerate Prosperity (AP), a global initiative of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) in partnership with Aga Khan University (AKU).

Accelerate Prosperity is a global initiative of the Aga Khan Development Network in Central and South Asia which offers creative financial solutions and pre and post investment technical assistance to help start and grow innovative startups and small and growing businesses.

The Aga Khan University is a pioneering institution of higher education that works to improve quality of life in the developing world and beyond. The University operates programmes in campuses in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and the United Kingdom, and treats more than 2 million patients annually at 7 hospitals across more than 350 medical centres globally.

The NHI 2022 Demo Day took place on December 1, 2022 at Aga Khan University, Karachi with the on-ground support and facilitation of Critical Creative Innovative Thinking (CCIT) Forum – a unique innovation and incubation hub at AKU. A total of 19 health tech startups pitched their businesses at the Demo Day to get one-on-one feedback and secure financing from AP and external investors. The event provided an opportunity for AKU and AKDN leadership, entrepreneurs, investors and ecosystem partners to network, exchange industry knowledge, and build market linkages. The partnership between AP and AKU has been vital to the success of NHI and aims to fuel much-needed innovation in the entrepreneurial and startup ecosystem in Pakistan.

The incubated entrepreneurs went through months of rigorous one-on-one tailored business advisory and training to refine their business and financial models and were prepared to secure investment on the Demo Day. Entrepreneurs were also provided one-on-one mentoring sessions with leading sector experts to help them better understand industry dynamics and depth.

Incubated businesses represented tele-health, mental health, wellness and lifestyle transformation, and health-tech subsectors within the broader healthcare sector. Leading investors and ecosystem partners from Sarmayacar, I2I Ventures, Indus Valley Capital, TPL eVentures, Rayn, Neem, Insitor Partners, AlphaBetaCore amongst others were present at the event. The innovative and impactful business pitches kept the investors thoroughly engaged.

Nadeem Shaikh, Founder at Neem - An Embedded Finance Platform - said “It’s impressive each time I come to pitch days and get to witness the sheer amount of talent, innovative ideas aspiring, and new entrepreneurs are thinking about and the scale at which they’re thinking about is amazing.”

Dr. Carl Amrhein, Provost & Vice President, Academic at Aga Khan University said “We feel that fostering partnerships such as NHI will pave the way for the changing the entrepreneurial landscape in Pakistan. I commend the entire NHI team who worked so hard with entrepreneurs to get them investment ready and prepared for the Demo Day.”

Rohma Labeeb, Country Director at Accelerate Prosperity Pakistan said, “Over 60% of healthcare spend in Pakistan is by the private sector, which opens unlimited opportunities for businesses to come at the forefront to bring in efficiencies, quality and scale.”

Riaz Haq said...

Freelancers earn $400 million in FY22

The contribution of the freelancers accounted for 14.77% of the total information and communication technologies (ICT) export remittances of $2.616 billion recorded by the country during FY22.

Riaz Haq said...

The app (Sehat Kahani) was brought into the (Pakistani) federal government's 'Digital Pakistan' drive and used in 65 intensive care units (ICUs) across Pakistan under a project with UNDP, Health Services Academy and the federal and provincial governments. This allowed health workers to access critical care consultation through a Virtual Critical Care Specialist (VCCS).

n connection with that project, and in collaboration with WHO and the federal government of Pakistan, six clinics were launched in hard-to-reach areas of Pakistan during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a specific focus on sexual and reproductive healthcare services was also added to this project.

"Around 1,500 doctors across Baluchistan, KPK, and Punjab were trained in sexual reproductive services, primary healthcare, and telemedicine," says Dr Saeed.

"Telehealth services have the potential to bridge the gap between patients and physicians in Pakistan. However, poor education, illiteracy in rural areas, lack of resources, poor internet connectivity, excessive loadshedding, etc., have limited the accessibility of qualified doctors to reach to the population in remote areas," says Dr Zahid.


Sehat Kahani, established in 2017, is a leading initiative in this regard. Its founder, Dr Sara Saeed, is a medical doctor whose mission is to help shore up Pakistan's fragile healthcare system by bridging the gap between patients and physicians through digitalisation.

"As per recent statistics, around 210 million people in Pakistan don't have access to basic healthcare facilities. To address this, Sehat Kahani connects a vast network of predominantly female doctors to patients in far-flung areas of Pakistan," says Dr Saeed. She and cofounder Dr Iffat Zafar Agha managed to raise seed funding of US$ 500,000 in 2018, followed by a pre-series of $1 million in March 2021.

In 2019, the app launched with about 60 doctors. Today, Sehat Kahani comprises a large network of more than 7,000 doctors.

Ninety percent of those 7,000 doctors are women. Approximately 50% of them are home-based female doctors who have returned to practice after leaving when they got married and had children.

Riaz Haq said...

State Bank of Pakistan issues NOCs to five applicants for establishing digital bank

Central bank expects after commencement of operations, digital banks will promote financial inclusion by providing affordable/cost effective digital financial services to unserved and underserved segments

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) on Friday said that it has issued no-objection certificates (NOC) to five applicants for establishing digital banks in the country.

The following are the ones issued the NOC:

I) Easy Paisa DB (Telenor Pakistan B.V & Ali Pay Holding Ltd.),

II) Hugo Bank (Getz Bros & Co., Atlas Consolidated Pte. Ltd. and M & P Pakistan Pvt. Ltd.);

III) KT Bank (Kuda Technologies Ltd., Fatima Fertilizer Ltd. and City School Pvt. Ltd.);

IV) Mashreq Bank (Mashreq Bank UAE); and

V) Raqami (Kuwait Investment Authority through – PKIC and Enertech Holding Co.)

In January 2022, the SBP introduced a licensing and regulatory framework for digital banks.

“The Framework was the first step towards introducing full-fledged digital banks in Pakistan. The digital banks are expected to provide all the banking services through digital means without any need for their customers to visit the bank branches physically,” said the SBP.

Race to digital banking – final round

In response to SBP’s Licensing and Regulatory Framework for digital banks, the central bank received twenty (20) applications from a diverse range of interested players such as commercial banks, microfinance banks, electronic money institutions and Fintech firms by March 31, 2022.

“Further, a number of foreign players including venture capital firms already operating in the digital banking space also expressed their interest to venture into Pakistani market directly or in collaboration with local partners. The five (05) applicants were selected after a thorough and rigorous assessment process as per the requirements of the Framework.

Bank Alfalah launches QR payment solution with SnapRetail

“Applicants were assessed on various parameters that included fitness and propriety, experience and financial strength; business plan; implementation plan; funding and capital plan; IT and cybersecurity strategy and outsourcing arrangements, etc. Further, all the applicants were given the opportunity to present their business case to SBP.

“Going forward, each of these five applicants will incorporate a public limited company with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan. Afterwards, they will approach SBP for In-Principle Approval for demonstrating operational readiness and for commencement of operations under the pilot phase. Subsequently, they will commercially launch their operations after obtaining SBP’s approval.”

The SBP said it expects that after commencement of their operations, these digital banks will promote financial inclusion by providing affordable/cost effective digital financial services including credit access to unserved and underserved segments of the society.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistani startup using Artificial Intelligence to help farmers

Artificial intelligence solution for the farmers to yield more crops with reduced quantity of water resources. Pakistan has great potential of agriculture and its water spending is based on irrigation. To avoid the water crisis situation in the future, this startup is helping farmers using AI …

While the water shortage is reaching an alarming level in Pakistan and the country on the edge of drying out by 2025, an interesting Pakistani startup ‘Aqua Agro’, incubated In National Incubation Center Karachi, has come up with an artificial intelligence solution for the farmers to yield more crops with reduced quantity of water resources.

The startup has used natively developed solar-powered IOT enabled devices and deployed them in the fields to monitor ecological conditions such as soil wetness, temperature, humidity, and various other parameters. All this data collected from the farms is then sent to an AI based cloud platform that makes the decision for the farmers on whether the crop needs irrigation or not.

Pakistan is a country with great potential of agriculture. Its main natural resource is the land capable of being ploughed and used to grow crops. About 25% of Pakistan's agriculture accounts for about 21% of GDP and employs about 43% of the labour force. Hence, Pakistan’s water spending is based on irrigation. To avoid the water crisis situation in the future, it is necessary to cut down on water currently being used in irrigation and startup in question is helping the business exactly.

The idea has been proved to save 50% of the water as compared to the water consumption using legacy practices. Moreover, a pragmatic increase in the crop yield is observed. Farmers are notified about watering the crops through SMS, email and a mobile application.

The startup aims to raise funds for deploying the technology for 50 small-scale farmers of Pakistan by January 2019. For this purpose, Aqua Agro is running a crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo.

Those enthusiasts who are willing to make a payment to this cause, can back Aqua Agro’s crowd-funding campaign and become a part of the cause to combat water crisis which will help the country’s agriculture sector survive with reduced water resources and radiate an overall positive effect on the country’s economy.

Riaz Haq said...

#Fintech #startup #AdalFi raises $7.5 million in seed funding to fix #Pakistan's broken lending system. It provides #AI-powered credit scoring and underwriting models, along with critical infrastructure to power smart, instant loans for #consumers & #SMEs

AdalFi, a Pakistan-based fintech providing credit scoring data and lending technology to banks, has raised $7.5 million in Seed funding.

The funding round was led by Cotu Ventures, Chimera Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures and Zayn Capital alongside angel investors including execs from Plaid.

AdalFi says it's ambition is to fix Pakistan's "broken" loans market, which currently relies on banks performing multiple manual checks on customers in the absence of any reliable credit scoring data.

The AdalFi tech stack provides AI-powered credit scoring and underwriting models, alongside the critical infrastructure to power smart, instant loans for consumers and SMEs. These include unsecured loan products such as term loans, credit cards and revolving finance facilities for consumers and SMEs respectively.

Within two years, AdalFi has signed up 14 banks - including seven out of the top ten - and grown loan volumes by 30% month on month for the last 19 months.

AdalFi operates on a revenue sharing model which captures any downside risk exposure to banks such that any loan losses are accounted for, pro-rata, in fees due to AdalFi.

Salman Akhtar, CEO and co-founder of AdalFi comments: “Pakistan has 50 million bank accounts yet only two million of these individuals and businesses have any credit relationship with their bank. The high cost of loan origination driven by physical verification of identity, assets and financial health (in the absence of credit scoring) has restricted credit access to a thin, top tier of customers. AdalFi’s digital lending platform allows partner banks to instantly credit score the other 95% of their existing customers who have never been lent to and cross-sell loans to them.”

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The rocky road ahead for Pakistan’s start-up ecosystem | fDi Intelligence – Your source for foreign direct investment information -

Alex Irwin-Hunt
February 22, 2023

Based out of the NED University of Engineering and Technology, NIC Karachi is funded by Pakistan’s national technology fund, Ignite, and operated by LMKT, a private tech company which runs two other NICs in the cities of Hyderabad and Peshawar.

Atif Khan, the chairman and CEO of LMKT, says the philosophy behind the incubation centres “was not to create unicorns”, but to act as digital skills development centres: “We are training and grooming a lot of talent in the country.”

NIC Karachi has already incubated more than 250 start-ups, such as ride-hailing app Bykea and London-based proptech platform Gridizen. Kamran Mahmood, the CEO of Gridizen, who recently returned to Pakistan to join NIC Karachi, says he has found it even easier to meet decision makers at large companies in Pakistan than the UK.

“[NIC Karachi] is doing an excellent job of internationalising and progressing the start-up scene in the country,” he says. Data Darbar figures show that Karachi-based start-ups attracted $236.7m of funding in 2022, equivalent to two-thirds of Pakistan's total and almost double the previous year. The financial capital is followed by Lahore ($69.2m) and Islamabad ($41.6m).


In July 2022, Pakistan’s fledgling start-up scene was dealt a major blow. Airlift, a fast delivery start-up that had raised $85m barely a year earlier, said it would permanently close operations due to the “devastating impact” of worsening economic conditions.

“This has been an extremely taxing decision that impacts a large set of stakeholders and an emerging technology ecosystem,” Airlift wrote in a statement. Start-up failures are common in more mature markets, and seen as an integral part of the innovation and disruption process. But the collapse of a company hoped to be Pakistan’s first ‘unicorn’, or start-up valued at above $1bn, rattled the country’s nascent tech scene.

Several advisors, investors and entrepreneurs tell fDi that Airlift’s failure has caused Pakistani start-up founders and investors to shift their focus away from pursuing “hyper-growth” to building more “sustainable” business models.

Similar to the caution permeating the global tech and venture capital (VC) industry, start-up funding in Pakistan has dropped considerably. Start-ups in Pakistan raised just over $15m in the final quarter of 2022, the worst volumes since the first quarter of 2020 and 79% lower than the same period a year earlier, according to Data Darbar, which tracks the Pakistani start-up scene.

“Given the global slowdown and Pakistan’s macroeconomic and political challenges, things are tough right now and will likely remain so in 2023,” says Aatif Awan, the founder of early stage venture fund Indus Valley Capital, which is focused on Pakistan and had invested in Airlift.

Several acute challenges currently facing the country — including dwindling foreign exchange reserves, security issues, blackouts and severe flood risks — are causing many young Pakistanis to leave. Despite significant obstacles, those involved in Pakistan’s ecosystem believe that the country’s demographics and rapidly digitalising economy make it an untapped opportunity with potential for long-term growth.

Democratising technology

When Shamim Rajani co-founded her software development business Genetech Solutions in Pakistan’s commercial capital Karachi back in 2004, she remembers a “lot of stubbornness” from the government and local corporates towards the IT sector.

“Pakistan wasn’t [even] ready for women CEOs in the tech sector then,” remarks Ms Rajani, adding that she had to look for global clients in countries like the US. “Saying these words today, I don’t even believe it myself.”

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Internet Startup Maqsad Scores Pakistan’s Biggest Edtech Round

European seed investor Speedinvest leads round by Karachi firm
Company bets on rising demand for after-school tutoring

Pakistan’s Maqsad raised the nation’s largest funding round by an education technology provider, showing that some startups in the nascent market are attracting investors despite a global venture financing slump.

The Karachi-based company raised $2.8 million in an oversubscribed seed round led by Speedinvest GmbH, one of Europe’s largest seed investors, and existing backer Indus Valley Capital, according to co-founder Rooshan Aziz. Stellar Capital, Alter Global and angel investors also participated.

Riaz Haq said...

Internet Startup Maqsad Scores Pakistan’s Biggest Edtech Round

European seed investor Speedinvest leads round by Karachi firm

Company bets on rising demand for after-school tutoring

Pakistan’s Maqsad raised the nation’s largest funding round by an education technology provider, showing that some startups in the nascent market are attracting investors despite a global venture financing slump.
The Karachi-based company raised $2.8 million in an oversubscribed seed round led by Speedinvest GmbH, one of Europe’s largest seed investors, and existing backer Indus Valley Capital, according to co-founder Rooshan Aziz. Stellar Capital, Alter Global and angel investors also participated.

Pakistan’s venture funding was little changed at about $350 million last year, but startups including AdalFi and Truckrr have raised sizable rounds for the market this year. The nation has the world’s fifth-largest population with a high proportion of young people.

“The ecosystem is going through a bit of a shake, but the companies which you know are solving fundamental basic problems, they’ll survive,” Aziz said in an interview. Maqsad’s operations are relatively lean and scalable and its education content always remains relevant, Aziz said.

Education spending in Pakistan is estimated at $37 billion by 2032 with a quarter of this going to after-school academic support, the target market for Maqsad, according to the startup. The mobile-only service targets students on grades nine to twelve and offers cheaper rates than brick-and-mortar tutoring companies. Its services include a feature that allows students to take a photo of a question and receive an answer instantly.

The app has been downloaded more than a million times and it has answered 4 million queries in the past 6 months. The startup can impact millions of students and become one of the most successful businesses in Pakistan, said Philip Specht, a partner at Speedinvest, which has one edtech unicorn in its portfolio.

The startup was founded by high-school friends Taha Ahmed and Aziz, who went to the London School of Economics and worked in the city before returning to Karachi to start the venture. The startup will start monetization in the coming months and may partner with other public and private institutions, Aziz said.

“This is an interesting time for edtech because globally the hype has kind of settled down after Covid,” said Ahmed. “So only serious companies are being funded in this space.”

Riaz Haq said...

Tech Destination Pakistan: Showcasing IT Prowess at LEAP 2023 in Saudi Arabia

Despite the prevailing economic crunch and challenges put forward by the uncertain situation, Pakistan’s IT sector made waves with its notable presence at LEAP 23 in Riyadh under the banner of ‘TechDestination Pakistan’.

This was very encouraging from an economic and business opportunities standpoint. PSEB’s renewed approach to branding Pakistan as a lucrative tech destination and enhancing its international presence has been exemplary.

With success at LEAP, Pakistan has proven that it is ready to take on the world and is open for business.

LEAP is an unparalleled tech event that brings together the brightest minds in the industry from across the globe, providing a dynamic platform for tech innovators, industry leaders, and top experts to collaborate, explore new innovations, establish valuable partnerships, and engage with influential mentors and investors.

The convention generated over $9 billion in business and was attended by over 172,000 individuals, including global tech leaders, IT professionals, speakers, tech gurus, and investors, making it the fastest-growing tech event in the world.

The Pakistan Pavilion, organized by the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) and the Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB), featured 18 top IT/ITeS companies from various verticals

These included 10 start-ups showcasing cutting-edge solutions in areas such as AI, IoT, blockchain & crypto, robotics, 3D printing, space and satellites, biotech, quantum, fintech, 5G, open source, unmanned systems, and data services.

The pavilion was launched by His Excellency Ambassador Ameer Khurram Rathore, and six MoUs were signed between Pakistani IT companies and international companies.

Pakistani startup, SnapRetail, made it to the final round of the Rocket Fuel Startup Pitch competition, demonstrating the true potential and innovation capabilities of Pakistan’s IT industry.

PSEB’s Managing Director, Mr. Junaid Imam, encouraged Pakistani IT companies to participate in future LEAP events, leveraging it as a platform for networking and showcasing their presence in the IT sector.

Additionally, PSEB Director Business Development and Partnerships, Mr. Shahbaz Hameed, shared the organization’s ambitious vision of positioning Pakistan as a leading tech destination and striving to enhance Pakistan’s brand image internationally.

PSEB provided great assistance to the IT industry at LEAP, including organizing B2B sessions with prominent Saudi Companies to promote business expansion and foster new partnerships.

The success of LEAP Riyadh has created a ripple effect of businesses and investments for Pakistani IT companies, and they look forward to their participation in the upcoming editions.

PASHA, the independent IT association, assisted PSEB in yielding maximum mileage from the LEAP exhibition.

Pakistan sees this as a perfectly timed opportunity to showcase its IT/ITeS companies on an international trade platform and expand business in the Middle East market, especially in Saudi Arabia, which is undergoing transformation by implementing its Vision 2030.

Saudi Arabia’s economy is the largest in the Middle East and among the top twenty economies in the world, with a significant share of the tech industry.

Despite facing challenges, Pakistan has managed to make a mark in the tech industry with its participation in this mega event.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistani delivery #startup Trax raises $3.7 million in early seed #investment, seeking to benefit from growth in the country’s nascent #ecommerce market. Round led by #US-based Amaana Capital and Tricap Investments of #UAE. PNO Ventures also invested.

Trax, a logistics-based startup for the digital economy, announced on Friday that it raised $3.7 million in seed funding from a consortium of strategic investors.

The round was co-led by US-based Amaana Capital, making its second direct investment into Pakistan, and UAE-based Tricap Investments. PNO Ventures committed to the round along with angel investors including Omer Ismail (CEO of One, a Walmart-backed fintech) and Jahanzeb Sherwani (a Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur).

Pakistan to produce a unicorn by 2025: Endeavor Managing Partner Allen Taylor

The company aims to use the investment to accelerate the growth of its logistics services alongside introduction of new business verticals such as fintech and technology solutions for its customers.

“We have built Trax with hard work and passion while funding ourselves because of our strong belief in the model,” said Trax Founder and CEO Hassan Khan.

“This funding will allow us to accelerate our journey as we continue to solve problems for the e-commerce and logistics industry through our tech solutions,” he said.

“Our new partners will help open doors for us to markets outside Pakistan and guide us to launch new verticals as we take the firm from a logistics company to one that solves connectivity issues and enhances financial inclusion in Pakistan.”

This partnership will also enable the firm to take all of this learning to the regional and then the global stage and make Trax a brand that Pakistanis are truly proud of, he said.

295 start-ups incubated since inception: NIC Islamabad helped attract over Rs7bn in investment

Launched in mid-2017, Trax is one of the logistics players in the Pakistani e-commerce sector.

Trax has built the third-largest delivery network in Pakistan with access to 95% of the population, served through over 100 warehouses, hubs, and retail centers nationwide.

The company also has a by-road fast-transit line haul system for e-commerce improving lead times while reducing costs for their clients.

Trax works with over 7,000 ecommerce merchants and also has clients in the banking, pharmaceuticals, FMCG and manufacturing industries with a team of almost 2,000 individuals.

Suleman Soorani, Partner at Tricap Investments, said: “We are impressed with Trax’s innovative approach to logistics and their commitment to providing high quality solutions to their customers. Trax has an exceptional leadership team and a proven track record of delivering scale.”

Aziz Hashim, Managing Partner at Amaana Capital, echoed similar sentiments. “We are confident that Trax’s strong leadership team, coupled with our investment, will enable the company to continue to expand its operations and become the leading logistics player in Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Aatif Awan
1/ Starting from Pakistan's heartland & now expanding to the world's farm (Brazil), what a journey it's been for the
team. Congrats to them on launching AgromAI, a fintech venture in Brazil that leverages AI & geospatial data to create agri financial solutions


Aatif Awan
2/ Think insurers having highly accurate, individual farm-level intelligence to underwrite crop insurance. Imagine banks using the same information to provide credit to farmers. At $170+ billion, Brazil is one of the top agri markets. Crop insurance alone is at ~ $2B annually


Aatif Awan
3/ What's amazing is that the tech is built in Pakistan by Pakistani product and engineering talent. And it's finding traction in one of the largest markets for agritech


Aatif Awan
4/ Really proud of the Farmdar founders
, Ibrahim Akbar Bokhari and the entire Farmdar team on this huge milestone. Congrats team!

We hope this will inspire many other "Made in Pakistan, For the World" products


Pakistan’s Farmdar Has Just Launched a New FinTech Startup in Brazil

Named ‘AgromAI’, Farmdar’s fintech startup in Brazil will use artificial intelligence (AI) and geospatial data to provide financial services
Pakistan based agri-tech startup ‘Farmdar’ has just announced the launch of its new fintech venture. What’s unique about this new expansion is the fact that it is based in Brazil; a new industry in a new country, sounds exciting right?

Named ‘AgromAI’, Farmdar’s new fintech startup will utilize artificial intelligence (AI) and geospatial data in order to provide financial services, but how would it do so?

Well, according to Farmdar co-founder and CEO Muzaffar Manghi, Latin America is going through a severe climate change, therefore both rainfall and temperatures are evolving at a massive speed, putting both insurers and agricultural business at risk.

AgromAI, using its geospatial data and artificial intelligence systems, will make sure that financial institutions and insurers can avoid and respond to these risks. Having individual farm-level intelligence, these insurers and institutions will have the best insurance risk management in place, allowing an increased productivity and growth in Brazil’s agricultural sector.

“Pakistani technology will be used by some of the largest businesses in the world, and with more developed markets as a stomping ground,” said CEO Muzaffar Manghi while talking about the new startup.

“We are extremely proud to export our artificial intelligence and data-backed products developed solely by Pakistani engineers. This is a testament to the innovation of Pakistani talent and their potential to make a contribution to the global agritech industry,” said Farmdar in its official press release.

Agriculture makes up for a large part of the Brazilian economy, with the country being the world’s third-largest exporter of agricultural products and an agricultural production valued at $170+ billion, whereas Brazil’s crop insurance market, the primary target for AgromAI, accounts for over $9+ billion annually.

Riaz Haq said...

TPL Maps - Pakistan’s first consumer navigation app set to revolutionise travel

TPL Maps, a subsidiary of TPL Corp, announced the launch of their consumer navigation app, the nation’s first smart maps application that brings cutting-edge location data, location intelligence, and GIS services to both corporate institutions and individual users. The app is set to transform the way mapping is done in Pakistan, while also empowering businesses to harness the power of location-based data and intelligence for scaling their operations.

TPL Maps, debuted the beta version of the app on Monday August 14, 2023. This ground-breaking app designed to provide local users with fuel-efficient route optimisation, public transport and mass transit information, and hyper-local landmark-based navigation, all in one platform.

“We are thrilled to introduce the TPL Maps app, a game-changer in the mapping landscape of Pakistan,” said Sarwar Khan, CEO - TPL Maps. “Our team of Pakistani engineers and data scientists worked tirelessly to create a comprehensive mapping solution that caters to both individual users and corporate entities. With its advanced features and unparalleled accuracy, TPL Maps will redefine how Pakistanis navigate and how corporations utilise location-based data.”

As the pioneer in Pakistan’s location technology industry, TPL Maps boasts the largest localised data catalogue of over 8 million Points of Interest, spanning more than 350 cities nationwide. The app boasts a robust database maintained and expanded by a team of over 100 dedicated employees, including 20 skilled data scientists.

Their dedication to innovation is further reinforced by the wealth of big data that fuels TPL Maps. With inputs from over 8 million Point of Interest, a road network spanning over 1 million kilometers, and a comprehensive archive of over 550,000 cartograms, the app offers unparalleled precision and detail in its mapping services.

During its two years in operation, TPL Maps has earned the trust of local and international brands alike by leveraging the power of location. Its seamless integration of location intelligence and GIS services has enabled businesses to make data-driven decisions, optimise resource allocation, and increase their revenues.

“Through TPL Maps, we aim to empower businesses across Pakistan to understand the significance of location and harness its potential for business growth,” said Khan. “With our strong grasp over location technology, we are here to guide our clients on how they can leverage location data and intelligence to drive business performance, identify cost-saving opportunities, and improve their overall efficiency.”

The launch of TPL Maps marks a significant milestone in the evolution of location intelligence in Pakistan. Its user-friendly interface, paired with a wealth of accurate and up-to-date data, positions TPL Maps as the industry leader in providing smart mapping solutions that cater to diverse needs.

To experience the power of TPL Maps firsthand, users can download the app from the App Store/Play Store, available for both iOS and Android devices and Flutter. For corporate institutions looking to scale their operations and optimise performance, TPL Maps is ready to provide personalised solutions tailored to their unique requirements, offering 30,000 free hits for trial.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistani FinTech Neem secures strategic investment from DNI Group

It has been announced that Neem, an innovative Pakistani FinTech startup, has entered into a strategic partnership with DNI Group.

Neem is renowned for its commitment towards revolutionising financial accessibility and inclusivity across emerging markets, particularly in Pakistan.

The company has secured significant financial investment from DNI Group, a globally recognised investment firm with operations across 28 countries. The deal signifies a vote of confidence in the embedded finance model and is reflective of the burgeoning Pakistani digital tech ecosystem.

Neem is in the process of developing a Banking-as-a-Service platform. Their vision is to foster financial wellness among underserved communities. The business aims to empower numerous digital platforms across different industries, by offering their customers a comprehensive suite of embedded finance products through secure, API-based integrations.

The new funding will further strengthen Neem’s commitment to financial wellness, an ethos that revolves around the principle that individuals and businesses can take control of their financial lives with the right tools and access.

It is also expected to enhance Neem’s collaboration with other portfolio companies under the DNI Group umbrella, such as Airvantage, an airtime lending firm, and Paymenow, an earned wage access solution provider.

Neem has always sought to make a significant impact in its homeland of Pakistan, whilst nurturing the ambition to expand into other emerging markets in the long term. With the strategic investment from DNI Group, Neem believes it has found an experienced global partner capable of aiding them to realise this goal.

Ross Venter, CEO of DNI’s technology arm, Digital Ecosystems, expressed his excitement about the partnership. He said, “DNI is thrilled to join forces with Neem, a team of like-minded individuals operating in a vibrant, growing economy.

“Neem’s mission to provide financial wellness to the Pakistani market aligns perfectly with DNI’s objectives of empowering people and enhancing financial and digital inclusion. Through DNI’s strategic investment in Neem, we aim to accelerate the development, exchange, and commercialisation of our respective technologies for the benefit of consumers within our global communities.”

Despite challenging macroeconomic circumstances, the digital ecosystem in Pakistan continues to thrive and innovate. Neem is unwavering in its commitment to fostering financial resilience and prosperity for the people of Pakistan and beyond.

Riaz Haq said...

Google Gen AI on Agtech in Pakistan:

Pakistan is one of the world's largest producers and suppliers of food and crops. The country's agriculture sector consists of four subsectors:
Food and fiber crops
Horticulture and orchards
Livestock and dairy
Fisheries and forestry
Pakistan's major crops include wheat, cotton, rice, sugarcane, and maize. These crops contribute around 4.9% to the country's total GDP.
Some of the top agriculture startups in Pakistan include: Pak Agri Market, ZD&K Farms, Radical Growth, Mohalla, Khalis Fertilizers.
Some of the top agritech startups in Pakistan include:
Tazah Technologies
Agriculture Republic Pakistan
Crop2X Private Limited
Fowrry Technologies Private Limited
Startups in Pakistan are developing IoT solutions for smart irrigation, such as solar-powered tube wells, or for animal data, such as Cowlar, a solar-powered fitbit for cows.

Riaz Haq said...

Why aren’t farmers using new tech?
Kai Ryssdal and Sofia Terenzio
Aug 30, 2023

Agtech, short for agriculture technology, is a growing industry that’s using data tools and software to help farmers improve yields and use fewer resources.

With population growth increasing the global demand for food and climate change hurting crop yields, a swift adoption of agtech may be needed now more than ever. Yet, farmers are hesitant about embracing these new technologies.

What’s in the way of farmers quickly adopting agtech, and how can the industry get more farmers on board?

“Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal talked to reporter Belle Lin from the Wall Street Journal about her recent article on why so few farmers are using agtech. Below is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Kai Ryssdal: Could we have a quick primer, please? What is agtech?

Belle Lin: Absolutely. Agriculture technology, agtech is really the set of tools — both hardware and software — that enables farmers growers to really get the most out of their farming resources and inputs and up boosting their yields. So that’s really the goal of this kind of current wave of farm technology. But it’s really the kind of larger ecosystem software, hardware, robotics, tractors autonomous maybe that allow farmers to kind of do their work with greater efficiency.

Ryssdal: So two things that you said there one yield and current wave, we’ll get to the yield in a minute. But I want to talk about current wave, because as you pointed out, in this piece, it’s been a decade-ish, that that sort of the bigger picture, agtech thing has been a thing.

Lin: That’s right. So it’s about a decade since data analytics and what’s sometimes known as Big Data came around. So, these massive amounts of data that oftentimes companies collect, can also be collected on Americans farms, where some of the environments where the richest data is to be collected. You can collect it on almost every single specific piece of land on the soil itself on the seeds that are planted, where they’re planted down to the type of pesticide that is applied to a single weed where that weed is located. So you can understand, you know, how specific these things can get. And that’s related to this idea of precision agriculture, where all these like very specific inputs tailored to a specific farm, help a farmer to end up doing their work in a way that’s more informed by that data, and boosts their yields with fewer resources.

Ryssdal: Right, so to that yield thing, that’s the name of this whole game — it’s getting more stuff out of the ground per acre farmed than they did before. And there’s an amazing statistic in here it says, according to the Department of Agriculture in 2017, farmers using digital soil maps, which are part of this technology produced about 49% higher winter wheat yields than farmers who didn’t. Again, that’s USDA data. And yet, the thrust of this piece is that farmers almost have too much data and kind of know what to do with it.

Lin: Yeah, absolutely. So not only is there this kind of challenge of getting farmers to use these tools, but once they’ve used them, they face this kind of data paralysis, which is how a farmer described this to me, he’s farming corn and soybean. He feels like he’s collecting so much data on all these different parts of his farm, that he doesn’t know what to do with it. And so that’s a huge problem as well across sectors where, you know, big data, data analytics has promised to kind of deliver all these efficiencies and productivity gains. But oftentimes, what consumers and these farmers feel is that they don’t have that background to say, “OK, now that I know the moisture levels of all my soil, this is what I should do,” right.

Riaz Haq said...

Why aren’t farmers using new tech?
Kai Ryssdal and Sofia Terenzio
Aug 30, 2023

Lin: Yeah, absolutely. So not only is there this kind of challenge of getting farmers to use these tools, but once they’ve used them, they face this kind of data paralysis, which is how a farmer described this to me, he’s farming corn and soybean. He feels like he’s collecting so much data on all these different parts of his farm, that he doesn’t know what to do with it. And so that’s a huge problem as well across sectors where, you know, big data, data analytics has promised to kind of deliver all these efficiencies and productivity gains. But oftentimes, what consumers and these farmers feel is that they don’t have that background to say, “OK, now that I know the moisture levels of all my soil, this is what I should do,” right.

Ryssdal: I do not want to sound by any means ageist here, and apologies to the young farmers out there. But the average age of a farmer in this economy right now, as you point out is like 58.

Lin: Yeah, and that’s a big problem. Those folks are not as accustomed to utilizing technology to help inform their decisions.

Ryssdal: This is perhaps a little bit of field. But there’s an infrastructure part of this as well, right, in that a lot of almost all of this probably counts on connectivity and broadband. And I imagine if you’re out in in wherever you are on the Great Plains connectivity might be bad, you might not have service.

Lin: Yeah, that’s a great point. All of what we’re talking about in terms of agtech relies on having that internet connection, reliable way of streaming the data that you collect. And so connectivity is a major problem on farms that are far flung or not as connected to the internet speeds that people in cities are used to. And so one of the problems that farmers run into is that when they’re driving their equipment over a hill, for instance, you might have connectivity and one side of the hill, but you don’t on the other.

Ryssdal: Not to put a depressing punctuation mark on this conversation, but there are — I honestly can’t remember if it’s 8 or 9 billion people on this planet now — but there are going to be more in the future. And we have to feed them all. And this is part of the way we’re going to do it and adjust to climate change too, by the way.

Lin: Yeah, theoretically, farmers could boost their yields, and that would generate more food to feed the world’s growing and hungry population, and also in a way that they’re using fewer resources. So that’s the promise of it all, but right now it’s falling a bit short.

Riaz Haq said...

Faseeh Mangi
Pakistani startup raises $1.2 million to assemble electric motorcycles and operate on a battery swap model

The investment round was led by Indus Valley Capital for Zyp Technologies