As Pakistan joins a regional startup financing boom, Airlift Technologies Pvt. has raised the biggest single private investment round in the country’s history, ahead of plans to enter international markets.
As per details, with involvement from former Y Combinator president Sam Altman, the Lahore-based online retail delivery company received $85 million in Series B funding headed by Harry Stebbings of 20VC and Josh Buckley of Buckley Ventures Ltd. According to a data tracker from venture capitalist firm Invest2Innovate, it would be the largest-ever investment for a Pakistani company.
Pakistan is “in the very early stages, but the transformation is happening very, very quickly and we are seeing a shift in behavior,” Airlift co-founder Usman Gul said in an interview. “We have a lot of people who previously didn’t shop online.”
The investment in Pakistan, a country with a population of more than 200 million people and a nascent digital sector, parallels a surge of investment over the border in India.
According to Invest2Innovate statistics, Pakistani entrepreneurs, most of which are focused on e-commerce, raised a record $101 million in the first half of this year, compared to $66 million in all of 2020. That still pales in comparison to its neighbor, where technology companies made a record $6.3 billion in the second quarter.
The investment comes after Airlift switched to e-commerce with 30-minute shipping in September after the epidemic forced them to abandon their primary business of providing air-conditioned bus trips. It joins a very competitive market across the globe, where supermarkets and e-commerce companies like Dunzo, Gorillas, Getir, and GoPuff compete for fast deliveries in congested areas ranging from Delhi to New York and London.
The total money raised by Pakistani startups in the first half of the year is equal to the amount raised by Airlift. According to statistics collected by Bloomberg, it also surpasses the biggest initial public offering by the private sector in the United States.
It now intends to expand to 15 Pakistani cities by the end of the year, up from the existing eight. It’s also on a recruiting frenzy, with ambitions to increase its core staff to 400 people by the end of next year, according to Gul. In approximately three months, the firm plans to join a growing market abroad.
“Very quickly we realised that the distribution of consumer goods was quite broken,” he said. “I ordered groceries and had to wait six hours to get that delivery. So we wanted to change that.”