Pakistani mobility startup Airlift has raised $10 million in fresh funds from new and existing investors, it announced in a statement to MENAbytes today. The round, Series A-1, comes just eight months after Airlift closed $12 million in country’s largest Series A, and takes its total raise to date to over $24 million.
“Airlift’s financing round marks one of the largest capital investments in the region, at a time when the risk of a global recession is at an all-time high. The investment marks a new high for the Pakistani startup ecosystem, highlighting the unique opportunity that is prevalent in the region,” said the startup in a statement.
The round was led by San Francisco-based Quiet Capital with participation of London-based TrueSight Ventures & RT Ventures, Abu Dhabi-based Shorooq Partners, Taiwan-based ACE Capital, and some other local partners. Existing investors including San Francisco-based First Round Capital (that had led Airlift’s Series A), Fatima Gobi Ventures and Indus Valley Capital also joined the round.
Launched last year, Airlift enables users to book rides on premium quality buses that have fixed routes, stops, and times, in Lahore & Karachi. It had temporarily suspended its services due to Covid-19 in March earlier this year and hasn’t resumed them until now as the number of cases in Pakistan continues to grow.
“Given the Covid-19 threat, Airlift is committed to keeping our transit operations on pause until the situation stabilizes. Our team remains excited to resume transit operations once the worst of the pandemic is behind us,” it said in a statement to MENAbytes.
Expansion into grocery delivery
The Pakistani startup is now expanding into groceries with the launch of its 45-minute grocery delivery service in Lahore. The service called Airlift Grocer is launching today after running a private beta for over a month. It is available through a dedicated website and mobile apps, allowing users to order groceries and other household essentials. It charges a flat fee of less than a dollar (PKR 100 or $0.6) for every order.
“We are excited to team up with investors who share our vision of building a decentralized logistics platform, as well as our commitment to create a positive impact in the region,” noted the statement.
It’s being operated as a pure-play with Airlift having its own inventory and warehouse to fulfill the orders. The riders that Airlift is using to deliver the orders are freelancers.
Grocery delivery is already a crowded space in Pakistan but there are very few players that offer fast same-day delivery and that’s the problem that Airlift is trying to solve.
Usman Gul, the co-founder and CEO of Airlift, speaking to MENAbytes, explained that the service is built around speed and optionality, “We want to offer customers a fast grocery delivery experience and optionality (wide range of SKUs) and that’s what we’ve built our operations and tech around.”
Speaking about why the opted for pure-play instead of following a marketplace model, Usman explained that the offline grocery stores and hypermarkets don’t always have correct inventory information reflected in their online systems and building something that relies on them would not allow them to offer the kind of experience they want to, to their customers, “The technology we’ve built ensures that all our orders are almost always delivered accurately”
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