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Swvl expands further into Pakistan with Islamabad and Rawalpindi launch, and engineering office in Karachi

Swvl, the now Cairo-born app-based bus hailing startup that is now headquartered in Dubai, is expanding further into Pakistan, it announced in a statement today, saying that it is launching its services in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, and Rawalpindi which is adjacent to Islamabad (the two are known as twin cities because of strong social and economic links between them and the extremely short distance) next week on Tuesday, September 17th.

The announcement comes less than two months after Swvl expanded to Pakistan with its launch in Lahore. Pakistan is the second international market for the Swvl that expanded to Kenya earlier this year.

Founded in 2017, Swvl that dubs itself as a private premium alternative to public transportation enables riders to book seats on its network of “high-quality” buses (owned and operated by third-parties) through its mobile apps. The startup operates bus lines on fixed routes with customers boarding the buses from specific pick-up spots to be dropped at pre-defined (virtual) stations. The users also have the options to track the buses in real-time. The service is cheaper than the conventional ride-hailing options including Uber and Careem.

Swvl’s decision to expand its services to Islamabad and Rawalpindi before Karachi (Pakistan’s largest city that is home to over 15 million people) is an interesting one. The public transport infrastructure in Islamabad and Rawalpindi even though does not cover a lot of areas, is somewhat decent but in Karachi, it’s almost non-existent. So a service like Swvl is more needed in Karachi than it is in Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

But they perhaps wanted to get the first-mover advantage for Islamabad and Rawalpindi as its main Pakistani rival Airlift that recently raised $2.2 million in the largest seed round for a Pakistani startup doesn’t operate there yet (but has its services available in Karachi).

Swvl that has raised over $80 million of VC money with its last round of $42 million valuing it at $157 million (making it one of the most valuable VC backed startup in MENA)  is currently preparing for its Karachi launch and is actively recruiting people to join its operations team. They haven’t shared the details or launch date yet.

Mostafa Kandil, Swvl’s co-founder and CEO has told MENAbytes that they’re also opening an engineering office in Karachi to have a full-fledged engineering team based out of there and are currently recruiting for multiple engineering positions including Head of Engineering.

Swvl initially will be launching in Islamabad and Rawalpindi with the following three routes:

  • DHA Phase 2 – Islamabad Expressway- Blue Area – Jinnah Super
  • Bahria Town Phase 4 – Islamabad Expressway – Blue Area – Jinnah Super
  • Wah Cantt- Golra Mor – Aabpara Market

The users can enjoy some free rides early-on using ‘SWVLFREE’ as promo code.

Zubair Naeem Paracha

Founder at MENAbytes
A tech and startup enthusiast based in Riyadh. Zubair apart from leading MENAbytes is also building Qraar, a career discovery and development platform for millennials in MENA. He can be reached on Linkedin, Twitter or zubair [at] menabytes [dot] com.
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