By Noor Fatima and Myra Ahmed
Cover image via Gulf News
In recent times, the start-up environment in Pakistan has been highly favorable for innovative, entrepreneurial minds to bring their ideas to fruition. According to a report published in early 2020 by McKinsey and Co, there are several reasons why such a conducive environment has been cultivated; the country's predominantly young population, growing middle class, rapidly progressing economy and increased Internet connectivity are all contributing factors, coupled with government reforms that show great initiative. This week, we shed light on some of Pakistan's most dynamic, innovative start-ups, exploring them, their leaders and why they have such immense potential.
Bykea is without a doubt one of the most successful start-ups to have ever been operationalized in Pakistan. Founded by Muneeb Maayr in 2016, Bykea is an online app that provides fast-paced and inexpensive delivery and transportation services via a network of motorcycles. Its services include transportation of people, parcels as well as payments. Dedicated to bringing about social change, Bykea also aims to address transportation problems in Pakistan’s healthcare system. It has partnered with healthcare providers so as to provide at-home services to patients that do not have access to hospitals, including the delivery of pharmaceutical products to people’s homes through its Bykea Mart service. Bykea set an example in the start-up world, gaining immense traction and visibility through its unique services and strong, enriched branding. We're a fan!
Founded in March of 2019, Airlift is another of Pakistan's many thriving start-ups. Airlift envisions a decentralized transit system that allows customers to book rides on vans and buses on fixed rates, making local transport much more efficient and accessible to local people. Recently, Airlifts team has also launched Airlift Express, which provides online grocery services to people in Karachi and Lahore. As a "pioneer in promoting a new vein of environmental and social consciousness" Airlift not only mobilises an incredibly needy population, but also provides a boost to the economy, increasing access to jobs and services by strengthening the infrastructure. Airlift has also made a mark by providing women in the country with a safer, more reliable means of transport, thereby enabling them to enter the extremely male-dominated labour force, bringing a number of unique skills and expertise. In 2019, the start-up raised a staggering $2.2 million during a seed round, one of the highest ever in Pakistan.
Rozee.pk is an online recruiting website. It was founded by Monis Rehman in 2005 initially to post job openings for his own company. Later in 2006, however, the scope of the site was expanded and it was opened up to all kinds of employers as well as job seekers in various industries and from various locations. It is Pakistan’s largest recruiting platform attracting thousands of employers and potential employees. Not only does it apprise the former of job opportunities based on their interests and specializations, but helps improves their portfolios and CVs to meet requirements of the job market. It is an essential resource that helps in writing CVs and marketing an individual’s specializations to meet specific job requirements, thereby empowering Pakistan's labour force. Rozee is quickly becoming a go-to search engine for employers looking to hire people, as well as an easy and reliable space for workers to find their next venture.
Established in 2020, Out-Class brings together Pakistan's brightest minds, to help build tomorrow's brightest minds. It is a digital alternative to the traditional teaching methodologies that targets the average young Pakistani with crash-course style educational content, and founders Aiman Bashir, Oosman Bashir and Ali Nomani hope to make the platform the 'Netflix of education'. With instructors and teachers educated at some of the world's best institutions, a comprehensive curriculum, and a connection with their Gen-Z target audience, Out-Class is an exciting initiative to young Pakistanis like ourselves. Alongside national curriculum courses, the platform also provides support for standardised testing, like the SAT. This is of particular benefit to the many Pakistanis who miss out on international university admissions or applications due to lack of support with such examinations.
One of the biggest names in Pakistan's increasingly concentrated (hooray!) start-up landscape is that of SafePay. Pakistan's lack of effective, trustworthy institutions for micro transactions creates a wide range of economic and sociopolitical issues that are further exacerbated by our cash-based economy. SafePay is here to fill that gap. By digitising B2B, B2C and government transactions, the SafePay platform allows for quick, easy and safe transfer of funds, fundamental to an emerging economy's progress. Digitising payments will help both to expedite the process, as well as circumvent the role of ‘middle men’ part of the bureaucratic structure that distorts welfare programs. The mechanisms used will also allow for data collection and strong, clear records of inflows and outflows of money, ensuring a secure system that rewards entrepreneurship. Following graduation from the Y-Combinator program, SafePay has been able to secure seed-funding from Stripe, putting them in an incredibly powerful position to become a core aspect of Pakistan's digital economy.
Bazaar, similar to SafePay, also works on digitising transactions, but has a unique B2B focus. This means that the platform connects businesses to each other to increase the efficiency of commercial transactions. It represents an important global move towards e-commerce, and once again plays a significant role in the country's move towards a digital economy.
"Bazaar's online marketplace connects retailers directly to wholesalers and manufacturers, unlocking efficiencies across the value chain through technology."
Recently raising a staggering $6.5 million seed-fund, the start-up attracted a number of top investment firms across the world with to its strong vision, and clear goals. With over 10,000 retailers already set up on the platform, Bazaar, too, has the power to revolutionise Pakistan's way of business!
We say this all the time, but Pakistan's future truly is in Pakistan's youth, and this list of incredible start-ups is only the tip of a massive iceberg. As young Pakistanis, it is so exciting to see this country's people take control of its future; for far too long, we've lost internal and external battles by dividing in the face of adversity, but the camaraderie and power we see today is changing that.
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