Entrepreneurship has always been at the heart of the progress of every market/society, but the 2010s saw something different. People without resources made startups solve problems faced in the community using technology owing to different factors like the rise of funding available to them.
This disruption of the traditional financial world has recently swept into the Pakistani market as well, especially in the terms of Fintech. In February 2021, the Managing Partner for the most active global venture capital Khailee Ng wrote, on his Linkedin post, “There will be unicorns from Pakistan”.
He wasn’t wrong, because in the last week only, there have been three startups that have caught the public’s attention in Pakistan, namely, TAG Innovation, Vceela, and Tajir. So let’s see what they are about.
In no particular order, let’s talk about them.
TAG Innovation Pvt.
TAG is Pakistan’s first digital-native financial super app, meaning it will have many things available in one app for the ease of the people of Pakistan. In essence, a digital bank, where everything people did over the counter at traditional banks would always be in their pockets, just a few clicks away.
Bloomberg on 3rd June broke the news that Pakistan is to get its first digital bank soon under TAG Innovation Pvt.
According to CEO Talal Gondal, the Islamabad-based fintech would be launching its limited number of operations in the current month of June and start commercial operations in two-to-three months.
The company has reportedly recently raised $5.5 million in pre-seed funding by Quiet Capital Management, Liberty City Ventures, and Fatima Gobi Ventures. It is said to be one of the five biggest deals in the MENA and Pakistan region. Bloomberg mentions that the bank also received strategic angel investments from general partners of Andreessen Horowitz, Khosla Ventures LLC, Canaan Partners, and Mercury’s Immad Akhund.
According to the website, the company is currently running its services in Pilot mode before launching to the public. They claim that they will launch their limited beta in Q3 of 2021 under the supervision of SBP.
It is worth mentioning that TAG is not alone in this competition to reach the unbanked population of Pakistan, but the major banks are digitizing most of their services by partnering with the telecom sector. Along with that, there are other neobanks rising in Pakistani fintech space such as SadaPay, AFT Private Ltd, Finja Pvt. Ltd., Wemsol Pvt. Ltd., Nayapay Pvt. Ltd, and Wemsol Pvt. Ltd to name a few.
On 2nd June, a global media company, focusing on business, investing, and technology named Forbes wrote on Tajir, a Pakistani B2B marketplace for mom and pop stores, announced that it has raised $15 million in a Series A round led by Kleiner Perkins and YC Continuity.
The startup is Pakistan’s largest tech-enabled retail network, meaning it serves as a new way for sellers to compare the prices of goods, purchase inventory, and enjoy the convenience of 24/7 ordering with next-day delivery.
It would allow neighborhood stores, kiryanas to establish an efficient supply chain by eliminating the middleman, the suppliers. The startup by two brothers Ismail and Babar Khan would also allow small stores to have small inventories, decreasing the costs, and avoiding delivery problems.
According to the website, Tajir offers a one-stop-shop for buying inventory. Through Tajir, stores can order whenever they want, receive on-demand delivery, enjoy transparent, competitive prices, and choose from the largest selection of products available.
Tajir takes a process that took a dozen hours every week and reduces it to a few minutes. They serve over 15000 stores in Pakistan and became the first Pakistani company funded by Y Combinator.
According to Babar, “We’re doing for stores in Pakistan what Amazon did for consumers in the U.S.,” Babar said to Forbes.
According to the Forbes article, Tajir had previously raised a $1.8 million seed round in the summer of last year and since then, revenue has increased by 10x.
The company allows stores to purchase over 1,000 stock-keeping units via its platform, and it has been adding approximately 100 SKUs/month to continuously expand selection.
A similar famous startup that has raised funding from the 500 Startups is Retailo, which is operating in the MENAP region, while Tajir is focused on Pakistan.
Vesela is one of the three startups that has recently won GSMA Innovation funds of a total of Rs146 million. The two others are Knowledge Platform and Orenda Pakistan, but let’s talk about Vceela.
According to the website, Vceela, which is a fusion of Urdu word meaning “access” and Czech word meaning “honey bee”, implying hope, diligence, tireless work, community, and creativity which lie at the core of the amazing stuff our artisans create.
It is a social enterprise that strives to empower artists and artisans. Vceela aims to connect the unconnected artisans to the local and international markets by not only providing them with a marketplace but also marketing them in an effective way.
According to Crunchbase, Vceela has raised 1 round. This was a Grant round raised on Apr 7, 2021, funded by the mentioned GSMA innovation fund (which is a group focusing on digital. The amount remains hidden, however.
Talking to Geo News, CEO Aqeel Khalid said, “We are working with 13000 artisans in Pakistan, and we plan to get 50,000-100,000 artisans on our platform by next year.”
He used the interview to invite artisans on his platform to gain international and local market accessibility.