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Startups

Pakistani transportation startup raises $2.2m

Airlift to use fresh capital to expand footprint in major urban centers

A police officer uses an umbrella while guiding traffic in a hot and humid Karachi, Pakistan.   © Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR -- Pakistan-based transportation startup Airlift has raised $2.2 million in a seed round co-led by Fatima Gobi Ventures and local venture capital firm Indus Valley Capital, it said in a statement.

The fresh capital will be used to expand Airlift's footprint into other major urban centers of developing markets. The development was first reported by MENAbytes, which pegged the seed round as the largest funding raised by any Pakistani startup.

Launched this March in Lahore, Airlift was founded by Usman Gul, Ahmed Ayub, Awaab Khaakwany, Meher Farrukh, Muhammad Owais and Zohaib Ali. The startup provides a marketplace that allows bus owners to operate their buses on fixed routes, offering a stop-to-stop solution. Users can book rides on premium quality and air-conditioned buses and vans that have fixed routes, stops and times in Lahore and Karachi.

The startup claims to complete over 50,000 rides every month. Gul had a stint with US-based food delivery unicorn DoorDash - its founder and CEO Tony Xu have backed Airlift as an angel investor. India-based bus aggregator ZipGo co-founder Pritesh Gupta has also joined Airlift as an advisor.

In the report by MENAbytes, Gul said Airlift has received "multiple acquisitions offers from ride-hailing giants" - although he did not identify the potential buyers.

Fatima Gobi Ventures is a $20 million fund established by Fatima Ventures, the VC arm of Pakistani conglomerate Fatima Group, and China- and Kuala Lumpur-based Gobi Partners. The Chinese VC made its first investment in Pakistan when it backed online travel startup Sastaticket.pk's $1.5 million Series A last November.

The Pakistani market seems to be hotting up, evincing significant investor interest. While ride-hailing and parcel delivery startup Bykea raised a $5.7 million Series A in April, transport and events e-ticketing platform Bookme also raised an undisclosed sum for its pre-Series A round in the same month.

On the VC front, invest2innovate (i2i) Ventures has recently launched its first $15-million fund along with an investment in Islamabad-based startup Mauqa Online. Another VC firm, Sarmayacar, has secured a $2.5 million commitment from World Bank Group's International Finance Corporation (IFC) for its $30-million fund, which held its first close last November.

DealStreetAsia is a financial news site based in Singapore focused on corporate investment activity in Southeast Asia and India. Nikkei recently announced the acquisition of a majority stake in the company.

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