Pakistani’s bus booking startup Airlift, launched less than five months ago, has raised over $2.2 million to expand into new markets.
The firm aims to build the mass transit infrastructure for the developing world starting from Karachi and Lahore in Pakistan, various markets in MENA and Nairobi, East Africa after it signed up over 50,000 rides/month.
Airlift sees its third wave of ride-sharing-the use of higher capacity vehicles as suitable for making urban commute fast, reliable and economical and is capitalizing on the enormous latent demand in the market to fuel its expansion.
Usman Gul co-founder and CEO Airlift told TechMoran, “We are absolutely considering Nairobi as the next market we launch.”
Competition in East Africa awaiting
The round was co-led by Fatima Gobi Ventures, through their Techxila Fund I vehicle and Indus Valley Capital plus several other notable angel investors participated in the earlier stages.
Airlift started to meet a need when, in the summer of 2018, Gul returned to his hometown in Lahore (Pakistan) on a one-month vacation prior to business school. Upon experiencing the difficulty involved in the daily commute in Lahore, he started thinking about ways to use higher capacity vehicles to build an efficient mass transit network, one that relied on previously underutilized vehicles that were already present in the market.
MBA or hands-on startup school
Four months later, he dropped out of INSEAD’s MBA Program to launch Airlift Technologies. On March 1, 2019, a small founding team launched operations with a pilot project in Lahore. Airlift introduces a marketplace solution that allows bus owners to operate their buses on fixed routes, offering a stop-to-stop solution.
Prior to moving to Pakistan, Gul worked at DoorDash, a food delivery unicorn headquartered in San Francisco. Tony Xu, Founder/CEO at DoorDash, which was valued at $12.6 billion in the last round, was among the first few angel investors to support Airlift. Pritesh Gupta, one of the co-founders of Mumbai-based ZipGo, which offers a similar solution, joined Airlift as an official advisor.
Airlift’s founding team, consisting of Ahmed Ayub, Awaab Khaakwany, Meher Farrukh, Muhammad Owais and Zohaib Ali, is now on a trajectory to expand the Company’s footprint to other major urban centers in the developing world.
According to Gobi’s Chairman and Founding Partner Thomas G. Tsao, “Pakistan is the second largest Muslim market in the world and is at the center of a US$200 B Muslim digital market. It is increasingly evident to savvy investors that Muslims are one of the most powerful sets of consumer purchasers and there is an immense market opportunity as the communities’ digital needs are largely underserved.”
The Fund is focusing on Seed and Series A investments in startups in travel, logistics, fintech, healthcare, education, e-commerce, consumer tech and industrial internet.
Fatima Gobi Ventures
For both Fatima and Gobi, the launch of the Fund not only means more funding options for Pakistani startups, but it will help to promote common values, the digitization of traditional industries, as well as further the inclusion of underserved communities as a whole.
Pakistan is emerging, and Fatima aims to help Pakistani entrepreneurs emerge with her.
“Through our partnership with Gobi, we will now be able to fully support and nurture early-stage companies and, when they are ready, we can help them to scale,” said Fatima Ventures Founder and CEO Ali Mukhtar, “Gobi’s region-wide network and wealth of experience together with Fatima’s large footprints and local expertise will also be a boost to the Pakistani entrepreneurial community.”