Startup-funding rush continues in Pakistan

KARACHI: A flood of overseas capital into Pakistan’s fintech startups that began during the coronavirus pandemic is continuing unabated, with two new fundraising deals.

Khadim Ali Shah Bukhari Securities Pvt’s fintech trading app KTrade as well as former Morgan Stanley fund manager Omair Ansari’s early wage access platform have raised a total of US$6.6mil (RM27mil), adding to the US$19.3mil (RM80mil) funding for the country’s startups in the first quarter of 2021.

Of that, nearly US$15mil (RM62mil) came from foreign investors, which poured a record US$48mil (RM198mil) into the sector last year, according to an April tweet by Invest2Innovate that support startups.

The decrease in global air travel during Covid-19 has been an unexpected boon for startups in the South Asian nation, which has had travel advisories issued against it by many nations.

“Covid has helped us because previously an investors’ due diligence process would usually involve them coming to the country.

“It was not that easy for them to visit Pakistan, ” Ali Farid Khwaja, chairman at Karachi-based KASB Securities, said in an interview.

“Now they can’t go to any country, they became open to speaking with founders over Zoom and other digital means.”

KTrade, which allows investors to buy and sell equities on the Pakistan Stock Exchange, raised US$4.5mil (RM19mil) in a funding round led by Hong Kong-based TT Bond Partners and HOF Capital from New York, according to a statement by the company. German investor Christian Angermayer also participated in the round.

Ansari raised US$2.1mil (RM8.7mil) in seed funding for Abhi, which like Payactiv Inc and Wagestream Ltd allows employees to access already earned wages before they’re paid out.

Investors included VEF Ltd and Village Global, Ansari said in an email.

“There are always stages in an ecosystem, ” said Talal Gondal, chief executive officer at TAG Innovation Pvt, which recently raised one of the highest pre-seed fundings in the region.

“Pakistan’s fintech wave is just starting.” — Bloomberg

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