Markaz raises $2.40mn to help Pakistanis start online businesses with zero investment

PRESS RELEASE

Markaz Technologies, a Y-Combinator backed startup from Islamabad, has secured $2.4 million in seed funding led by Indus Valley Capital, said a press release issued today.

The investment round will also be joined by angel investors including Kyane Kassiri from Suya Fund and executives from Careem, Deloitte, Amazon and Gojek.

Started in the last quarter of 2021, Markaz provides an online reselling platform to help anyone in Pakistan source wholesale products from across the country and sell with a profit through their own social media stores on Whatsapp and Facebook without investing any money, from the comfort of their home.

Markaz is on a mission to supercharge the rails of e-commerce and make it accessible to the masses in Pakistan by empowering these micro-entrepreneurs.

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Markaz was founded by Shoaib Khan, Fawad Hussain, Sameel Hayat and Umair Aslam – four friends who have worked in Pakistan and across the globe in large scale tech organizations like Telenor, Amazon, Easypaisa and Alipay.

During Covid-19, the founders observed that most people around them were becoming more used to shopping online where a lot of these purchases were happening through social media like WhatsApp and Facebook.

The people selling these products were usually small entrepreneurs who had limited inventory, yet they were successfully running small online businesses. The founders went on the ground in Faisalabad and Lahore to understand where these sellers were sourcing products from and how the entire supply chain worked, where they talked to more than 50 wholesalers and 300+ such entrepreneurs or resellers.

They found that this parallel form of e-commerce through social media saw significant growth but had a lot of inefficiencies like inconsistency in product quality, delivery time and payments, limiting them from growing to their full potential. This is when they decided to try and solve these problems through Markaz.

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Now, these resellers can source wholesale products from across the country and sell them with a profit through their own social media stores on Whatsapp and Facebook without investing anything in inventory.

The startup aims to empower the middle-class segment, with a special focus on women in tier-2 cities, who are currently underrepresented in Pakistan’s financial ecosystem, whilst enabling hundreds of thousands of online micro-entrepreneurs in the process. Markaz offers a fresh start for everyone looking to set up their own business and become financially independent.

Commenting on the occasion, Aatif Awan, Founder & Managing Partner at Indus Valley Capital said, “Markaz is building for all of Pakistan, with the ambition of enabling those in smaller cities & villages to source products directly from wholesalers and suppliers.

Something they didn’t have access to before. They will also create hundreds of thousands of micro-entrepreneurs along the way and bring them into the financial ecosystem, both of which will be truly transformative. We, at Indus Valley Capital, are thrilled to partner with Markaz in helping them realize their mission.”

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Following the successful funding round, the startup will utilize the investment to further scale & develop its mobile platform and improve user experience by enhancing delivery operations, payments and customer servicing. The company is also actively expanding its team in Islamabad, Lahore and Faisalabad by onboarding young talent from across Pakistan and giving them the opportunity to work in a fast-paced and exciting startup environment.

Pakistan has a USD $170 billion retail market out of which only ~2-3% is online, presenting a significant opportunity in e-commerce. However, trust is a huge concern when it comes to shopping online, especially amongst mass-market consumers.

These people are used to having human interaction in most of their purchases and the founders believe that people in Pakistan don’t buy from shops, they buy from shopkeepers. With the growing adoption of 4G enabled phones, Markaz aims to build a trustworthy platform and a community of resellers to make e-commerce easy and accessible for most people in Pakistan.

Anyone who wants to start an online reselling business can use Markaz to browse and share over 10,000 products from multiple categories to their online social media stores. Resellers can then place orders on behalf of their customers on the app and have it shipped to over 300 cities and villages across Pakistan in just Rs. 90 (per order).

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The reseller’s profit on each sale, which they themselves get to decide, is directly sent to their digital wallets like Easypaisa or Jazz Cash after delivery. All products are sourced directly from wholesale suppliers to provide the best possible prices. Markaz is creating the biggest and fastest-growing community of resellers in Pakistan, with over 50% of them being women.

Markaz App is available for download on Google Play Store with an iOS launch expected in the coming quarters.

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