From Mobilizing Communities to Providing Quick Commerce Services, The Journey of Airlift Technologies

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many businesses to halt their operations or shut down entirely. But, it certainly didn’t stop Airlift Technologies from breaking records and reaching new heights of success (quite literally).

Airlift Technologies is a Pakistani tech start-up operating in logistics and quick commerce. The company was founded by five local entrepreneurs in 2019 and is headquartered in Lahore, Pakistan. Airlift introduced Pakistan’s largest decentralized transportation network, with an aim to change the way people move and make mass transport affordable and accessible for all. 

Within one year of its launch, Airlift was able to bring down its cost of blended customer acquisition to $5 and unit costs to $2.50. This is quite impressive for a Pakistani tech start-up.

Unfortunately, it was not long before the COVID-19 pandemic struck Pakistan. As a result, Airlift had to suspend its operations temporarily. 

But was that the end of this start-up? Certainly not.

The Transition from Mass Transit to Quick Commerce

In September 2020, Airlift diversified into quick commerce. The company introduced Airlift Grocer (now called Airlift Express), an app offering a last-mile grocery delivery service for all household essentials. With this app, Airlift was able to secure an impressive foreign investment of $10 million. 

It’s noteworthy that this investment came at a time when the world’s major economies – including Pakistan’s – were crippled due to the havoc wreaked by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Airlift Grocer started its delivery service from Lahore and soon expanded to cover eight major cities of Pakistan. The app quickly rose to popularity and garnered positive reviews from hundreds of customers who praised its fast delivery service.

According to one of Airlift’s co-founders, Usman Gul, Pakistan “is in the very early stages, but the transformation is happening very, very quickly and we are seeing a shift in behavior.” “We have a lot of people who previously didn’t shop online,” he further added.

A Record $85M Series B Fundraising Round: The Largest in MENA Region

Two days ago, the company announced that Airlift has secured $85 million Series B financing with an aim to expand internationally. 

“Today, Airlift is announcing an $85 Million Series B financing led by some of the most iconic investors on the globe. Airlift’s $85m Series B financing marks the largest in the MENA region, co-led by Josh Buckley (Buckley Ventures) and Harry Stebbings (20VC)” 

This was a huge win for both Airlift and Pakistan, as the financing broke records and contributed 5 percent to Pakistan’s FDI for the fiscal year 2021-22. 

This particular fundraise by Airlift is equal to the entire amount raised by Pakistani startups in the first six months of 2021. It’s about twice the size of the largest private company IPO in Pakistan’s history (source: Bloomberg) and the highest in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

The startup now aims to expand its operations to seven more cities in Pakistan. It also plans to double its core workforce to 400 by the end of next year.

Needless to say, tech is the future, and Airlift is working hard to bring Pakistan at par with other tech-driven countries. The startup’s journey is the perfect example of thinking on your feet and serves as an inspiration for other aspiring entrepreneurs from Pakistan and beyond.

Areeba Khan