Determined to develop Pakistan’s e-commerce status, Airlift raises millions for its quick commerce startup

Airlift operates a quick commerce service in eight cities of Pakistan, including Lahore, Karachi, and Islamabad. Users can order groceries, fresh produce, other essential items, including medicines and sports goods, from the Airlift website or app and have it delivered to them in 30 minutes.

Airlift takes on a new objective

This one-year-old startup is now attempting to build the railroads for e-commerce in Pakistan. According to reports, Airlift has recently secured a mega-round of funding in a major boost to the South Asia nation’s nascent startup ecosystem.

A spokesperson of Airlift on Wednesday said:

We have successfully raised $85 million in our Series B financing round at a valuation of $275 million. The financing round was co-led by Harry Stebbings of 20VC and Josh Buckley of Buckley Ventures, which marks the most significant funding garnered by a Pakistani startup so far.

Financing Round 2

Sam Altman, former president of Y Combinator, Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter and Medium, Steve Pagliuca, co-chairman of Bain Capital, Jeffrey Katzenberg, ex-chief executive of Disney and Quibi, and Taavet Hinrikus, founder and chief executive of TransferWise, Stanley Tang, co-founder of DoorDash, Simon Borrero, founder and chief executive of Rappi, Baastian Lehman, founder and chief executive of Postmates, Quiet Capital and Indus Valley Capital participated in the new round. Together they brought the startup’s to-date raise to $110 million.

Why did Airlift decide to build e-commerce railroads?

Airlift started as a transit business, building a service similar to Uber for air conditioned-buses in Pakistan. The startup quickly amassed traction, clocking over 35,000 rides a day. However, later the pandemic arrived and disrupted all mobility in the country.

That’s when Usman Gul, the founder and chief executive of Airlift, took the call to pivot to quick commerce. He said:

This entire space of quick commerce is on the brink of a global transformation. Airlift is at the forefront of leading that transformation in Asia and Africa. I plan to expand the service to many international markets in the next few months.

In a statement, Altman said:

Airlift’s early traction in Pakistan is a window into the future for how quick commerce will play out in the developing world. Airlift today operates over 30 dark stores and processes hundreds of thousands of orders each month.

The Way Forward for Airlift

The CEO of Airlift stated:

The startup has found that setting up these fulfillment centers is the most efficient way to serve the market. The more middlemen you introduce in this chain between the items and the customers, you begin to compromise the experience. Within the first twelve months of launch, Airlift has reduced its cost of blended customer acquisition to $5 and unit costs to $2.50.

He further shared:

The startup, which today employs over 100 people, plans to expand to more categories, including electronics. The idea is to expand to new categories and build the railroads to move consumer goods from manufacturers to consumers.

Concluding the statement, Gul said:

I left my job at DoorDash and moved back to Pakistan to start Airlift. The idea was to create impact at the base of the pyramid and solve problems that would enrich millions of lives — for whom change is desperately needed. That drove my transition, frankly.

In a statement, Stebbings said:

Transparently, when I first met Usman, I knew this was an entrepreneur who was going to create an industry-defining company. Humble, ambitious, and strategic, Usman will be one of the great founders of this generation.

CEO Usman Gul is determined to change the e-commerce game of Pakistan. The entrepreneur has taken up immense responsibility, and the first stage of the project seems promising. However, only time will unveil the true success of the founder of Airlift’s e-commerce initiative.

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