Markaz Technologies, an Islamabad-based Y-Combinator-backed firm, has received $2.4 million in seed funding from Indus Valley Capital.
Angel investors like Kyane Kassiri of Suya Fund and leaders from Careem, Deloitte, Amazon, and Gojek will also participate in the round.
Markaz, which launched in the fourth quarter of 2021, is an online reselling platform that allows anybody in Pakistan to acquire wholesale products from throughout the country and sell them for a profit through their own social media stores on Whatsapp and Facebook, all while being at home. By empowering these micro-entrepreneurs, Markaz is on a mission to supercharge the rails of e-commerce and make it accessible to the masses in Pakistan.
Shoaib Khan, Fawad Hussain, Sameel Hayat, and Umair Aslam — four buddies who have worked in large-scale tech firms such as Telenor, Amazon, Easypaisa, and Alipay in Pakistan and around the world – founded Markaz. During Covid-19, the founders noticed that the majority of their peers were becoming more accustomed to purchasing online, with many of these transactions taking place through social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook.
The persons selling these items were mainly tiny business owners with limited inventory who were running successful online businesses. The founders spoke with more than 50 wholesalers and 300 entrepreneurs or resellers on the ground in Faisalabad and Lahore to learn where these vendors got their products and how the entire supply chain functioned. They discovered that while this parallel form of e-commerce via social media had tremendous growth, it was plagued by inefficiencies such as inconsistent product quality, delivery times, and payment methods, preventing it from reaching its full potential. This is when they decided to use Markaz to try to tackle the problems. These resellers can now obtain wholesale products from all around the country and profitably sell them through their own social media businesses on Whatsapp and Facebook, without having to invest in inventory.
The firm seeks to empower Pakistan’s middle class, with a particular focus on women from tier-2 cities, who are currently underrepresented in the country’s financial ecosystem, while also enabling hundreds of thousands of online micro-entrepreneurs. Markaz provides a fresh start for anyone interested in starting their own business and becoming financially self-sufficient.
“Markaz is building for all of Pakistan,” said Aatif Awan, Founder & Managing Partner at Indus Valley Capital, “with the ambition of enabling those in smaller cities & villages to source products directly from wholesalers and suppliers.” Something they didn’t have previously. Along the way, they will generate hundreds of thousands of micro-entrepreneurs and integrate them into the financial ecosystem, which will be genuinely disruptive. We at Indus Valley Capital are ecstatic to be working with Markaz to assist them achieve their goals.”
Following the successful capital round, the company plans to use the funds to expand and grow its mobile platform, as well as improve user experience by improving delivery operations, payments, and customer service. In Islamabad, Lahore, and Faisalabad, the company is actively increasing its workforce by onboarding young talent from throughout Pakistan and providing them with the opportunity to work in a fast-paced and exciting startup environment.
Pakistan has a $170 billion retail sector, but just 2% to 3% of it is online, creating a substantial e-commerce opportunity. When it comes to shopping online, however, trust is a major worry, particularly among mass-market buyers. These individuals are accustomed to having human involvement in the majority of their transactions, and the founders feel that people in Pakistan buy from shopkeepers rather than from stores. Markaz wants to establish a trustworthy platform and a community of resellers to make e-commerce easy and accessible for the majority of Pakistanis as the adoption of 4 G-equipped phones grows.
Anyone interested in starting an online resale business can use Markaz to explore and share over 10,000 products from a variety of categories to their social network businesses. Resellers can then place orders on behalf of their consumers on the app, which would be delivered for just Rs. 90 to over 300 cities and villages across Pakistan (per order). After delivery, the reseller’s profit on each sale, which they choose, is paid directly to their digital wallets like Easypaisa or Jazz Cash. To give the best possible rates, all products are obtained directly from wholesale vendors. Markaz is building Pakistan’s largest and fastest-growing reseller community, with more than half of its members being women.