KARACHI: A Lahore-based startup company that aims to provide a convenient travel and ticketing platform to millions of users said on Thursday it wanted to expand its outreach to Saudi Arabia and Myanmar after successfully closing a $7.5 million Series A funding round.
Bookme.pk plans to offer people online bookings for intercity buses, airlines, hotels and events in Pakistan.
The Series A round was co-led by Zayn Capital, Lakson Venture Capital and UAE-based Hayaat Global with the participation of BY Ventures and Jabbar Internet Group, New York-based Millville Opportunities and Silicon Valley-based Mentor’s Fund.
The Pakistani firm plans to utilize the funding to digitize buses in small cities and expand its outreach beyond the country’s borders.
“We are planning to expand our outreach to Saudi Arabia and Myanmar in the coming year,” Faizan Aslam, chief executive officer and founder of the company, told Arab News.
Established in 2014, Bookme.pk claims to be the first completely cashless platform in Pakistan with the highest number of day-to-day digital transactions from banks and payment gateways.
The startup has digitized Pakistan’s paper-based transport and travel sector to create a plug and play distribution system that interconnects reservation systems of intercity buses, domestic and international airlines along with hotels and events.
“So far we have digitized companies that are operating big buses in major cities,” Aslam said. “Now we are focusing on digitizing small vans that drive around without any specified time schedule in small cities.”
Bookme.pk has partnered with Pakistan’s leading mobile wallet platforms to offer its customers BNPL (book now, pay later) services, leveraging historical data and spending patterns for more than six million customers, a statement issued by the startup said.
The intercity bus segment has grown significantly in Pakistan as road infrastructure and connectivity has improved throughout the country due to massive infrastructure investments over the last five years.
In addition to that, major Pakistani urban centers have a large number of rural migrants, increasing demand for bus travel for their work-related commutes.
“We are thrilled to continue to invest in Bookme and firmly believe that the Series A funding will allow it to expand operations, increase market share and transform the travel and ticketing space in the country,” Babar Lakhani, managing partner of Lakson Venture Capital, said.
Zayn Capital, which co-led the funding round, maintained the Pakistani startup had the potential to become a “unicorn,” a term used for companies with a valuation of $1 billion or above.
“We have followed Bookme’s journey from the seed stage to see it scale into one of the leading platforms in Pakistan,” Faisal Aftab, co-founder and managing partner of Zayn Capital Frontier Fund, said, adding: “We are extremely proud to be a continued part of their journey as we believe this team is capable of building a unicorn.”
“BookMe has one of the most robust e-ticketing platforms because of its focused approach and customer centricity,” Mohammed Ikhlaq, director of Hayaat Global, was quoted as saying in the statement circulated by the startup. “We are delighted to play a role in their growth story and plans, and we fully expect them to continue scaling new peaks as the digital economy deepens in Pakistan.”
Pakistani startups have raised more than $300 million so far in 2021.
The country has witnessed an increase in the number of internet users from 20 million in 2015 to over 100 million in 2021.