Airlift shuts down operations in Pakistan

Published July 13, 2022
— Photo courtesy: Twitter/File
— Photo courtesy: Twitter/File

KARACHI: Quick commerce startup Airlift is shutting down permanently, online publication Deal Street Asia reported late on Tuesday.

Airlift was initially a bus service that later pivoted to the last-mile delivery segment. It raised $85 million last year in the largest funding round by any local startup.

The firm shut down its operations in second-tier cities like Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Sialkot, Hyderabad and Peshawar a couple of months back. It also sacked almost one-third of its employees to reduce the salary bill.

According to startup data portal Crunchbase, the company had raised a total of $109.2m in six rounds, with Future Positive and Moving Capital among its most recent investors.

The start-up ecosystem in Pakistan has been in turmoil for the last couple of months with a number of prominent players announcing service suspensions, rollbacks and layoffs.

Ride-hailing service Careem recently suspended its food delivery service, citing shifting economic conditions. App-based bus service Swvl also suspended its services in Karachi, Lahore Islamabad and Faisalabad last month because of the “global economic downturn”.

Freight management start-up Truck It In referred to the “global economic uncertainty” when it “recalibrated” its strategy recently and moved some of its staffers to “solve other challenges”.

Startups are struggling to find new funding for rapid customer acquisition. Venture capitalists aren’t willing to write blank cheques anymore to help startups acquire new customers at a heavy price. Investors are asking entrepreneurs to hit early breakevens instead of focusing solely on revenue mobilisation.

No wonder startups raised a total of $103.8 million in 22 deals in the April-June quarter, down almost 40 per cent from the preceding quarter when the flows amounted to $173m.

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2022

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