Venture capital firm Gobi Partners has made its first investment into the Pakistani market, it announced on Saturday. The startup in question is local online travel agency (OTA) Sastaticket.pk, which has raised US$1.5 million in a Series A round led by the investment company.
Sastaticket.pk was established in September 2016 by two brothers – Shazil and Bihal Mehkri – who wanted to give Pakistanis travelling within the country another way of booking flights and hotels online. It claims to have grown its platform by 125% year-on-year in terms of Gross Merchandise Volume since its launch, and 155% year-on-year growth in terms of number of orders. Additionally, it has achieved over one million flight searches a month, it said.
Shazil Mehkri said in a statement that aside from being a financial investor, Gobi also brings a “wealth of experience in the online travel sector across Asia”. The company will use the funds to scale up, hire “top talent”, and speed up its exploration of “critical segments” like “Islamic tourism”, he added.
The brothers are familiar with the travel industry, as their family ran a company specialising in business travel with offices in various Pakistani cities.
As Mehkri also mentioned, this is not Gobi’s first foray into travel technology. Its portfolio includes Vietnam’s Triip and China’s Aoliday, among others. “We believe the conditions that led to the growth of giant OTAs in China are also present in Pakistan,” said Thomas Tsao, Founding Partner of Gobi Partners in a statement. He added, “Sastaticket has a real opportunity to become one of the first unicorns out of the country.”
Increasingly, companies are looking at emerging markets in South Asia like Pakistan for their next investment, similar to how this played out in Southeast Asian markets like Indonesia. Like this emerging economy, Pakistan is incredibly mobile-first. It is one of four countries that will contribute new smartphone users on a massive scale. It is also home to a “growing middle class”, which will lead to “growing consumption”, with more money will be spent across consumer-oriented sectors.
Editor: Nadine Freischlad