Pakistani Tech Startups Webinar 13 December 2021 with dynamic panellists:

Mr Khalid Memon; Founder, Apricart

Mr Abrar Bajwa; Co-Founder, Taazah Tech

With

Mr Bilal Ahmed Butt; Consul General, Consulate General of Pakistan, Hong Kong

Ms Julia Charlton; Chairman, Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce, Hong Kong

This webinar was a fruitful and exhaustive session where participants from all over the world tuned in and interacted with our trending Pakistani tech startups to ask questions and get some inside intel on how to run a successful startup

Apricart was represented in this webinar by its founder, Khalid Memon

Initially known as AirosoCart, Apricart was set up when COVID-19 was at its peak in 2020 for the purpose of providing people who lost their employment with work to cushion the impact of the devastating economic toll caused by the global pandemic.

Apricart is an online smart shopping platform that eliminates inefficient mainstream checkout lanes and provides shoppers dynamically customized offers for the best products at the best price.

For Taazah Tech we had Co-founder, Abrar Bajwa, tell us how Taazah Tech is here for the unsung heroes of Pakistan: the farmers.

Tazah Tech is an innovative B2B startup providing an online fresh produce marketplace connecting businesses directly to farmers with the aim to solve the inefficiency of Pakistan’s complex agricultural value chain end-to-end through the use of technological innovation and provide dividends to both parties.

On the farmer side, Tazah tech is dedicated to guaranteeing higher price values, prompt payments, reduced sale efforts and credible lending systems; on the business side, they ensure stable prices, standardized quality, doorstep delivery and a convenient mobile ordering interface available to them at all times.

Julia Charlton: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome everyone. And thank you so much for joining the Commonwealth Chamber Hong Kong and the Consulate General of Pakistan in Hong Kong’s joint webinar today on Pakistani tech startups. I’m Julia Charlton, the current chair of the Commonwealth Chamber in Hong Kong. And we’re super excited to introduce you to this dynamic and amazing panel of startups who are making themselves known not only on the local, but also on the international radar.

Startups in Pakistan have gained more funding in the first three quarters of 2021 than in the previous six years combined, which is really quite amazing. Pakistani tech startups are leading this great performance and as Pakistan’s trade and tourism industry flourishes and its current 257 billion US dollar consumer market continues to expand.

These startups are part of the pioneers of Pakistan’s digital economy. So we’re very pleased to have here with us today. [00:01:00] We have the CEO Khalid Memon of Apricart and Taazah tech is represented by its co-founder Abrar Bajwa and our moderator together with myself for today is Asim Malik Consul at the Consulate General of Pakistan here in Hong Kong.

But we’re most honored and delighted to first introduce you to the Consul General of Pakistan, Mr Bilal Ahmed Butt who will give an introductory speech before we begin our panel discussion. Just a little housekeeping before we begin, the webinar will be approximately one hour long with a Q&A session.

Following the tech companies presentations, please feel free to share with us your questions in the Q&A box at any time during the webinar, and we’ll do our best to get to those. So without further ado, I invite to Consul General Bilal Ahmed Butt to say a few words, Consul General.

Bilal Ahmed Butt: Thank you, Julia. . [00:02:00] Salaam-Alaikum good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

It’s my pleasure and privilege that Commonwealth chamber has invited me to this webinar and they have organized this webinar in collaboration with the Consulate and it’s a pleasure and privilege that the that I have been invited. On the onset I would like to give an overview of IT sector of Pakistan.

Pakistan is a country with 220 million of population where 64% of our population is below the age of 30. Whereas 29% of our population is between 15 and 29 years of age. We have 23,000 IT graduates every year. And in Pakistan, there are more than 76 million smartphone users and 78 million broadband users, [00:03:00] we have 173 higher education commission recognized universities in Pakistan.

So you can imagine the size of our population and our education sector, Pakistan exported around 3 billion US dollar IT and IT enabled services during the last year, IT services sector is doubling in size after every 4 years. E-commerce is expanding in Pakistan though, currently, it sizes only 1.5 billion US dollars, but we expect that it will grow exponentially as we have young population and our young generation is more inclined towards the e-commerce business and its products.

More than seven thousand tech companies are doing business in Pakistan. These companies are providing myriad of services, including BPO [00:04:00] services, gaming and animation, mobile application, IT support services, blockchain, artificial intelligence, software development, and system integration. Commonwealth Chamber of Hong Kong is a forum that can provide an opportunity to IT professionals from Pakistan to not only broaden their horizon, but also to get connected with large number of nations, having lot in common. Furthermore, Hong Kong has developed financial markets and offers greater opportunities to FinTech and in other fields, like, artificial intelligence, blockchain, and cybersecurity for marketing new products.

China-Pakistan economic corridor project, Belt and Road Initiative, has also brought new opportunities for Pakistani entrepreneurs to expand their [00:05:00] businesses in this part of the world. We understand, and given that the size of the global information technology industry is more than 5 trillion US dollars, the share of Pakistan is much less than desired by creating an enabling environment for professionals to invent, establishing backward linkages within the country with the young people and farmers linkages with the global markets is the need of the hour. So cognizant of the fact, the government of Pakistan and all our provincial, which are the regional government, they are investing a lot in establishing IT parks to create an enabling environment and to provide a complete ecosystem, to create synergies to expand IT sector.

Government of Pakistan is also providing [00:06:00] financial and other incentives to IT professionals and companies will facilitate them to expand their businesses, not only in the local, but in the global markets. Incentive to the industry include zero income tax on IT and IT enabled services exports till 2025.

Tax breaks for the Pakistan software export board registered IT companies startups for three years, up to hundred percent ownership of IT and IT enabled services companies up to a hundred percent repatriation of profits for foreign ID and identifiable services investors and tax holidays for venture capital funds till 2025 among the other incentives.

I would invite investors and companies from Hong Kong and other Commonwealth countries to [00:07:00] invest in Pakistan IT sector, to collaborate with Pakistani companies in the form of the joint ventures to create synergies, to benefit from a win-win situation. At the end, I will congratulate Ms. Julia, Chairman of Commonwealth Chamber, and her team for organizing this much needed event.

I would also appreciate efforts of Mr. Asim, our counselor for coordinating for the webinar. However, it may just the beginning of the cooperation between Commonwealth Chamber and Consulate General of Pakistan. I would be looking forward to participate and arrange such kind of giant events in future to deepen our friendship and enhance business opportunities for entrepreneurs from all sides.

So Julia once again, thank you very much. Thank you very much all the participants , welcome on board and I would request to proceed with the rest of the [00:08:00] activities of the webinar. Thank you very much. Once again.

Julia Charlton: Thank you very much. Mr. Bilal Ahmed, that was wonderful. And we’re very honored that you gave such a fruitful talk to start off this webinar.

Thank you also for your kind words about the Commonwealth Chamber. So I would like to now introduce the first startup this afternoon, which is Apricart initially known as AirosoCart which was set up when COVID was at its peak in 2020. And it was set up for the purpose of providing people who lost employment to cushion the impact of the devastating economic toll caused by the global pandemic, which has affected all of us.

And it was rebranded in April this year. So Apricart is a smart shopping cart that seeks to improve the shopping experience for retail grocery shoppers while gathering important path to purchase data for consumers packaged goods, marketers and grocery stores. So [00:09:00] may I invite the CEO Khalid Memon to tell us all about this exciting startup

Khalid Memon: Thank you very much, Julia. Thank you very much Hong Kong Commonwealth and Pakistan High Commission for inviting us and giving us this opportunity and platform, excellent platform, to showcase Apricart and what we are doing. So I will, so Apricart as you briefly explained, we are obviously across the market.

But before that, I would just like you tell you a little story about what, what happened with me when I visited Pakistan last year the year before Pre-COVID during my holiday from UK and wanted to go for grocery. And something like this encountered outside grocery stores in Karachi, one of the largest city of Pakistan.

So this is the queue outside a grocery store in Pakistan a nd it took me around four. This was the scene of the parking outside [00:10:00] the grocery store. And this was the cues inside when I had to check in, check out my grocery so after battling with the wobbly trolleys and finding the right product from the aisles, I finally got into the queue and it took me around three hours just to spend 4,000 rupees worth of shopping.

So why is it so? Now let’s look at digging deeper. What’s going on.

This is a very interesting. In the world economic forum last year, it shows that what is the consumer market size from 2020 to 2030; Pakistan, which stands at number 14 in the consumer market size, it is expected to reach seventh position by 2030. So that is a side of the market that we are looking at.

Let’s validate them from this starts as his Excellency also explained the same, [00:11:00] total population of 220 million and average spending of a household is 42% on the grocery and food. So whatever year they earn, Pakistanis, they spend around 42% on the grocery. That brings the annual revenue of the grocery market to 53 billion USD in 2020, which is growing at the kegger of 8.3% per year.

So approximately which will be circa $85 billion. Now, but is it the what is the reason behind such crowded stores? The main reason is basically the lack of large stores, which can offer a full, good quality availability of the goods at the affordable price. So I’m not talking about the quality here, it’s just the availability of the product and at affordable prices. So it’s clearly an underserved market which needs to be looked at. Now, when I went back [00:12:00] to UK and COVID was at its peak and people were struggling with the groceries, I just look at the potential of the market as well. Now, 60% of the population is under the age of 60 and we’ve got 61 million internet users, which are increasing the circa.

Now 6%, 6% of shopping is just done online. And it is estimated that by, by 2025, 2026, it will reach around 25% of the total market. Obviously increasing at a rapid pace. This is also validated by Central Bank of Pakistan’s report which is State Bank of Pakistan payment review report, which says the quarter-on-quarter payment on e-commerce is growing with 4%.

So there’s in Pakistan significant market, significant potential. So I left my few startup that I started in the UK, came to Pakistan to build Apricart to just to bridge the [00:13:00] gap from problem to the solution and to the potential . What is Apricart? What we are offering? It is basically a reliable, convenient stock, fast, because it’s a time of Q-commerce and e-commerce.

It’s a combination of two and price competitive solution. That’s what we offer. We deliver groceries to your doorstep. Then by app or internet website within 15 minutes as fast as 15 minutes or maximum 90 minutes, depending upon the area you are in or the grocery you’re doing. So it’s a complete platform, which is offering a convenience and price competitive goods to you.

There are a few other startups in Pakistan who are offering a similar service because it’s the time for Q-commerce and e-commerce but not many as there’s a huge market to capture. The key part is the number of SKUs; normally companies nowadays, they are focusing more on the speed of delivery rather than the variety of goods and the price[00:14:00]

At Apricart we are basically, we have got more than 20,000 SKUs which is equivalent to a new large supermarket. And we are offering fast delivery through dark store model. We’re currently starting in Karachi and planning to expand in Pakistan, across Pakistan, and perhaps in some other Commonwealth countries, very soon. So since the inception we have already reached more than 250 orders per day and we have a retention of 86% of our customers and our current AOV is $12 per order just because of the basket size and the availability of product. And we want to, the aim is to really change the way Pakistan does its grocery, not only the cravings, but the entire monthly basket which basically, and save them hassle, save them money both of them, and they can get all these elaborate products on just tap of the finger.

Some market size we’ve already spoken about. I’ve just explained. We do have a rubrics unit economics and Q-commerce across basically [00:15:00] they are more focusing on, on, on the speed, whereas we are focusing not only on speed, but our own sustainability and then we are building a nice contribution margins.

Our leadership team, my co-founders and team; at the timeof start of Apricart I thought it was really critical to basically select the team, which is basically which can make the success. You can see some face which you usually do not see as a co-founder. So I’ve got Mr. Jahangir Siddiqui who is the one of the top 10 businessmen of Pakistan.

He’s in his early seventies. But so excited with this idea that he joined us in starting this venture and assembled a team from industry of retail market , technology, to just build this platform because it’s completely the way Pakistan is shopping. So the technology, the retail supply chain, it’s entire thing, which needs to be synchronized joined together and to build this platform.

It’s just [00:16:00] completely evaluation of grocery, which we call grocery 4.0. As this has been transformed and later on, our ambition is to make it across the management system where people do not worry about finding the right price, finding the right product the right time or forgetting anything.

So AI enabled or tech heavy tech enabled or deep tech enabled system can just do everything. And our supply chain at back of it can take care of your monthly groceries. I think my time way up, so I’m happy to take the questions. It’s just a brief introduction about what we are doing.

I have a lot to talk about in terms of target customer acquisitions and everything, but I think I would take the question if anybody’s interested, maybe we’ll share the presentation and explain them in detail. Thank you very much.

Julia Charlton: Thank you very much, Khalid, that was so interesting.

So you there will be opportunity for people who are listening to for you to respond to their questions when we’ve heard from. The next startup which is Taazah tech. [00:17:00] And they’re also going to give a presentation. So Taazah tech is an innovative B2B startup, which give s an online fresh produce marketplace, connecting businesses directly to farmers with an aim of looking at the inefficiency to some extent of Pakistan’s quite complex agricultural value chain end-to-end

through the use of tech innovation and providing benefits to both all parties. They’re looking at trying to ensure relatively stable prices, relatively standardized quality doorstep delivery, and a convenient mobile ordering interface available. So we will now hear from Abrar who is a co-founder who’s going to tell us about Taazah tech.

Abrar Bajwa: Awesome. Thank you. Thank you for the opportunity. Very honoured to be here. I will not take too much time. I’ll just quickly talk about, what we’re doing in Taazah so far. What has been our journey so far and where does the journey take us from here? So my name is Abrar Ahmed co-founder at Taazah together with [00:18:00] me, with Mohsin who

is my co-founder on this we have

been building taazah since June this year Taazah , like Julia said, it’s a B2B marketplace for

fresh produce. We try to

solve

the access to capital and access to market problem for millions of farmers and businesses. Pakistan, as you might be aware of is a $60 billion agriculture space.

20% of our

GDP comes from here. 40% of our work force is associated with that one way or the other.

It’s also one

of the most under technical or, how would you say this? It’s almost also one of the most inefficient sectors that exists in Pakistan. It’s and it’s mainly because of structure, structural reasons. We talk about millions of farmers at one end, billions of businesses on the other end

we tried to

fix

that we trying to solve for millions of farmers who at the end of the day only get 25 percent of the final produce price. So a case of for example, if a farmer sells it for 25 cents, the customer gets it for $1. So the price multiplies for almost four times for almost all

produce items, just because

of the inefficiencies that exist in supplying chain. [00:19:00] We at Taazah are solving for them.

We’ve had a short and very productive journey so far.

We

started out in

June. We’ve recently closed another four and a half hundred dollars around and we’ll be raising another 20.

As far as the growth is concerned it has been super, it has been quite big so far. We’ve been able to grow at a very high pace

currently, our revenue is close to $6 million and the idea is to get it to, close to around

10,

$12 million by the next couple of months quickly would want to talk about, what market are we talking about, which is best presented through slides.

And we’re talking about a very large 50, 70, $60 billion market broken down into large pieces.

There’s livestock and then there’s crops. Crops have a much higher vulnerability due to disruption because of the extreme inefficiencies that existed over there. And therefore that is our first, that has been our first line of attack.

And what of those extreme

inefficiencies? I talked about that case or kilo of mangoes moving across the supply chain, but then

what happens is that as a producer,

you only

[00:20:00] make 30% of what you sell and the remaining is lost between multiple middlemen

and inefficiencies within the supply chain .

It is a very sort of the number of times it moves between one part to the other there’s

logistics and warehousing involved and that leads to, additional costs there’s wastage because of multiple pieces of handling and poor incentive to produce high quality and because there is no supply demand matching, which leads to

a lot of wastage. There’s

also

information asymmetry and the middlemen also charge an arm and a leg sort of get the burden across. And therefore it ends up in a situation where not only the producers

make a very small amount but also

it leads to at a macro level a very

high, it leads to food price inflation

in the country.

And these are some problems that we’re solving. Once Taazah comes into play. And it is in play now

what you will get at scale is Taazah market skipping some of their steps by selling directly to small and large fruits and vegetable sellers. For the

farmers, what this essentially means that it translates into a higher price for them.

It translates to prompt payment translates to [00:21:00] reduced sales effort and access to capital eventually once we get into the financial products. For the retailers, anybody who sells fresh produce is blank and straight, that’s an insight that we’ve seen in the market.

So

what they get is, for

all these retails, what you get is transparent and competitive

pricing, a standardized quality, and the

ability to

order 24/7 with a very low procurement effort. So there are multiple benefits for both ends of the value chain plus you know a macro level benefit, which means that essentially at scale Taazah would

lead

to reduction in food prices for customers.

So this is what we’re doing. We have a customer app through which our, some small businesses, place their orders. It is a work in progress and we’re continuously deploying and building a platform of multiple apps including our delivery app, warehouse management app and a farmer app.

All of them are in the works, but at this point in time we have the app for the customer apps, through which most of our customers place their orders. This is more technical, we’ve been growing super fast since we started out four months back. We are now at around , we have around seven- [00:22:00] actually,

we

have around 700-750 daily active customers now. And it just launched and in terms of customer retention, our customers encounter very high retention and we have very strong forecast for growth coming months. Yeah, that’s like a high level summary of what we do at Taazah. Happy to take questions at the end. Thank you very much for your attention.

Julia Charlton: Thank you very much Abrar that was extremely informative. You packed a lot of information into that, that short time. Thank you so much. So both of these companies I think are extremely exciting. Those are the pitches that we’re listening to, so we’re now going to ask questions and my co-moderator Asim, would you like to go first with the first question for our these two wonderful startups?

Asim Malik: Yes. Thank you, Julia, for giving me the floor. My first question would of course be for Apricart Mr

Khalid

I would [00:23:00] advise to you also I mean, this kind of you know internet connection?

You’re not going to have a lot of

quick success because there was a lot of disruption in your voice when you were giving this presentation. So, we might have missed a few points but what are the prospects of taking Apricart to other countries like to China or other, east Asian countries or maybe to Europe?

So where do you see your business in the next year?

Khalid Memon: Thank you. Asim. First of all, apologies for that for the disruption in internet connection, sometimes things are unpredictable but we’ll definitely take care of that in the future. We, we do plan considering the consumer market growth and the population density in countries like Indonesia

, countries-, including in South Africa and other Commonwealth countries. We are definitely planning once we establish our footprints in Pakistan and the model is proven, the supply chain is well established and everything. We do plan to take Apricart abroad in other countries as well. Because I see a huge potential [00:24:00] and it will change the way people shop ; like cameras people are hardly carrying a camera- Fuji or Kodak cameras in their events they’re using the iPhones.

So that is complete transformation of the way people will be doing groceries in, in densely populated areas, especially in urban areas. There’s a lot of traffic and other problems. So if there’s a platform which can provide the entire solution and which is cost-effective so we can definitely do that.

Julia Charlton: And I’m very interested to know. What, also for you Khalid, what percentage of groceries sold in Pakistan roughly are produced in Pakistan and what percentage are imported? In other words, if we’re outside Pakistan, what have we got to look forward to in being able to access Pakistani products?

Khalid Memon: In terms of the international statistics in terms of groceries there’s a lot of grocery is produced and consumed in house, like the staples. We’re an agriculture country; staple food like rice and flour and sugar they are majorly produced [00:25:00] in the country. Rice, in fact, we are the exporters cooking oils and all these staples basically which are the basic necessities are produced and consumed within the country.

But some of the stuff are imported as well. Like some cosmetics or other luxury products. They are imported from outside. But the government’s recent initiative of Make in Pakistan is really taking some charge and soon we’ll see that a lot of products will be basically produced in Pakistan. In terms of the export

you can definitely expect a lot in the future as as a lot of companies, startups, they are focusing on promoting and exporting the goods from Pakistan, which are made in Pakistan in terms of agriculture, in terms of the the factories. So we’ve got our own staple brand which we plan to export outside Pakistan as well.

So perhaps you sitting in Hong Kong can order and we’ll deliver you.

Bilal Ahmed Butt: So let me, Julia, answer your question. As [00:26:00] you will be aware that Pakistan is basically is an agricultural country. And 20% of our GDP comes through the agriculture sector and even the kind of products which we make and export to the other nations,

those are basically agricultural based. Like we are exporting 65% of our products which are textile and textile made ups, and those are made from cotton and the rest of the things. Then we export certain products which are made from leather comes from the cattle hide. And we are also exporting almost 400 million US dollar meat and its products,

poultry, we are exporting more than 200 billion US dollar of rice every year to the other countries. We have almost 25 billion US dollar exports. And this year we are expecting that it will go Insha’Allah up to 30 billion US dollar. Out of that [00:27:00] 66% almost comes from textile and rest comes from other, as I mentioned, that leather, surgical goods and rice and such kind of things. As we are a big country having a population of 220 million people

whatever we produce, like staple food is like in Hong Kong it’s rice, our staple food is wheat since our population, almost 60% of people live in the agriculture areas, whatever we produce most of that is consumed by our local population. Normally they store wheat during the harvesting season and then they use it for the rest of the year.

Similar is the case with the rice as well. And other crops including vegetables and fruits. So we have very less surplus to export. This is the reason that we are exporting meat and its products[00:28:00] . And we are not exporting sugar. Sometimes if there is excess sugar in crop, then the government allows for export of sugar to the other country.

So this is overall landscape of our export sector. We normally import from other countries petroleum and petroleum products, capital goods, mostly from China and -mostly from China, yeah. So our major bill of imports goes towards petrol and petroleum products and capital goods and some consumer goods.

You can say luxury goods and some automotives, mobiles and these kind of things. So this is an overall, overview of our important export sectors ; though we grow all kinds of crops, and fruits and vegetables, Pakistan is one of the largest producer of wheat, cotton, sugar, cane, maze, and rice.

But since we are a [00:29:00] big population and our productivity is at the middle of the continuum we take care of our population through our production. And most of the staple foods are not imported by Pakistan, but as far as the edible oil and petrol and petroleum products are concerned, we have to import them.

So thank you. I hope I did not take much time.

Julia Charlton: No. You’re clearly an expert. That was a wonderful exposition. Thank you very much. We have some questions from the audience and here’s one from from- for Abrar and the question is, please, could you again, give your motives, I guess your reasons for establishing Taazah, perhaps the sort of short overview of it again.

Abrar and perhaps for my benefit, you could speak slowly. Because you said so much in such a short time, maybe you could just go through again, why you think that Taazah is such a good value proposition please.

Abrar Bajwa: So we were working and you know mobility was a huge deep rooted problem and transport is pretty bad in Pakistan. So you know and with Careem’s arrival what we saw was that a major [00:30:00] mobility problem was solved; we’d done that firsthand, me and Mohsin. And we said, okay, now we’ve done that with what’s even bigger, right? What’s even a more larger impact problem.

And what could be even more complex than this, because if you’re spending your next five, ten years on a problem, it has to be very large and it has to be very

complex .

We

looked around for multiple problems and then eventually we decided to get into agriculture

it’s under invested in Pakistan

from a technology standpoint,

it has huge benefits for

millions of people. So we want to create the largest impact in Pakistan that’s how we ended up in agriculture. We also are, have like agriculture family backgrounds, so it was a bit personal too, and therefore through all of these factors combined what we got in .

Julia Charlton: So it’s technology, it’s passion and it’s expertise and experience.

That’s a very good combination.

Bilal Ahmed Butt: Julia I would like to ask one question from Abrar. I’m very, really, very pleased to hear about your project. And we are always in a fix how to, [00:31:00] minimize the role of the middle men in our agriculture. We don’t have much storage facilities in Pakistan though we always try to, incentivize the people to build more and more storage facilities in Pakistan. So I am really very much intrigued with your project, how you are going to minimize the role of the middlemen. I understand that a lot of profit margins are there for the other retailers and everybody else.

So are you, how are you are trying to connect the customer with the producer? It really it is intriguing me that because without building warehouses storage facilities, and then, you know, I don’t know how you, people are going to do it.

Abrar Bajwa: Great question. I think that the answer is today for us is that you know we have to reduce the time between the point of harvest to the point of delivery to the retailer and in doing so we built a very lean supply chain. So when you know, we don’t need a lot of warehouses. [00:32:00] So like we do actually, we currently have four warehouses in Lahore we have two in Karachi now we’ve got, we are going to have one in Islamabad you know we’re building on top of all, but we don’t do long-term storage.

We currently have not aimed to say wheat rice or, some of these other grains, we are purely focused on fruits and vegetables. And what we ensure is that before the product gets wasted, it gets to a customer. So what we make sure is that the point is the time between the point of harvest. For example, for mangoes for onions, for potatoes is as soon as it gets harvested, it gets to our central warehouse.

Then it goes to our smaller food fridgement centre. And then eventually to the customer and the time window is very limited and therefore we

don’t need, extensive warehouse. If you get into grains, of course it becomes a different kind

of problem. But at this point in time, it’s fruits and vegetables, which showed that by building a very elite-

Bilal Ahmed Butt: -sorry if I’m interrupting you again. No no, please. I have worked in agriculture sector as additional secretary agriculture in Punjab. And I have done a lot of work in the [00:33:00] agriculture sector as well in pesticides, fertilizers, zoning, and you might be looking for to-to place yourself in place of the other commission agent maybe because otherwise, I it’s a good thing-

I would again, support it that if somebody is there, making investment and you’ll have a big group at your back as well.

Jahangar Siddiqui, so I am pleased to hear that you do, people are, even if you are building those warehouses, because they’re are a lot of goods which are perishable, which had to be -I can understand you might be, using artificial intelligence and, having a lot of late of the customers, a lot of farmers and you may be quick in, in, in disposing of the products, especially the perishable goods, but again, it would be more, this, the solution will be, making investments in the harder part as well as in the soft competitor as well.

So it’s a combination of both these things, maybe.

Abrar Bajwa: Okay. I think great point, but just one correction, so Jahangir Siddiqi is probably Mr. [00:34:00] Khalid’s backer for- we are generally backed by global investors. So we, so just one correction over there, but your point is exactly correct. We just are in the dilemma mostly of how -are we a technology company or not?

And as a technology company, we have to minimize investments on physical warehouses. Otherwise -and that money generally needs to be channelled on technology development, human resource, and all but we keep thinking about these ideas with, we work with people who actually make these investments on our behalf which you, like you said, are essential to be successful.

But as that the money that we raise ourselves, we generally try to channel it in working capital, maybe in technology development and human resource, but not really physical assets. So I hope you understand our dilemma.

Julia Charlton: Yeah that, that’s really interesting. What actually will your operating system, that you’re building out, look like in its end state, Abrar?

Abrar Bajwa: Okay so when we basically

think about, and this is a bit of a childish vision of the future, what we think about the future is that you know, there are farmers we connect with the platform or the operating [00:35:00] systems through the app.

They’re told what to grow, when to grow and when to harvest . There are collection centers close to where farmers grow what they grow. And those collections centers are operated by independent entities. Logistics is also connected through APIs. Produce gets into large warehouses in the cities. Again, warehouse is managed by the third parties Taazah, as a platform is only providing pricing on all ends.

It’s providing a demand supply forecasting, and it’s basically our district orchestrating the supply chain, which has multiple roads, multiple people but Taazah is a technology overtake over what’s really happened. So that’s our vision of the future. When you look at Pakistan current supply chain, you would think I’m crazy, but this is what we’re trying to

build.

Asim Malik: Thank you, thanks. You already have a very famous name in Pakistan and in the shape of Apricart we have connected the customer right from -right with Apricart and customer of Taazah,why not.

Khalid Memon: Absolutely. Absolutely. I was in discussion with Mohsin as well, his co-founder. So there can be possible synergies, definitely between [00:36:00] Apricart and Taazah because we’re into the entire shopping experience and they can be our- a good supply chain.

Abrar Bajwa: Absolutely.

We look forward to serving.

Julia Charlton: There’s a- I have another question from from a participant , Khalid. They say there’s a huge competition in the grocery delivery services in Pakistan for example, big grocery brands deliver the groceries themselves. So how will you cope with this competition?

Khalid Memon: Excellent question. That is the case. However there is not customer loyalty because of the price sensitivity, whoever is as I’ve mentioned in my presentation. People are spending 42% of their income on grocery. So they are really careful in spending every rupee on the product. So wherever they get-

so the pictures I showed you were basically the offers and something on a very good discounted rates in the market. So that’s why people are crazy on that. It was just like, look like a doomsday, but that’s how it is. Now,[00:37:00] the unit economics which I touched on is basically the entire science of basket size and basket pricing.

In order to solve that what we have done is we have introduced our own product brand, which are often staple foods. So like soft rice and pulses and sugar, salt, all the basic 27 28 items . So we have a supply chain of rice pulses, sugar, and everything.

I get it at most discounted rates and I’ve established such an excellent supply chain that has a supply directly to consumers. At least 20% lesser rates, even then I make 30 to 40% profit on those particular items. So if I look at the combined basket size into where I get 4 to 5% on my FMCG or branded products.

I get a higher margin on the own product. So the combined basket is giving me sustainability. So even I can give away further to the customer. [00:38:00] So now coming back this price sensitivity. So if I can buy for less. So what are, wherever in my family, I was told that you made the profit when you purchase, not when you sell.

So if you purchase at the right price you can sell it at the right price. So obviously, but because of the excellent supply chain and less expense admin expenses like bricks and mortars and maintainence of the stores and everything we can supply at a lot cheaper rate. And we are, as I mentioned, we are not just in the rat race of delivering fast, but also delivering economically.

So that’s what I truly believe that we can excel and there’s a huge market potential. I hope that answers.

Julia Charlton: Oh, that’s amazing answer. Yeah. There’s something there for all of us. I think isn’t there yes. That you make your profit when you buy that that we should all- that’s a great takeaway for everybody. I have a question, I think for both panelists, which I see from somebody in the room.

They say e-commerce is a major growth sector globally. How have these startup platforms raised capital to [00:39:00] date? And is the sector open to external investment from abroad? I think we already had a little bit about that, but Abrar, maybe you go first and then Khalid on this, please?

Abrar Bajwa: I think at this point in time, Pakistan’s I regulatory structure is getting, it’s gotten significantly better over the last one-two years wherein you can, as, for example, as a founder in Pakistan, I can be an owner of the whole company outside of Pakistan and this is becoming a pretty common structure across startups that I see multiple startups have holdcos in Singapore, Dubai the US Caymans multiple places, which are investor friendly.

And so we’ve been able to seamlessly

raise capital

outside of Pakistan. Most of our capital that we’ve raised to date

is from outside Pakistan from international investors

and the market is opening up. In fact Pakistan market is right now in spotlight of international

investors and it’s a

great time to sort of raise capital for

Pakistan.

Julia Charlton: Thank you. Khalid? [00:40:00]

Khalid Memon: I completely agree with Abrar international investors are basically eyeing it. Our startup- so we’ve raised just funding from internally within the founders. Now we are going for our next round of investment. So seeking to raise some investments. So yes, we are open to take the investments in terms of the structure as Abrar briefly touched upon;

we have a whole structure, which is basically operating either from a Dutch entity or through Abu Dhabi- Middle Eastern entities. That’s how we are operating at the moment, basically.

Julia Charlton: Thank you. It’s interesting for me. I don’t hear Hong Kong in any of these structures. Maybe that’s an opportunity for Hong Kong.

It’s definitely something can be done actually.

Yeah. Asim, do you have any, another question

for the panel?

Asim Malik: Yes, Julia we can also read questions in the Q&A tab you know? Yeah.

Sure. One question I have is for Khalid. So while the dark store model is gaining [00:41:00] popularity worldwide and is leading valuation deals, are there actually any profit success stories in this- using this model? What do you think about that?

Khalid Memon: So that’s an amazing question.

And there were some articles on it as well. So there are a lot of companies they have become decacorns, not even unicorns very soon. And they operate more than thousands of dark stores in countries like Turkey and Russia and in the west yes, that’s right.

They have not been proved to be profitable though they are successful. And I see a huge gap in the market. So it will still come. The key thing is the unit economics. If the contribution is positive within the next three to five years, then yes, it can turn into a success story. And that’s exactly what we are working on.

We are not only into delivering fast so that our unit economic increases drastically because otherwise you’ll end up building lots and lots of warehouses, dark stores that will completely destroy your unit economics. So we are focusing on unit economics as well, because as I’ve said, I repeat for [00:42:00] the third time, people are more price sensitive.

So if I deliver a craving of a can of Coke or a crisp in 10 minutes, that’s fine. But grocery cheaper is preferable than fast so inside entire basket, so that, that will add and I’m sure that we will turn it around and perhaps a first success story to become successful and profitable.

Thank you

Bilal Ahmed Butt: Julia, before, before you, people are going to answer and question a question and answer session, I would like to ask a good question from both of my friends. Do you have evaluation of your companies and have you assessed what kind of and how much investment is needed and what would be the rate of return down the road, maybe after three or five years rate of return, this might help the investors to understand what kind of, and how much investment is needed and how much return they are going to get down the road.

Abrar Bajwa: Yeah. Okay.

Khalid Memon: Yes, Mr. Bilal we have a detailed exhaustive financial model prepared for which [00:43:00] we can which can be shared with the entrusted investors which explains the entire journey of the growth, our historic -the financial numbers, the amount of investment required, where the investment is going to be spent, how much we are expected to earn what the valuation is at the moment.

And it is expected to be and how much return the investors can get and what can be the exit rounds or next round of investments or the exit strategy. So they have a detailed pack with us, basically, which can be shared with interested or potential investors.

Abrar Bajwa: So in our case, I think we raise money from different sort of set of investors who are mainly focused on venture capital in venture capital the risk propensity is much higher, so they are-for us, the basic money so far has been on just based techsand a few financial models, there have been no sophisticated. I come from a finance background. So for us there so far, have not been any sophisticated financial evaluations [00:44:00] including IRRs for us, it has been really about, what our multiple of our GRP has been and the people who generally invest in venture, which is basically a high-risk investment

they also are aware, generally that’s not nine out of 10 or maybe nine and a half out of their 10 investments are going to go belly up and believe one or probably half of those 10 investments are gonna be successful. But the idea for them is to make sure that that is a big one, right on that one investment

they make a lot of money. So there’s like different classes of investors people

raise money from and they have different types of profiles , different kinds of return outputs

and so.

Julia Charlton: Thank you. I think that’s gives everybody an overview of the valuation issue. I think we have time for probably two more quick questions for both of our wonderful startups.

There’s one from the participant. What would your advice be to capture the eyes of new investors if you’re a new startup? So this is asking you, I think, to advise other perhaps [00:45:00] startups at an embryonic stage than your companies are at,

Khalid?

Khalid Memon: Yeah. Okay. I think somebody told me that if you are here to serve the community. And if you’re, if you are passionate about something and that’s something that can transform the community and the society that can add the value. If you’re serving the society, then it’s definitely worth it. And you can, you do all you need to do is just work hard, but have the right people in the team have the right business model.

Be at the right time and the right spirit in the right place, then it’s just a matter of investment; you raise the capital.

Julia Charlton: Thank you, Khalid that’s a tall order, right place, right time, team. Abrar? ,

Abrar Bajwa: I think you should

go after probably what you really passionate about, but from a couple of logistics, I think things

that really make you sort of stand out

differently from the crowd is basically one. You go after a very large or a very large sized [00:46:00] market. Do a few journey, have a start-up experience. That journey helps. At least the VC investors. think about you slightly differently and three, I’ve seen that if you have any traction and then you start raising that’s easier.

If it’s just a concept, it becomes a bit of a problem in, they want to see a bit of traction. So just

do what you think is right.

Julia Charlton: Thank you. And I think your final question for me Abrar, where do you see Taazah tech in five years time in your dreams and perhaps in reality.

Abrar Bajwa: So that

dream, is basically what I sort of hinted to earlier, which is a very high-level technology overtake, which is connecting multiple pieces of the supply chain.

And ensure that there’s less wastage there’s a very high efficiency and this dream or this sort of model being replicated across multiple markets within, building a network of food supply food and agriculture supply chain, across multiple markets with this similar problem. So that’s where we wanna be.

Julia Charlton: Thank you and Khalid, how will Apricart have changed the world in five years?

Khalid Memon: Five [00:47:00] years time, realistically, not the entire world, but I’m sure about Pakistan itself and some countries around Pakistan high growth countries countries which are densely populated. So definitely for sure, we will be expanding there.

And as I’ve said that’s our team’s dream to transform the way people shop and just take off from their head, the grocery stress.

Julia Charlton: Thank you. Asim, Consul General, would you like to say a few words before we close either of you.

Bilal Ahmed Butt: Julia, thank you very much. I have, I think we had a very exhaustive session.

Friends from Pakistan Abrar and Khalid I’m really deeply impressed with the work they have done and they’re doing. And I really wish them best of luck. And I really want to see them as unicorns very soon and my prayers are with them. And I expect that the investors from Pakistan from Hong Kong, they should try to understand the Pakistani landscape.

There is a lot of potential exists because we are a big population of [00:48:00] 220 million people. We are a big consumer market and the living standard of people are increasing. We have young population people are more inclined towards e-commerce and there’s a lot of potential, as I mentioned while talking to Abrar that there is a lot of scopes in the construction of the warehousing and then connecting them to the consumers.

And similarly, as the case with the project of Khalid that there is lot of potential exists. And obviously almost 20% of our income is consumed in the Class-three items and still the market is at the nascent stage. There are tremendous potentials. This is the right time for investment because five to ten years that the people who will be in the market, they will be the market leaders.

And I expect that this is the time to invest in Pakistan and I wish them good luck best of luck for them. And I’m grateful to the Commonwealth Chamber for organizing this. I’m really grateful to you, [00:49:00] Julia, and to whole of your team. And I would really love to participate and to be part of such as much as you would require us to do, we are always at your call with a very short notice.

Julia Charlton: So thank you very much. All of you I’m grateful and honoured. Thank

you so much Consulate General. We’re very honored to have you joining us today and contributing so much of your own enormous knowledge. That brings us to the conclusion of this webinar. And I’m so excited about what we’ve heard today from CEO Khalid Memon and Abrar Bajwa what amazing companies you have. I’m sure you’re going to go from strength to strength. It’s all terribly exciting. Thank you so much for being with us today and special thanks again to Consul General. But it really means a lot and to my wonderful co-moderator Asim Malik, who was very much involved, not only today, but also in their arrangements leading up to this webinar.

Okay, [00:50:00] thank you all so much for joining. Your views matter to us. So before exiting completely, please, could you kindly complete the evaluation form that’s linked in the chat box. Once you click the link, please scan the QR code and you will be able to use it. At the same time, if you’d like to join the Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce, or you can tick the box option as well.

We look forward to seeing you again on another webinar soon. Thank you. And goodbye.