The eCommerce industry continues to be one of the key drivers of development in the Pakistan startup ecosystem, as most recently noted in the Pakistan Q3 2021 Venture Investment Report. As a result, investor engagement in Pakistan’s eCommerce firms is reaching historic highs. By Q3 2021, Pakistani e-commerce firms had raised about 30% of the nation’s total capital, driven by a 355% year on year increase in financing. The Pakistani startup ecosystem has been adamant about building an ingenious digital infrastructure to support the increased adoption of the internet across the nation. Zarya is an excellent case in point.
Zarya, a B2B eCommerce platform built for housewives and small sellers to source products for maximizing their earnings, raised $1.7 million pre-seed in November 2021. Armed with investments from local and international investors, this Lahore-based startup envisions removing the barriers small sellers face in sourcing, delivering, and getting paid for their products. They aim to free up the seller’s time to enable them to focus on boosting their sales and revenue.
Founded by a team of brothers, Saad and Faisal Zahid, in 2021, Zarya has more than 3,000 products on its platform to date, ranging from women’s clothing and children’s outfits to niche categories such as home textiles, abayas, and make up. It aims to be the go-to digital wholesale firm for retailers and social sellers looking to “elevate the bottom lines for smaller-sized sellers.” Many of their customers are housewives seeking to earn extra income.
This idea, known as “social selling,” was initially introduced by Meesho in India and has since been adopted by a variety of businesses from developing nations, such as Brimore and Taager from Egypt. Meesho raised over $1 billion in fundraising overall and was even valued at close to $5 billion in its most recent funding round by utilizing social selling.
As more merchants switch to using digital platforms for sales, social commerce is anticipated to increase in Pakistan as well. Within the larger eCommerce, Zarya offers itself as a digital wholesaler where merchants, mostly online and offline, may get their items straight from the Zarya app and sell them to individuals in their network. Simply choose a product on the Zarya app, add commission on top of the sale price, share the product with people in her/his network on Facebook, on an Instagram store, etc., and anyone, existing sellers or someone who wants to be a seller without any investment, can do so.
According to Faisal, “The primary market Zarya intends to serve is digital because the idea is to sell digital. Offline sellers, however, are not shunned either. Supplying online sellers’ products at wholesale rate makes more sense because it’s not easy for online sellers to go and pick products up from the wholesale market and then sell them online. It can become expensive which can mess up their unit economics.”
While Faisal has built a rich repertoire as a director of product management at renowned firms such as Careem and startups like Nana, Saad is equally well known for leading operations for many established businesses in Pakistan. Specifically speaking, Saad has wide scale expertise in steel manufacture and industrial scale farms. Then, how did he decide to make the switch to entrepreneurship?
Both Saad and Faisal maintain that the gap in the eCommerce industry was too wide to ignore. In Faisal’s words, “Pakistan has over 100 million YouTube and 45 million Facebook users. Pakistan’s social media users are spending more than 3 hrs per day on social media apps. If you’re spending so much time online, it becomes quite natural to start buying and selling while on social media apps.”
The pre-seed investment round was led by Raed Ventures, Egyptian social commerce firm Taager, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Global Founders Capital, and US-based Class 5 Global. Wael Nafee of Raed Ventures is excited about the venture. In his words, “Raed sees the social commerce space growing rapidly in the MENAP region. Similar markets such as India and China are showing early signs of its potential. We are excited to back Zarya and be part of their journey.”
With the appropriate finance, Zarya hopes to increase the quantity of vendors and empower women-owned enterprises. Zarya also plans to broaden its catalog and improve the user friendliness of their app. The founders believe that scaling up will require a strong supply chain and automated logistics system to ensure procuring and delivering products is a seamless and smooth process for the end user.