Pakistan’s highest-valued startup Airlift has gone bust.
The Lahore-based instant-delivery startup will permanently shut down on July 13, according to two company employees, including one executive.
The company confirmed the decision to shut its business in a statement to Rest of World. “While the global recession and recent downturn in capital markets has affected economic activity across the board, it has had a devastating impact on Airlift and rendered its shut-down inevitable,” it said. “On July 12, Airlift’s operations will shut down permanently. This has been an extremely taxing decision that impacts a large set of stakeholders and an emerging technology ecosystem.”
Less than a year ago Airlift was flying high and had raised $85 million in a Series B funding round, the highest single round of investment raised by any startup in Pakistan. The country’s Prime Minister tweeted a congratulatory note to the three-year-old startup, and billboard ads for Airlift were plastered across the country. At the time, the company was considered Pakistan’s best shot at a unicorn.
But the company’s fortunes changed due to the global startup funding crunch and some bad business decisions that increased its operating costs. In May, Airlift announced a “strategic realignment,” laying off nearly one-third of its workforce and cutting operations from eight cities, to just three. It had also shut its business in South Africa.
Airlift was launched in 2019 as a mass transit service that operated an Uber-like service for buses in Pakistan. As the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country, Airlift scrapped its transit service and quickly pivoted to grocery delivery.
This is a breaking story which will be updated as news emerges.