Monday Sep 27, 2021
Oraan, Pakistan’s first gender-inclusive fintech, has raised US$3 million in the largest seed funding closed by a local women-led startup.
Per a statement issued by the startup in this regard, the financing round was co-led by Zayn Capital and Wavemaker Partners, with participation from Resolution Ventures, i2i Ventures, Hustle Fund, Haitou Global, Plug and Play, and notable angels like Claire Diaz-Ortiz —a former partner at Magma Partners — who has also come on board as an advisor to the company.
Federal Minister for Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives Asad Umar also lauded the startup. Taking to Twitter, he wrote:
"Great to see Pakistani women also making their mark in the startup space. Initiatives like Oraan which improve financial inclusiveness for women would make a great impact on key strategic objectives like women empowerment and increasing savings rate."
Previously, Oraan had raised financing from Tharros, Zayn Capital, an angel syndicate led by Google executives, and Graph Ventures, bringing its total funding raised to just over $4 million.
The startup was founded in 2018 by Halima Iqbal, a former investment banker, and Farwah Tapal, a design strategist. Focusing on gender-specific innovation, Oraan designed products and services around credit, insurance, and savings in Pakistan – home to 5% of the world’s unbanked female population.
“Oraan was founded when we realised that the majority of the Pakistani population struggles to access financial services simply because they are not designed for them,” said Halima Iqbal, CEO and founder at Oraan. “While there is a demand among women for credit, insurance, and savings services, they are unable to approach financial institutions due to mistrust, the complexity of products, and challenges around mobility.”
Oraan Committees, the startup’s flagship product, is the digital reimagination of Rotating Saving and Credit Associations (‘ROSCAs’), an age-old method of group saving and credit. ROSCAs are known as committees or beesees in Pakistan and are used by 41% of the Pakistani population, with up to $5 billion rotating annually.
Using the Oraan app, Oraan Savers are able to sign up for committees that suit their needs and allow them to save with groups beyond their immediate geographical and social networks.
"Having been involved with Oraan since early 2020, we are excited to co-lead the company's latest funding round to help promulgate indigenous finance across Pakistan and in the region,” says Faisal Chowdry, GP at Zayn Capital.
"Our belief is that the digitisation of indigenous finance solutions and behaviours is the key to unlocking the fintech opportunity in Pakistan and providing real utility in terms of product for customers. In addition, being able to be a part of the story of the only women-led and founded fintech in Pakistan, with a goal of empowering women who sit at the financial helm of every household, fits with our ethos at Zayn"
Today, Oraan boasts a community of over 10,000 savers, 84% of whom are women, from across 170-plus cities. These women use Oraan Committees to save, borrow, build emergency funds, and achieve other goals like travel and pay for education, working capital, as well as medical treatments.
Based on a deep understanding of this user base, Oraan is poised to launch other financial products that will position the company to become the country’s first women-first digital, social bank.
"With half of Pakistan's 200+ million population being female, it is striking that bank account penetration for women in the country stands at just 7%, making the gender gap in banking access in Pakistan one of the most serious in the world," said Gavin Lee, General Partner at Wavemaker Partners in Southeast Asia.
"We believe that designing a female-friendly financial product to help women access the banking system, and in turn, allow them to access credit, insurance, and investment, is one of the most critical ways to promote sustainable economic growth in Pakistan."
The latest round of funding will be used to accelerate Oraan’s expansion into other products with its extremely sticky user base.
The Oraan App can be downloaded from:
Play store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.oraan.android
App store: https://apps.apple.com/pk/app/oraan/id1479970322