Gobi leads $1.5m Series A for Pakistan’s online travel agency Sastaticket

Gobi founding partner Thomas G Tsao with Sastaticket CEO Shazil Mekhri

Gobi Partners has led a $1.5-million Series A funding round for Pakistani online travel agency, Sastaticket.pk, becoming the first Chinese venture capital firm to invest in the country.

Sastaticket, founded in 2016 by brothers Shazil and Bilal Mehkri, allows domestic travellers to book and pay for flights and hotels online. According to Sastaticket, just 3 per cent of Pakistani travellers use an online platform to book flights and hotels.

“With this round of funding and access to Gobi’s wealth of experience in the online travel sector across Asia, we are excited to enhance our products and services. This funding will help us increase our scale, recruit top talent, and increase our development speed in critical segments such as Islamic tourism,” said Shazil Mehkri, CEO of Sastaticket.

Gobi’s founding partner Thomas Tsao said Pakistani startups like Sastaticket have the ability to leapfrog ahead of their peers.

“When we invested in the OTA space in China ten years ago, AI didn’t even exist. Shazil is already thinking about data analytics and AI. I think being at the early part of the technology adoption curve means you have better opportunities because you can adopt the best technologies from day one,” said Tsao.

The investment by Gobi Partners underscores growing Chinese interest in a market that has long been considered “too risky” for investors.

In May, Chinese e-commerce giant, Alibaba Group announced the acquisition of Pakistani online retailer, Daraz. In March, Ant Financial invested $184.5 million for a 45 per cent stake in Telenor Microfinance Bank (TMB) to develop its mobile payment and digital financial services. TMB is a subsidiary of Telenor Group and a leading lender in Pakistan.

Tsao said: “The return on equity is highest when there is scarcity of capital. Scarcity of capital happens when people are afraid or when the market is too risky. But I see that as potential.”

Also read:

Pakistan-focused VC firm Sarmayacar secures first close of $30m early-stage fund

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.