Marham, a healthtech startup based in Lahore, has raised $1 million in a seed round led by Pakistan-focused venture capital firm Indus Valley Capital, the company announced today. Additionally, Weihan Liew, an angel investor from Southeast Asia, participated in the round.
Marham was founded in 2015 by Ehsan Imam and Asma Omer as a doctor booking platform, allowing patients to schedule appointments with doctors at various hospitals throughout Pakistan. It has since evolved into a healthcare platform that enables users to book online consultations (with doctors) and lab tests, as well as place medication orders, via the company’s website or mobile apps.
The startup has grown its network to 20,000 doctors across 67 cities in Pakistan over the last six years. It claims to have served ten million patients since its inception, who used the website to read doctor reviews, schedule appointments, receive online consultations, and ask questions in their free Q&A forum.
What’s remarkable is that they accomplished all of this while bootstrapping the company. Marham has been profitable almost from the start, allowing them to expand without raising capital. This is the healthcare startup’s first external investment. However, why raise capital when your business is growing through the reinvestment of profits?
“There is much work to be done to ensure that patients receive faster care and have a better experience. We are aware that our solution is a long-term investment for the industry. Given its direct impact on human lives, the healthtech industry’s sensitive nature makes scaling significantly more difficult than in other tech sectors. We’ve taken great care in developing our team, product, and processes in order to provide a higher level of service. As demonstrated by our numbers and organic growth, the foundation we’ve laid to build a thriving business is solid. Now is the time to accelerate our growth and realise more of our vision,”.
“We are excited to partner with Marham on their mission to provide affordable, high-quality healthcare to all Pakistanis,” said Aatif Awan, founder and managing partner of Indus Valley Capital. The founders’ enthusiasm is contagious, as is the progress they’ve already made while bootstrapping. We look forward to collaborating with them to help Marham grow faster.”
Teleconsultations now account for roughly half of Marham’s business. The startup anticipates that its market share will continue to grow as more Pakistanis adopt online services. Marham intends to use the additional funding to expand its ‘healthcare superapp’ and reach out to smaller cities and rural areas in Pakistan. “Our vision is to create a healthcare ecosystem that benefits patients, physicians, and hospitals by ensuring faster care and a better experience across Pakistan through technology, processes, and telemedicine-enabled micro-clinics,” Ehsan stated in a statement.
Asma Omer, co-founder and chief operating officer of Marham, believes that Marham will transform healthcare in a developing country like Pakistan by making it more accessible and affordable to the masses. “[It] will save millions of lives for years to come, with patients receiving quality healthcare from qualified doctors without having to leave their home.”
Marham was the first platform in Pakistan to allow patients to search for and book appointments with doctors online, but over the last five years, at least five other notable players have entered the space and raised venture capital to scale their businesses. Ehsan commented on the increasing competition, saying, “It’s refreshing to see more startups enter this space.” It reveals something about the market’s proclivity for change. Marham has the advantage of being the first to act. 20,000 doctors from 67 cities in Pakistan have registered on our platform, and as a result of our high traction and experience, we’ve optimised our processes to deliver services with the highest quality and risk mitigation. In a competitive industry like ours, many competitors can provide the same service; what matters most is who provides the highest quality service.”