The startup Dbank, which has its headquarters in Islamabad, said that it has secured $17.6 million in a seed round, the highest in Pakistan. Sequoia Capital Southeast Asia, the region’s $1 billion fund, and Kleiner Perkins co-led the deal. The Pakistani company added that Brazilian neobanks Nubank, Askari Bank, and Rayn all took part in the financing.
The most important venture fund in the world, Sequoia, has made its first investment in Pakistan, joining a growing group of prominent investors who have supported start-up companies in the South Asian market during the previous 12 months.
According to co-founder Tania Aidrus, Dbank is a fintech startup that aims to increase access to financial services in Pakistan in a “transparent and friendly” way by challenging the informal credit system, which frequently takes advantage of those in need by charging them exorbitant and erratic interest rates.
Dbank will make an effort to “democratize banking,” according to Johan Surani, VP at Sequoia Southeast Asia. However, the firm wants to withhold its strategy for the time being, according to Aidrus.
Over 220 million people call Pakistan home, yet only about half of them presently have bank accounts. According to Aidrus, “We want our users to be in control of their money and to make educated decisions.”
She co-founded Dbank with Khurram Jamali after working on payments rails for Google’s Next Billion Users program during their prior employment there, when they both thoroughly examined the difficulties the unbanked population experiences. Then, for a brief period, Aidrus served as Chief Digital Officer for the Pakistani government.
The central bank of Pakistan, State Bank of Pakistan, has actively looked at chances to improve the country’s payments infrastructure in order to broaden financial inclusion in recent years. The nation has created NADRA, a platform for digital identification, as well as Raast, a real-time payments system for quick digital transactions.
A new complete banking digital licence that the central bank has created enables more players to act as banks and accept consumer deposits without the need for physical locations. Pakistani Dbank has submitted an application to become a digital retail bank.
“Raast, the real-time payment system by the State Bank of Pakistan, and seamless digital identity through NADRA are the main building elements that make this the ideal time to establish a business like Dbank. We have observed the multiplier effect that digital public infrastructure may have on the capacity of the private sector to assist in the transition of economies from cash to digital, according to a statement from Jamali.
According to Aidrus, Dbank intends to eventually establish a digital bank focused on customers throughout the Pan-Islamic region, starting with Pakistan.
In the past two years, many investors, including Tiger Global, Addition, and Prosus Ventures, have supported Pakistani entrepreneurs, enhancing the local ecosystem. The impact of the global market slump is being felt by the entire country. One of Pakistan’s most well-known businesses, Airlift, recently announced that it was closing due to a cash shortage.
“Pakistan, the fifth-most populated country in the world, has a rapidly expanding middle class with more complex financial demands. This is a rare chance to create a sizable, customer-focused bank for millions of people. In order to democratize banking and create a wide range of financial services that are pleasant, transparent, and therefore accessible for the entire country, Dbank is tackling this issue by adopting a digital-native strategy. In the release, Sequoia Southeast Asia’s Surani said, “The team behind this is a rare combination of bright individuals, and Sequoia Capital Southeast Asia is delighted to have the chance to be early partners with them.