With the growth of Bangladesh's economy, a new social class that is underserved by the current conventional financial institutions has emerged, and continues to emerge.
They are too few in number for the banks and for microfinance institutions. By serving this "missing middle", ShopUp, a home-grown Bangladeshi startup has been able to propel their business growth and gain enough traction to secure the largest ever Series A investment in Bangladesh -- a whopping $22.5 million.
In a Facebook Live chat with The Daily Star, Afeef Zaman, the cofounder and CEO of ShopUp shared some intriguing insights. Also present In the live session were Smita Aggarwal, Global Investments Advisor of Flourish Ventures, which, along with Sequoia Capital India, led the Series A round of fundraising where Veon Ventures, Speedinvest and Lonsdale Capital also participated.
In the Facebook Live session moderated by Shameem Ahsan, managing director of eGeneration and president of Venture Capital & Private Equity Association of Bangladesh, Afeef shared his hopes and dreams about ShopUp.
"Currently, three of our core services [working capital, a wholesale market service to secure inventory and logistics, which includes last-mile delivery] are being catered to apparel and FMCG [fast moving consumer goods]. So, the opportunity remains immense," said Afeef.
He also informed that in post-pandemic Bangladesh, ShopUp is planning to reach 1 million active retailers.
When asked what led Flourish to invest in Bangladesh, Smita said that it was mostly due to several points -- the macroeconomic indicators of Bangladesh, the dense population with an incredible rate of adoption of technology, the local talent and, most importantly. a winning business model.
Like most startups, the pandemic has been a litmus test for ShopUp's operation. But even during this crisis period where the supply-chain has been severely strained, ShopUp saw an uptick.
"Our weekly transaction grew around eight times and our last-mile delivery has grown around 13 times," Afeef said.
When asked what sort of future ShopUp envisions, Afeef said in the next five years, ShopUp aims to contribute 5 percent of the GDP of Bangladesh.