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Kashmiri startup on Shark Tank India gets Rs 90 lakh funding, vote of confidence for last-mile delivery businesses

Lenskart CEO Piyush Bansal and boAt CEO Aman Gupta committed Rs 90 lakh in funding to FastBeetle, which plans to use the money to open a branch in Ladakh, and for HR and tech expansion,

Srinagar / January 29, 2023 / 06:35 PM IST
Logistics tech platform headquartered in Srinagar, FastBeetle was co-founded by two friends Abid Rashid and Sheikh Samiullah in 2019.

Logistics tech platform headquartered in Srinagar, FastBeetle was co-founded by two friends Abid Rashid and Sheikh Samiullah in 2019.

FastBeetle, a logistics startup, this month became the first Kashmiri business to pitch for funding on Shark Tank India, the business reality television series on SonyLIV, and a franchise of the famous American show Shark Tank.

The three-year-old logistic courier company from Jammu & Kashmir has raised Rs 90 lakh in Season 2 of the reality show.

Shark Tank India program offers an opportunity for business owners to present their pitches (entrepreneurial concepts) and potentially gain financing from the judges known as “sharks”.

FastBeetle is one of the 198 startups to make it to the finals - according to SonyLIV, 8 lakh entrepreneurs had applied for season 2.

Sheikh Samiullah, CEO of FastBeetle, told Moneycontrol that the startup has raised a bridge round of Rs 90 lakh from two sharks—Lenskart CEO Peyush Bansal and boAt co-founder Aman Gupta. “Luckily, we managed to bag a big one... The investment amount will be utilised on human resource expansion and for the tech development of the company,” Samiullah added.

Childhood friends Sheikh Samiullah and Abid Rashid, both 31, launched the company in Srinagar’s old city, also known as Shehr-e-Khaas, in 2019.

Proud moment

Earlier this month Samiullah and Rashid participated in the business show and impressed the Sharks with their pitch as well as their responses.

The duo’s “invincible determination” was appreciated by the judges, with the audience delighted to see a Kashmiri entrepreneurship model emerge as a big winner.

“It is a proud moment not for our company but for 1.5 crore people of J&K that a company from the region has received validation and investment from the Sharks. It will help to create a business ecosystem in the region and more youths who look for government jobs otherwise can get encouraged to become entrepreneurs and start business units in the Valley,” said Samiullah, a BBA graduate.

Kashmiri startup FastBeetle was on season 2 of Shark Tank India Photo Irfan Amin Malik

Also read: "No investor even asked me that J&K is a disturbed place and how can they invest": Atul Modi

Samiullah said he's been receiving calls and messages since the episode aired. Among them, he said, are calls from Kashmiris settled in other cities and countries who want to return. He said he thinks "ur company’s growth and achievements have motivated them to return and start some business here”.

The young entrepreneur added that raising investments is a clear message for other entrepreneurs that it is possible to raise funds to build a scalable enterprise in Kashmir.

What next

“We already have offices in Kashmir as well as in Jammu, but we did not have any office in Ladakh. With the Shark Tank India investment, we will open our wings in Ladakh and therefore we are starting an office in Leh,” FastBeetle co-founder said, adding that the company will also create more jobs for the local youth and improve the economy in the region.

FastBeetle was launched on July 25, 2019, days ahead of the abrogation of Article 370. FastBeetle delivers to some 19,000 pin codes across India.

Like many startups in India, FastBeetle began its operations with the help of financing from family and friends. Within a short span of time, it emerged as a fast-growing logistics tech platform in the region.

The company which provides last-mile delivery in Kashmir has raised a couple of rounds of investments from angel investors and high net-worth individuals, according to the founders. In 2020, the company raised seed round at a special incubation program held in Srinagar by ALSiSAR Impact, a double bottom line impact incubator and transaction advisory firm, that has a special focus on frontier markets and the Himalayan region.

Double bottom line keeps an eye on both financial performance and social impact.

A year later, in December 2021, the company became the first startup from the Valley to raise $100,000 in a pre-Series A funding round from angel investors, Samiullah said.

Locally known as ‘Beetles’, the company works with over 1,500 MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) and has delivered more than 10 lakh orders in more than 55 countries.

The company is also delivering to over 19,000 pin codes across the country and has tied up with e-commerce giants. “We have been delivering products from Kashmir—Pashmina shawls, carpet, red chillies, and saffron—to multiple countries. Our USP is that we deliver logistical service on the tough terrain of J&K where big, private players aren’t operational,” said Samiullah.

During the Covid-19 lockdown, FastBeetle was widely credited for running operations through 2G internet service and helping keep crucial business lifelines open, delivering medicines, oxygen cylinders and other essentials.

Irfan Amin Malik
Irfan Amin Malik is a freelance journalist based in J&K. He tweets @irfanaminmalik
first published: Jan 29, 2023 06:26 pm