Pakistan's Neem raises $2.5M to serve underbanked communities with its embedded finance platform

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Pakistan's embedded finance platform Neem has raised $2.5 million in a seed funding round as it works to support underbanked communities in the country.

The Karachi-based startup targets communities across sectors including agriculture, MSMEs, e-commerce, logistics, healthcare and others. It offers a lending platform that its partners use to provide tailored lending products to consumers and MSMEs. Neem is also working on a banking-as-a-service (BaaS) platform, which will go live in December, that will onboard partners to embed wallets and payments and offer financial products such as insurance and savings customized to specific community's needs.

Three-year-old Neem was founded by Nadeem Shaikh, Vladimira Briestenska and Naeem Zamindar, who previously worked as fintech entrepreneurs, operators and VCs.

"Most of the [existing] players are providing a B2C solution; we are a B2B2C solution. If you look at the embedded finance space, it is a $167 billion opportunity," Shaikh said in an interview with TechCrunch.

Owing to COVID, the strong growth in digitization has helped Neem embed its finance services across private and public sectors.

Citing industry figures, Shaikh said about 53 million people in Pakistan are currently underbanked. Over time, the startup plans to go beyond Pakistan and support underbanked communities in other developing markets.

The seed funding, which the startup aims to use to expand its existing team of 20 people, roll out the BaaS platform and capitalize licenses, was led by Hong Kong-based SparkLabs Fintech. The funding round also saw the participation of Pakistan's investment banking firm Arif Habib, Cordoba Logistics and Ventures, Taarah Ventures, My Asia VC, Concept Vines and Building Capital. Additionally, partners at Outrun Ventures, the founding partner at Mentors Fund and fintech veteran and ex-CEO of Seccl also participated in the seed round.

"We have strong conviction about Neem's mission to enable financial wellness for underbanked communities, and have full confidence in the Neem leadership team to realise this vision amidst macro challenges across the globe," said William Chu, managing partner, SparkLabs Fintech, in a prepared statement.

The startup was bootstraped before receiving the seed funding.