Two young entrepreneurs from Pakistan, Shershah Hassan and Waleed Amjad Islam, have captured international attention with their groundbreaking startup, Kalpay. The Shariah-compliant buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) platform has gained significant traction globally and was recently featured on the prestigious Forbes “30 under 30 Asia” list.
Hassan, 26, and Islam, 25, began conceptualizing Kalpay in 2020 with the goal of revolutionizing people’s lives through innovative financial solutions. The startup, launched in June 2021, already collaborates with approximately 500 e-commerce merchants across various product and service categories. Kalpay enables customers to purchase products and pay in three equal monthly installments, without any interest or additional charges, using cards, e-wallets, and bank transfers, as reported by Arab News.
Pakistan has a credit card penetration rate of less than 1 percent, and nearly 90 percent of transactions are conducted in cash. Moreover, the country has the world’s third-largest unbanked adult population, with approximately 100 million adults lacking a bank account in a population of 220 million, according to the World Bank. Recognizing these challenges, Hassan and Islam aimed to develop a product that addresses financing issues and basic banking problems.
“The drive was that I have to do my own business, and the goal was that the work should be impact-focused to improve the lives of consumers by giving them access to finance,” said Hassan, the CEO and co-founder of Kalpay, during an interview with Arab News. He further expressed his fulfillment in realizing this dream.
After self-funding their venture for about nine months, Hassan secured investments in June 2021 and subsequently left his job at a US-based company. In October of the same year, he and his partner Islam officially launched Kalpay. The funding came from both local and foreign investors, including venture capital firms and angel investors from Saudi Arabia, Europe, Singapore, and the United States.
Currently, Kalpay operates in three verticals, providing BNPL e-commerce solutions by collaborating with 500 companies and offering users convenient access to financing. Hassan, an Accounting and Finance graduate from the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), mentioned that the startup offers financing ranging from Rs2,000 to Rs500,000, payable in three installments.
Two of Kalpay’s new verticals, Kalpay Rasayi and Kalpay Taleem, offer BNPL services for the purchase of productive assets like smartphones and laptops, as well as fee payments for education and skill development services. Hassan explained, “If we are financing a laptop or a smartphone to a freelancer or Foodpanda rider, the laptop and smartphone are the source of income to them. That is how we are creating an impact in society because these products could change the lives and future of people.”
Kalpay has witnessed double-digit growth in terms of value and volume on a month-on-month basis, inspiring Hassan and Islam to plan for further expansion and consolidation. When asked about their decision to launch a Shariah-compliant product, Hassan revealed that his research indicated a majority of people in Pakistan preferred not to engage in interest-based financing.
“Obviously, our [Pakistani] market is Muslim majority, so while searching from a financing perspective, one thing came into the spotlight: some customers don’t get financing because of religious concerns, and I also wanted to have Shariah-compliant products,” explained Hassan, emphasizing that their service is not exclusive to Muslims.