Nasrat Khalid, a social entrepreneur originally from Afghanistan, has a fervent passion for providing artisans from underdeveloped countries access to the global market. Recognizing that international vendors and platforms are often unwilling to operate within these countries due to lack of infrastructure, Nasrat decided to build it himself, starting with his home country.
Officially launching in 2018, Aseel App is an online marketplace where Afghan artisans can sell handcrafted products in the international market, receiving a more dignified wage than if they were to resort to selling their goods through channels traditionally available to them. After the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021 and the country’s subsequent collapse, the Aseel App team pivoted to utilize its already existing infrastructure to allow customers to, instead of buying a handmade product from Afghanistan, send humanitarian aid to Afghans. Aseel Buy Good encapsulates Nasrat’s initial vision of providing a space for artisans to sell their products. The second added element, Aseel Do Good, capitalizes on that same infrastructure to foster transparent and efficient channels of humanitarian aid, which helped over 250,000 people in the first year alone. Overall, Aseel has impacted a total of 500,000 people through the Buy Good and Do Good elements of the platform, and aims to grow its impact to 5,000,000 people over the next five years.
“We are an infrastructure provider for underdeveloped countries—we think that is the core of enabling all underdeveloped countries to come to the digital economy,” explains Nasrat. “The first use of that was the Buy Good, the second use of that was the Do Good, but we know there are hundreds of other uses.” As Nasrat seeks to further expand his vision of the Aseel App beyond Afghanistan, he faces the challenge of how to compellingly pitch the narrative, impact, and goals to investors and identify new audiences. In recognition of his proven impact and potential to scale, KIN welcomed Aseel into its network of selected Social Ventures. To kickstart the Aseel-KIN relationship, KIN facilitated a Catalyze Session, a curated 90 minute session that brings together purpose driven leaders, or Knowledge Partners, to share expertise, insights, and resources with social ventures, like Aseel App.
With extensive experience in global commerce and humanitarian aid, the hand-selected cohort of Knowledge Partners (Eva Miranda, Marc Feder, Susheela Vasan, Maria Reiling, Heather Hansma, and Leigh Marriner) helped Nasrat, Gigi Aulsebrook, and Salma Sultani identify gaps in their pitch and opportunities for reshaping the narrative, such as including a stronger focus on the app’s proven impact and innovative technology infrastructure. In the weeks following the session, Nasrat continued in communications with all of the Knowledge Partners in the Catalyze session to update and improve areas of their data room and pitch as well as make a short list and prepare for reaching out to potential investors over the course of the summer.
“It's hard to get a team of six people that are all experts in their domains to come to one call and directly provide feedback and discuss possibilities,” explains Nasrat. “Startups are made because of the founders' passion for the problem, but they grow because of solid backing from people that share that vision; [we’re] glad to have KIN on our side, bringing in experts who are providing that solid industry advice that Aseel needs.”