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Women Entrepreneurs In Pakistan

An entrepreneur is a person who, rather than working for someone else and being boss around, starts a small/big business of his/her own and makes living with it. Entrepreneurship's scope is rapidly growing day by day and many individuals today are going for entrepreneurship instead of questing jobs.

The purpose of my writing about this topic is to highlight and pay tribute to successful women entrepreneurs of Pakistan. As we all celebrated Women's day yesterday, I thought why shouldn't I write about Women's role in the development of our society. Though women are amazingly talented today and are working in many fields of life alongside with men and each of it is exceptionally progressive and I wholeheartedly respect and salute all these wonderfully strong ladies for all their work, devotion, and their contribution to our society. Choosing any particular vocation to write about was quite difficult and after thinking about it a lot I decide to talk about entrepreneurship in Pakistan and women's role in it.

Following is the list of some of the most extraordinary, successful and inspiring women entrepreneurs who, despite all odds, proved their tenacity and continue to contribute to the thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem in Pakistan. They sure are an inspiration for every ambitious entrepreneur and initiate a fine and innovative business community in Pakistan.

Farieha Aziz

Farieha Aziz is a journalist by profession and Co-Founder and Director of Bolo Bhi (Speak up). Bolo Bhi is a non-profit organization engaging in advocacy, policy, and research in the areas of gender rights, government transparency, internet access, digital security and privacy. She has also worked at the Newsline as the Assistant Editor from 2007 to 2012 for which she also received the APNS award for Best Investigative Report (Business/Economic) for the year 2007-2008. She has also served as amicus curiae in a case filed in the Lahore High Court that challenged the Youtube ban.

Fiza Farhan

Fiza Farhan, the 28-year old entrepreneur is the co-founder of the Buksh Foundation. Since 2009, Buksh Foundation has been operating in Pakistan. Buksh foundation is a microfinance institution that takes clean energy projects to the underprivileged and rural areas of Pakistan. The institution has brought solar powered lights to around 6750 households all across Pakistan. It has also trained 135 women as energy entrepreneurs. The distinguished business magazine Forbes has included her name in its list of 30 under 30 social entrepreneurs for the year 2015.

Hafsa Shorish

Plan9 is one of the largest technology incubators in Pakistan contributing to promote the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Plan9’s offshoot accelerator program PlanX that was established to support the mid-stage startups is another landmark in thriving the entrepreneurial culture. When Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) launched the Plan9, Hafsa Shorish was one of its first hire and thus one of its founding members. She has been playing a major role in grooming job creators instead of job seekers initially at Plan9 in the capacity of Marketing and PR Manager and afterward by leading the PlanX as Program Manager. With her exceptional communication skills, she has visited all over Punjab speaking about the mission of her accelerator and incubator while also creating awareness about the importance of entrepreneurship. She believes, “It takes the right mindset and the right team to lead a startup to matchless success.”

Jehan Ara

Jehan Ara is President of all Pakistan Software Houses Association since 2001 and heading NESTiO an incubator in Karachi.  Jehan Ara is one of the most prominent and widely known names in the tech industry of Pakistan. She is a seasoned information and communication technology expert, motivator, entrepreneur, and a social activist. She started her career as a journalist before becoming involved in multimedia and interactive media. Under her leadership, PASHA’s own technology incubator, The Nest I/O was established with Google and Samsung as its funding partners. The incubator supports in creating a networking, mentorship and investment opportunities for young entrepreneurs by providing an enabling and conducive environment. She is a prominent speaker, writer and a staunch advocate of legislation against cyber crimes, right to privacy and data protection. She is also collaborating with socially cohesive projects like Take Back the Tech and Women’s Virtual Network which are striving to eliminate all forms of violence against women and ensure women empowerment respectively.

Kalsoom Lakhani

Kalsoom Lakhani, Masters in International Relations, is the Founder and CEO of one of Pakistan’s leading startup accelerators 'Invest2Innovate', that have gone on to raise $1 million in funding and have created over 1000 jobs. Kalsoom is not only working for Pakistan but she has also trained young entrepreneurs in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ireland, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine too. Kalsoom has gone on to become a Washington, D.C. co-ambassador for Sandbox, a global network of entrepreneurs under 30, and is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers. She has also been featured in Diplomatic Courier’s Top 99 Foreign Policy Leaders under 33 in 2012 and was named an Ashoka Changemakers/American Express Emerging Innovator for 2013.

Maria Umer

Maria Umer is the founder of Women’s Digital League, an organization responsible for empowering women by connecting them with digital work. Maria’s aim is to create educational opportunities for underprivileged girls and to form training and work centers to provide them the right skills to enable them to work and earn for their families. Her organization, WDL has been featured by popular websites like Forbes and Mashable and has received certifications from Thunderbird School’s Project Artemis and Goldman Sachs’ 10k Women Program. She has lately been associated with WomenX program of World Bank to train women in business, digital and entrepreneurship skills.

Maryam Mohiyuddin

Maryam Mohiyuddin is professionally a lawyer and the founder and director of Social Innovation Lab (SIL) which is a social enterprise incubator housed at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). The SIL, that houses the social enterprise incubator called ‘The Hatchery’, is a center for social innovation in Pakistan having different wings including the Community Engagement Wing in addition to the Consultancy and Research Wing. She was also the co-founder of a magazine called ‘Literaty Pakistan’ which had a whole section devoted to social entrepreneurship that explored redress of social dilemmas through innovative solutions. Through SIL, Maryam provides the socially driven entrepreneurial startups not only mentorship and investment opportunities but also ideas with a testing platform, building connections and a nurturing environment.

Meenah Tariq

Meenah Tariq is a scholar with the degree in strategy and entrepreneurship from Babson College. Tariq is contributing to building a dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem in Pakistan as Accelerator Lead at Pakistan’s business startups accelerator Invest2Innovate (I2I). She started her first entrepreneurial venture of selling hand-made bracelets when she was just eight. Tariq has a huge experience of businesses and startups as a serial entrepreneur. Moreover, she has also engaged in consultancy, financial analysis, and project management. At invest2innovate, Meenah Tariq has been leading the accelerator and consulting entrepreneurs and not-for-profit startups. Her past experience includes designing and executing the marketing research campaigns for various products and services. Through her work, she has been successfully partaking in the social and economic uplift of the country with special focus on youth empowerment and capacity-building.

Mehak Jamal

Mehak Jamal is a FAST graduate with a degree in Electrical Engineering. Mehak is breaking stereotypes in her role as the Project Manager of TechHub Connect which is Pakistan’s first ever co-working space designated for freelancers. Mehak has had diverse experience in product development and management. Tech Hub Connect is a Government of Punjab-supported initiative. The platform is the continuation of initiatives for boosting up the entrepreneurial culture and supporting the technology ecosystem developed at the Arfa Software Technology. Mehak’s aim at TechHub is not just to provide freelancers with an office space but start a positive conversation and initiate a work culture where people are willing to help others. She feels that this not only helps the freelancers individually but also positively contributes to Pakistan’s freelance community. Mehak also guides freelancers personally so that they are able to improve the quality of their work. To date, over 1 million dollars worth of work has been done TechHub Connect. Mehak is also the co-manager of Herself.

Nighat Dad

Nighat Dad is a lawyer by profession and internet activist. She runs a non-profit organization called 'Digital Rights Foundation' founded in 2012 through which she guides women to educate them about privacy and online security. Her purpose is to raise awareness about global rights and online privacy to protect women from online harassment for which she has also received global recognition. She has won many awards for her work including 2016 Human Rights Tulip award, Atlantic Council Digital Freedom Award. She has also launched Pakistan’s first cyber harassment helpline on 1st December 2016.

Nabila Maqsood

Nabila Maqsood, opened her first salon in May 1986 in Karachi and through “sheer” hard work she is the gigantic name we all know today. Nabila is considered an integral part of the fashion industry of Pakistan. She has been associated with the fashion world for the past 20 years or so. However she does not let that get in the way of her business, she has expanded her salon all over Pakistan and has recently opened a men’s saloon “N-Gents” as well as a Nail Salon.

Sabeen Mahmud (LATE)

Sabeen Mahmud, the ex-President of TIE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) owned the Second Floor Café (T2F) Karachi. It is an initiative that supports productive discussions and debate on the existing issues of Pakistan. T2F café was introduced by ‘Peace Niche’ (a not for profit organization striving to resolve political conflicts through cultural engagement. Peace Niche is also founded and directed by Sabeen Mahmood. During the late hours of 24 April 2015, Mahmud, while traveling in her Suzuki Swift (Registration Number AWH 541), was fatally shot by gunmen near the DHA library on her way home after hosting a seminar.

Salma Jafri

Salma Jafri, who founded her own Content Marking Firm named as in 2008 and now she is working currently with Fortune 100 Companies as a Services Provider. Some of her upcoming ventures are a new teaching product, a content re-purposing tool for marketers, a partnership led by the US Department of State and CRDF Global and a lot more. She’s also the go-to person for Elance training in Pakistan, apart from being a columnist for leading industry publications such as Search Engine Watch.

Samar Hasan 

Samar Hasan is one of the women leading Fintech revolution. She is the Head of Communications at Karandaaz Pakistan, struggling to promote fintech and financial inclusion in the country. Samar has been a part of several funded projects under USAID, DFID, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Furthermore, she has also been a part of the Aga Khan Foundation, Basil Fuleihan Foundation, International Organization for Migration, and Geneva Center for Security Policy to name a few. She was also one of the core members who established the liberal arts and sciences university in Karachi, called Habib University. She is also very passionate about entrepreneurship and women empowerment and has worked on various funded entrepreneurial initiatives too.

Sana And Safinaz

The Sana Safinaz label was established in 1989 by Sana Hashwani and Safinaz Muneer. These two have taken over the bridal couture scene in Pakistan and other parts of the world. They have expanded their business far and wide and have stretched their reach till the middle east. You won’t believe that it all started right out of a townhouse house!

Sheba Najmi

Sheba Najmi is the founder of Code for Pakistan which is a non-profit startup to improve the quality of life across Pakistan with a vision to increase civic engagement by encouraging the opening of government data and supporting innovation in the public domain. Sheba began her career as a TV Anchor in Pakistan to her eventful journey to the Silicon Valley, the dynamic Sheba Najmi has worked for Code for America as a 2012 fellow and Yahoo as the Lead Designer. A good number of Startups have come out of the Code for Pakistan under her leadership. A series of events under its ambit called Civic Hackathons have also been arranged in the capital cities including Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar. The Hackathon is a gathering of a cross-functional group of people who come together to brainstorm about city-related problems and try to find tech-based solutions for them.

Zainab Tariq

Plan9 is Pakistan’s leading technology incubator. Ever since its establishment, Plan9 has incubated over 118 startups and in the process has formed an ecosystem to boost technology and entrepreneurship in the country. Under the leadership of Plan9 stands Zainab Tariq. She has a passion for creativity and bringing ideas into the real world. Zainab is deeply involved in the development and mentoring of the next generation of entrepreneurs and startups. She has also taken the role of Co-Manager at Herself – a PITB initiative that encourages women to take on freelancing. Herself recently held a graduation ceremony for their second cohort and to-date has trained over 100 women in Pakistan.


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