Women-led businesses in Pakistan primarily face funding, digitization and advisory challenges according to Visa’s Women SMB Digitization Index survey.
In order to address these challenges, Visa, a world leader in digital payments is launching its global She’s Next grant program in Pakistan for the first time in partnership with HBL, Pakistan’s largest private bank, which serves more than 36 million clients worldwide.
She’s Next, empowered by Visa, is a global advocacy program that aims to support women-owned small businesses through funding, training and mentorship. Starting today, women entrepreneurs from all industries and sectors in Pakistan can apply on the She’s Next website for a chance to be among five winners to receive a grant of US$ 10,000 each. Winners will also have access to a range of benefits including a tailored training program, She’s Next Club resources such as a workshop library and a community of entrepreneurs. Applications are open until 2 December 2023.
Umar S. Khan, Country Manager for Pakistan, Visa, commented: “We’re proud to bring our successful ‘She’s Next’ global program to Pakistan, in partnership with HBL. Women entrepreneurs form a small percentage of the SME sector in Pakistan, facing unique challenges such as limited access to capital, lack of mentorship and dealing with gender stereotyping concerns where they are considered less capable of handling high-pressure situations. Currently, a robust digital infrastructure is critical for them to scale their businesses. She’s Next, underscores this vital shift, recognizes the potential of women entrepreneurs, and supports them to thrive innovatively.”
Aamir Kureshi, Head Consumer, Agriculture & SME banking – HBL, said: “HBL is committed to increasing women participation in the economy by supporting financial inclusion. HBL and Visa have collaborated in She’s Next to develop women entrepreneurs. Through this partnership, we aim to provide women the skill set and training, so they have greater opportunities to improve their lives.”
To better understand the desires and challenges of female entrepreneurs in Pakistan face, Visa ran the Women SMB Digitization Index survey which revealed key aspects of the entrepreneurial journey and identified themes that would drive empowerment:
Theme 1: A Challenging Business Environment
Women in Pakistan are passionate about entrepreneurship, citing financial independence (48%) and leadership (41%) as top motivations. Funding their business is a serious challenge with 86% of women dipping into their personal savings, while 63% respondents rely on friends and family.
Theme 2: Advice from fellow entrepreneurs
Women entrepreneurs in Pakistan are eager to learn from their peers, with many women entrepreneurs requiring specific assistance on overcoming problems (61%), developing online sales (54%), and building a team of employees (43%). Nearly all (98%) women are keen on payment related training. A section of women (33%) seek advice on the types of payments accepted from customers and are interested in workshops on managing stress in crisis (46%), using social media for promotion (40%), and creating an online store (32%).
Theme 3: Digitization
Seven in 10 women entrepreneurs claim to be digitally savvy, with 99% respondents planning to digitize their business focusing on digital marketing, business leadership, AI and automation, software implementation, and analytics tools to generate insights and tools for customer engagement and retention.
Most women entrepreneurs (69%) use both cash and cashless modes of payment, with digital payments weighing over cash in online and offline selling platforms.
Since 2020, Visa has invested around US$ 3 million in over 250 grants and coaching for women SMB owners through the She’s Next grant program globally including in US, Canada, India, Ireland, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Morocco.