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KARACHI: Visa, in partnership with HBL, launched the Global “She’s Next” programme to empower women entrepreneurs and Pakistan’s women entrepreneurs have been invited to apply for grants worth USD 50,000, a tailored training programme and access to networking and mentoring opportunities.

According to Visa’s Women SMB Digitization Index survey, women-led businesses in Pakistan primarily face funding, digitization and advisory challenges, therefore, 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 $ 10,000 each.

Winners will also have access to a range of benefits including a tailored training programme, She’s Next Club resources such as a workshop library and a community of entrepreneurs. Applications are open until 2 December 2023.

Addressing a press conference here on Wednesday, Umar S. Khan, Country Manager for Pakistan, Visa said that Visa is 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”, he added.

Currently, he further said that 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 that 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,” he added.

To better understand the desires and challenges female entrepreneurs in Pakistan face, recently Visa ran the Women SMB Digitization Index survey which revealed key aspects of the entrepreneurial

journey and identified

themes that would drive empowerment.

Umar S. Khan informed that about 69 percent women entrepreneurs use both cash and cashless modes of payment, with digital payments weighing over cash in online and offline selling platforms.

He mentioned that since 2020, Visa has invested around $ 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.

Umer informed that ‘She’s Next’ Women SMB Digitization Index, was a survey to dive into the women entrepreneurial journey. The businesses covered were a mix of small, medium, and micro businesses spanning across manufacturing, trading, and services.

“The aim of the research is to understand the motivations and challenges faced by the women entrepreneurs, with a special focus on digitization”, he added.

The study was commissioned by Visa and managed by 4SiGHT Research and Analytics on three themes including, A Challenging Business Environment, Advice from fellow entrepreneurs and Digitization.

Visa shares findings from ‘She’s Next’ Women SMB Digitization Index survey of Pakistani women entrepreneurs revealed that 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 percent of women dipping into their personal savings, while 63 percent of respondents rely on friends and family.

In addition, women entrepreneurs in Pakistan are eager to learn from their peers, with 61 percent women entrepreneurs requiring specific assistance on overcoming problems, 54 percent developing online sales, and 43 percent building a team of employees.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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