10 Successful Business Women of Pakistan

DESIblitz looks at ten tenacious and successful Pakistani business women, who with their skills have proven to be a strength in the business world.

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“I feel very proud that women in Pakistan can and do make a difference.”

The business world is now seeing an age of successful and bold businesswomen.

While this is true globally, DESIblitz looks at the impact of entrepreneurialism for women in Pakistan.

Despite different approaches to business, a variance in skills, these women have a shared ambition.

That ambition is to disrupt the world of business by putting females in executive positions, forging a path of success.

What’s more remarkable is that these individuals also use their success to help underprivileged women in Pakistan to strive for better.

DESIblitz highlights how these ten women achieved their success in the world of business while providing key lessons for budding businesswomen.

Jehan Ara

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Jehan Ara is a powerhouse of social justice and empowerment for women, within the IT community.

In 2001, she became president of the company, Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA).

She has accomplished many successful feats in the world of IT.  In addition to her role as president, Ara keeps busy with her social activism.

She continues to be active with educating the youth of Pakistan about the world of IT.

Ara often speaks at seminars and lectures across Pakistani universities.

Jehan also spends her time working on an initiative known as the Woman’s Virtual Network (WVN).

The WVN is an online initiative which aids women with entering the world of employment.

This happens through remote mentoring, reviewing CV’s, interview assistance as well as allowing women to connect with potential employers.

Rehan Allahwala, a Pakistani digital entrepreneur said:

“This woman has been working day and night all over the globe, not just in Pakistan, to make the Pakistani industry glorified.”

Jehan says that:

“My father must be held responsible for teaching us the essential values of integrity, hard work, loyalty and commitment.”

Jehan constantly strives to create new schemes and initiatives to help support the Pakistani community.

She uses her skills to encourage social mobility within Pakistan, thus sharing the secrets to her success.

Nabila Maqsood

Nabila Maqsood is a prominent figure in the beauty industry of Pakistan. Founder of Nabila Salon, she opened her first salon in 1986.

From there on she established multiple style outlets and hair salons in Pakistan’s major cities.

Nabila has worked closely with some famous Pakistani celebrities such as Wasim Akram, Ali Zafar and many more.

Also working with huge brands such as L’Oreal, working as a creative consultant.

Early in 2018, she announced that her brands Nabila salon, N-Gents and ZERO will be the official hair and make-up partners at the IIFA awards 2018.

Beating out global makeup brand Mac Cosmetics for the IIFA 2018 contract, Nabila made history in the beauty industry.

Mac had been IIFA’s makeup partner for 16 years. This was Nabila and her brands became the first from Pakistan to have worked on the illustrious Bollywood event.

Nabila told Arab News:

“I am overwhelmed. It is a very big honour that for the first time a Pakistani hair stylist and makeup artist will be doing this world-class event.

“It is a compliment that such a grand event, which Mac was doing successfully for 16 years, will now be managed by us.”

Nabila has shown that with tenacity and dedication you can pave the way for your own success.

She started off with one nail salon and now is rivalling global makeup moguls such as Mac.

Again highlighting there is no substitute for hard work in the world of business.

Kalsoom Lakhani

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Kalsoom Lakhani is another successful entrepreneur. She is the founder and CEO of the company, invest2inovate.

Invest2innovate is a company that supports young entrepreneurs in Pakistan and start-up communities in growth markets.

She has over 10 years of experience in the field of entrepreneurialism and innovation.

Lakhani has trained entrepreneurs and civil society leaders in many different countries.

Ranging from, Kosovo, Nepal, Cambodia, Ireland, Bangladesh, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan; Kalsoom is a global entity in the world of business.

With her insight and knowledge being so valuable, she has been invited as a speaker on several platforms.

These include:

The World Economic Forum, Aspen Ideas Festival, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, U.S. State Department, the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, and the Global Entrepreneurship Congress.

Kalsoom told Forbes how women inspired her to strive for success:

“I grew up on stories of the warrior women on my mother’s side of the family, and my grandmother was often the larger than life central character.

“My Nani (Bengali for maternal grandmother) lived her life in a lot of colour.

“I hope I keep her spirit alive by pursuing my own goals with the same passion and determination.”

Taking inspiration from other strong women, Kalsoom is a female powerhouse of business, known for her global success.

Roshaneh Zafar

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Roshaneh Zafar is another successful Pakistani businesswoman.

Whilst achieving feats in the business world, she has made her main aim to help and uplift women.

The Kashf Foundation was first set up in 1996 by Roshaneh. She is the Managing Director of the company.

The aim of the Kashf Foundation is to build and enhance women’s economic role within Pakistani households.

This is achieved through the village banking methodology.

The Kashf Foundation site describes itself as a:

“Non-financial service to have a transformative impact at a household level.”

For her work in the field of development and female empowerment, Roshaneh was awarded the coveted, ‘Tamgha-e-Imtiaz’ in 2007.

In August 2018, it was reported by ImpactAlpha that the Kashf Foundation secured $17 million from a foreign investment with a German company.

In an exclusive Ted-Talk, Roshaneh highlights her motivations in business:

“My desire was to come back to Pakistan and give back to women in my society because I believe they faced massive discrimination.

“I feel very proud that women in Pakistan can and do make a difference.”

Maria Umar

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Maria Umar is the president and founder of an IT solution company by the name of Women’s Digital League (WDL).

Umar quit her job as a full-time teacher, rejecting her maternity leave before founding the WDL.

WDL helps women to become more economically empowered.

It is an online platform to help educated woman aged 18-27 from the comfort of their homes.

This digital platform provides support and employment for Pakistani women.

Umar had received training from top businesspeople in Silicon Valley and she applied these teachings in her company.

Maria herself is an innovative member of the technology industry. She combines social action with tech to aid women in Pakistan.

In an interview with Mashable:

“Girls themselves are becoming more empowered and asking for their right to (education).”

“Families discourage girls from working outside due to [the] security situation and lack of social acceptance.”

A key example of being the change you wish to see in the world, Maria highlights how focus and dedication are two key needs in business.

Danielle Sharaf

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Danielle Sharaf is a young and inspirational entrepreneur. She is the founder and CEO of the company, Switch-ITC in summer 2012.

Switch-ITC is a mobile solution company, which is very easily accessible.

As SMS and audio are very prominent in Pakistan, the company has already achieved a lot of success within its first year.

Over 1 million Pakistanis use and recommend the service to their friends.

The company provides healthcare solutions for young girls. It also links users and job-seekers with industries in the working world.

Users are to able find a job, negotiate a fair salary with potential employers and training for job interviews.

Danielle was first an electrical engineer, struggling to find work and was constantly turned down as she came across as ‘strong-headed.’

However, it was this drive and toe-stepping demeanour which led her to become a CEO of such a successful company.

Nadia Patel Gangjee

A self-made businesswoman, Nadia Patel Gangjee is the founder and CEO of the company Sheops.

Sheops has been likened to the popular online store, Etsy.

However, differing from that, Sheops is Pakistan’s first ‘women only’ marketplace which first started as a small WhatsApp group.

The incentive of Sheops was to establish a forum where women could train and learn how to monetise the buying and selling of goods in a safe and easy to use space.

Nadia formulated this idea after receiving a lot of harassment when she, herself tried to sell a phone online.

Being aware that she was not the only woman fearing to sell her products to a stranger on the internet, Nadia created Sheops.

Not only is she a businesswoman, but Nadia is also very involved in female empowerment.

In an interview exclusively on Facebook, she says:

“There are so many talented women in Pakistan and I really wanted to give them a safe platform through which they can reach out to the market.”

Nadia highlights how personal experiences can be key to idea creation. She saw a gap in the market and capitalised on it.

Saba Gul

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Saba Gul is the founder of the ethical fashion label, Popinjay.

Since 2013, her label has been featured in big brands such as Vogue, NBC, Aljazeera, the Guardian and many more.

The Popinjay brand helps underprivileged women who are very talented. They create hand-made products that take inspiration from the beauty of Punjab.

In an interview with Newsline magazine, Saba spoke about the growth of her business:

“We have 150 artisan women, a full-time team, committed investors, hundreds of products sold every month across the world (primarily North America) and a band of loyal customers.”

In another interview with the United Nations Foundation, she mentions:

“Entrepreneurs see the problems and look for solutions and they’re looking to change the status quo.”

“I’ve learned through my work with women in Pakistan that no matter how rich or poor someone is no matter what the strata of society they come from, they’re all looking for the dignity they’re all looking to create value.”

Saba could see the exploitative nature of the Fashion industry towards rural workers.

She made it her aim to produce high-quality garments while paying her team fairly.

Another wonderful example of social justice and business combined, highlighting economic and social success.

Sheba Najmi

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Sheba Najmi, formerly an employee at Yahoo as their UX Design Lead, is now founder and executive director at Code for Pakistan.

Najmi being a Code for America fellow put her coding knowledge and skills to action and aided in the creation of Honolulu Answer. The website offers a quick and easy service that gives citizens-focused access.

Code for Pakistan is a tech-driven non-profit organisation that strives to help citizens across five cities in Pakistan in civic innovation and engagement.

With having 14 years of user experience (UX), Sheba continues to use her knowledge to grow Code for Pakistan but also elsewhere.

In addition, she is a senior UX Strategist for the digital agency, Exygy in San Francisco.

Similarly, this company works with civic technology and social impact organisations.

Code for Pakistan also runs a concerted outreach programme to encourage more women to join the technology industry.

When speaking to a podcast about successful Asian women, Najmi said:

“Fear holds you back and it makes you a cocooned version of yourself.”

Tech has been known as a male-dominated industry, while schemes now encourage women to take up coding and work in tech.

It’s due to women like Sheba Najmi, that such opportunities exist.

Individuals like Najmi were the first to broach these industries and mark a place for women by doing excellent work within the field.

Saniya Waqur Shaffi

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Saniya Waqur Shaffi is another very successful young entrepreneur. She opened her own Bakery, Sweet Affairs in Gulberg, Lahore.

Another strong advocate for women, Saniya believes that women can be self-made and successful.

Making it her mission to prove this, Saniya opened her own business.

With the percentage of men and women in Pakistan being almost 50-50, Saniya firmly believes that women are very much capable of breaking the traditional conventions.

Saniya feels that women are more than capable of being leaders in the world of business.

In an interview with The Nation, Saniya states:

“Women entrepreneurs have become a strong driving force in today’s corporate world as they are not only able to equalise their duties of both motherhood and entrepreneurship but they also comprise almost half of all businesses today.”

As Saniya is a driven young businesswoman, the success of her bakery highlights that with the right mentality and attitude, a positive result will surely follow.

All these women highlight the ways in which they attain corporate success and continue to support other Pakistani women.

With such varied interests and industries, these women have shown that with tenacity, perseverance and hard work anything is possible.

Hence these Pakistani women stand as a testament to what can be achieved in the corporate world. Furthermore, this encourages other women to take up similar roles, showing that anything is possible.

Shae is a passionate and ambitious journalist student. She loves to read, binge watch tv shows and cuddle her dogs. Her motto is: “You could rattle the stars, you could do anything if you only dared”

Images courtesy of Twitter and Facebook



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