How WomenX is helping Pakistani women realize their dreams?
WomenX Pakistan is calling applications for their last batch in Karachi and inaugural batches in Lahore and Peshawar will be kick starting in January 2016. The application form can be found at the WomenX website and the deadline is 31st December 2015. The form can also be download in Urdu.
How did it happen?
The WomenX program is a World Bank global initiative to promote the spirit of women entrepreneurs in developing countries. World Bank launched a pilot project in Nigeria, as a research to study the rich entrepreneurial culture amongst local women. The organization then decided to expand the program to other countries and called for applications from Pakistan and institutes all over the country applied to be a part of this initiative. World Bank’s team visited different institutions for screening and IBA Center of Entrepreneurial Development (IBA -CED) was selected for its highly developed infrastructure and the experience of faculty. A team from IBA CED also flew to Nigeria to study the model for impediments and impact evaluation as to how the program can bear fruits for Pakistani women. The program was then launched at IBA-CED in collaboration with Enclude, a global advisory firm helping businesses to be sustainable, Women INC, a public discourse campaign for the program and MHB, Minding Her Business that is a boutique consulting company for women at workplace.
Who is the target audience?
A lot of Pakistani women are pursuing home based ventures but a major chunk of them lacks professionalism, are not correctly motivated and are just making a use of their time. They lack the understanding of the system and technical procedures to operate a venture. The aim of the program was to change such mindset and to target micro enterprises that have a strong growth potential.The program targets not only startup companies but also home based entrepreneurs. The perquisites of the program needs you to have a business that you have been operating for at least a year with a couple of employees. It should have a potential for growth and scalability. There is no education bar for the program. The program is funded, therefore the fee is highly subsidized to Rs. 10,000 for everyone. There is no elitist concept and any woman can join in the program. When completed the training, the ventures can also get incubated at the IBA-CED.
What does the program constitute?
The program is constituted of three hour classes that take place once every week, usually on a weekend. The program provides access to not only sophisticated business education but it strongly focuses on networking and coaching. The four months training program keeps the participants on their toes. They are required to formulate a business growth action plan for 12 months, quantify customer segments, explore online market opportunities, learn about registering a company and managing the finances in terms of taxes and accounts. The team makes sure there is a continuous feedback from the participants so the course of the program can be made effective. The team at IBA-CED is making sure to provide a comfortable environment for the participating women. For instance, participating mothers can also bring in children and they will be provided a room.
One of the challenges the program faced was to get teachers who focus more on practical knowledge than that of textbook. The program has been inviting a lot of guest speakers and practitioners to motivate the participants. Another challenge was to devise a curriculum that participants can easily relate to. Therefore, the program focused on teaching case studies of home based entrepreneurs rather than multi corporation giants.
The first cohort attracted over 200 applications, out of which 39 participants were selected. The second and third cohort had 69 and 70 participants respectively. The first cohort majorly attracted big businesses that were operational for a long time while the second cohort attracted smaller businesses especially home based entrepreneurs. The recent third cohort attracted non traditional businesses from diverse fields such as social media, training and consultancy, etc. The attracted startups are skill based and more inclined towards women centric skills such as cooking and clothing.
Faiza Yousuf is a tech entrepreneur and the CEO of OuttaBox, a solution consultation company. She was a part of the first batch of the program.
Sukaina Abbas is a jewelry designer and the owner of Enchante. Since the program ended, she has been creating a stir in the local industry with her unique and neat designs.
Tehmina Asad is the Managing Director of Insta Food Industries Pvt. Ltd. She gained a new insight of business after being a part of WomenX Pakistan.
Zoya Altaf was a part of the second batch of the program. She has successfully added a new feature to her event management company: an online portal offering complete event management services & solutions.