10 Most Successful Female Entrepreneurs of Pakistan

Top Female Entrepreneurs of Pakistan. Pakistan is immensely talented with very hardworking and successful women who are working both at home and outside the country, making Pakistan proud. They are fully utilizing their potential through the use of their abilities in given opportunities.

But the fact is most of them had to go through a lot of hurdles, hardships, and difficulties to get the name they have now. We take a look at their journeys to success and recognition in this article and try our best to pay tribute to their hard work!

Amazing Pakistani Business Women

Women have it hard in all walks of life, be it personal or professional. But that is also why women are strong and resilient. They learn to be so from a very young age when they’re first discriminated against at home and in schools. Some women take it to another level by stepping into the professional world and setting up their own companies. We take a look at ten such  Pakistani women in this article.

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How did we decide?

We looked at the success rates of their ventures and the impact they have had on the lives of the residents of Pakistan, and it’s economy to put together this list:

10 – Salma Jafri

9 – Saba Gul

8 – Sheba Najmi

7 – Kalsoom Lakhani

6 – Sidra Qasim

5 – Maria Umer

4 – Jahan Ara

3 – Sabeen Mahmud

2 – Roshaneh Zafar

1 – Nabila

↓ 10 – Salma Jafri

Salma Jafri is the host of Content Marketing Tips, a weekly vlog, and a blog on how women entrepreneurs can market authentically to their audience by using their natural strengths. The main focus of the organization is content and blog writing.

She also has a YouTube Channel with over 34K subscribers, where she also tackles content writing and blogging. She gives tips on how to expand your blog using social media and video content.

Twitter: @salmajafri

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↓ 9 – Saba Gul

Saba Gul is the founder & CEO of the Fashion Enterprise BLISS, which is now called Popinjay. Saba Gul established BLISS with the mission of producing fair wage jobs for poor Pakistani women. Popinjay is a handbag company that attracts customers with lush leather and hand-embroidered silk.

She is an alumnus of MIT, where she did her Bachelor’s ss and Master’s. Saba worked in Silicon Valley before her startup but gave up her life as an engineer to pursue social work.

She has worked in Sri Lanka and Ethiopia. Saba is a fellow of The Unreasonable Institute as well as a World Economic Forum Young Global Shaper. Her work has been acknowledged by the US State Department and featured in the MIT Technology Review, Vogue Magazine, NBC News, and Fast Company, to name a few. Saba grew up in Lahore, Pakistan.

She is a member of the board of the MIT South Asian Alumni Association and spends her time with the Association for the Development of Pakistan.

Twitter: @sabagl

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↓ 8 – Sheba Najmi

Sheba Najmi got her BS and MS degree from Stanford University in Symbolic Systems, where she studied the interaction between humans and computers. She started as a news anchor and reporter for Indus Television.

She was the host of Press Review, the show concentrated on current affairs and their discussion with several political figures, ambassadors and analysts.

She was a lead designer for Yahoo Mail, the company’s flagship service, with over 260 million users. After nearly seven years as a User Experience Lead at Yahoo, Najmi joined the peace corps of geeks as a Code for America 2012 Fellow.

Sheba is also the Executive Director of Code for Pakistan, a technology-driven non-profit building civic innovation ecosystem to improve quality of life across Pakistan.

She is also the founder of Tech for Change, which is a non-profit organization focusing on bringing entrepreneurs, developers, and designers together to help and eliminate most of Pakistan’s civic problems.

Twitter: @snajmi

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Take a look at Arab Female Entrepreneurs to get inspired.

↓ 7 – Kalsoom Lakhani

A graduate from the University of Virginia in Foreign Affairs and Middle East Studies, Kalsoom Lakhani is the Founder and CEO of Invest2Innovate (i2i), which supports startups and the broader entrepreneurship habitat in developing markets, especially in Pakistan. She is also the co-creator of The Hero Project, a platform that tells the stories, everyday heroes, in hopes of celebrating and highlighting their efforts.

Kalsoom has trained change-makers, young entrepreneurs, and civil society leaders in Cambodia, Ireland, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. She has been a Washington, DC co-ambassador for Sandbox, a global network of innovators under 30, and is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers. She was featured in Diplomatic Courier’s Top 99 Foreign Policy Leaders under 33 in 2012 and was named an Ashoka Change-makers / American Express Emerging Innovator for 2013.

Kalsoom, who earned her Masters’ from The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs in International Affairs / Conflict Resolution, also founded the popular blog, CHUP, or Changing Up Pakistan in January 2008, and has written for the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, Foreign Policy, NextBillion, and Pakistan’s Dawn Newspaper.

Kalsoom Lakhani, who was born on 24 September 1982, is also the director of Social Vision, the venture philanthropy arm of ML Resources, LLC, an investment firm in Washington, DC. At Social Vision, she assesses and approves seed funding for innovative organizations and initiatives in their pilot stages.

Twitter: @kalsoom82

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↓ 6 – Sidra Qasim

Very young entrepreneur Sidra Qasim introduced the handcrafted shoes on the internet. She is the co-founder of shoe company Markhor (in Pakistan) and Atoms (in the US).

She was the first person from her family to start a business with her friend Waqas Ali. They planned to make high-quality shoes made out of leather from Pakistan and sell them online. They applied and won a grant from Google in Pakistan to fund the business. They launched their first shoe company in Pakistan in 2012. They were the first company in Pakistan to raise over $107,000. They moved to the US in 2015.

They had to transition from an image they had of the US, based on movies to real life. They recognized that they needed to start making everyday shoes instead of leather shoes only. And soon, they were an even more significant success than before. They are now one of the top shoe brands in the US.

Twitter: @sidraqasim

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Check out our earlier post about Beautiful Pakistani Female Politicians.

↓ 5 – Maria Umar

Maria is the creator and president of the Women’s Digital League (WDL). This is a social enterprise that was founded in 2009 to provide digital education training and work to Pakistani women. She has been laboring in the online digital outsourcing sphere for more than nine years. Stemming from her passion for the economic empowerment of women, Maria is also serving as the Project Manager for WomenX, a World Bank-supported training program for females in business.

Getting to the finish line of GIST’s “I Dare” business plan competition was a huge encouragement. WDL was profiled by Google Pakistan in its online campaign showcasing innovation in the use of technology.

Maria was recommended as a Thought Leader by Ashoka Changemaker. In Changemakers’ “Women Powering Work” competition, WDL won the Early Stage Award.

Local and International media has talked about her as an innovative leader. These publications include Forbes, Mashable, Virgin, Express Tribune, Ashoka, Dawn, and CNBC, to name a few. She is also actively working to motivate girls to opt for science subjects at an early age using the Technovation Challenge.

She was selected as the first Chair of We Create Center’s Think Tank not long ago.

Twitter: @MariaUmar

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↓ 4 – Jehan Ara

Jehan Ara is a very successful name in the IT world and is acting as president of P@SHA (Pakistan Software Houses Associations). She has been in office since 2008. This organization provides the best software products to its clients. Jehan Ara also has a very successful name in the marketing field and media communication for almost three decades.

Ara was born in Karachi, Pakistan, and raised in Hong Kong, where her father was working as a banker. She received her early education from Rosaryhill School. After completing her graduation, she started her career as a journalist in a Hong Kong newspaper for a year before moving into advertising.

She moved to Pakistan in the mid-1990s. After moving to Pakistan, Ara started her own multimedia company, Enabling Technologies, in 1994. In November 2018, she became a member of the Prime Minister’s Task Force on IT and Telecom. In 2016, Ara was invited by US President Barack Obama to speak at Global Entrepreneurship Summit.

Twitter: @jehan_ara

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↓ 3 – Sabeen Mehmud

Sabeen Mahmud was a Pakistani human rights activist and welfare worker who founded The Second Floor cafe in Karachi. She was also the president of the Karachi branch of TiE.

Born and raised in Karachi, she went to Karachi Grammar School and later to Kinnaird College. She then founded an interactive media and technology consulting firm and worked to establish the Citizens Archive of Pakistan.

She set up The Second Floor Cafe(T2F) in 2007 aimed at providing a community space for open dialogue. Under Sabeen’s guidance, T2F arranged a series of liberal social activities. She also led, along with others, protests against the Red Mosque in Islamabad and also participated in Pakistan for All, a movement to end religious intolerance and sectarianism in Pakistan.

Mahmud wanted to oppose injustice and discrimination, and to invigorate critical thinking; she spoke to Dawn and expressed that her biggest dream is to “change the world for the better through the Internet.” She also founded PeaceNiche, an organization that provides a “social platform” for the public good. In 2013, she told magazine Wired that she did not want an armed security guard in The Second Floor as she refused to live in fear.

On 24 April 2015, she held a debate on the Balochistan conflict, which included activists like Mama Qadeer. After the event, she was assassinated by a gunman on her way to her home after hosting a seminar at T2F. Pakistani authorities have arrested the culprit on 20 May 2015 behind Mahmud’s murder.

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↓ 2 – Roshaneh Zafar

Roshaneh Zafar is an activist in Pakistan. She is working in the field of women’s financial empowerment. She is the founder of the first specialized microfinance organization in Pakistan, the Kashf Foundation.

Roshaneh Zafar is a graduate from Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania, USA, and holds a Master’s degree in the discipline Development Economics from Yale University, USA.

Roshaneh Zafar established the Kashf Foundation in 1996 and served as its Managing Director. Before setting up the foundation, she worked with World Bank in Islamabad for a few years.

Roshaneh Zafar is one of the first Ashoka Fellows in Pakistan and has been a Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur since 2004. Roshaneh Zafar was awarded the Tamgha-e-Imtiaz, which is one of Pakistan’s most prestigious civilian awards, for her efforts in the field of development and women empowerment. She was also awarded the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship in 2007.

Twitter: @RoshanehZafar

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↓ 1 – Nabila Maqsood

The very hardworking and talented Pakistani makeup artist Nabila is at number 1. Thriving in the fashion industry today, she opened her first salon in 1986. Nabila has worked very hard, and now she has also opened a Men’s Salon and a Nail Salon. She is a very talented artist who is bringing innovations in the fashion industry.

Nabila’s career in makeup began in 8×8 makeshift salon in the servant quarter at her house, charging customers only PKR30 for haircuts in the 1980s. She was merely eleven years old when she first started cutting her friends’’ and family members’ hair. And today, she is the most sought-after makeup artist, stylist, and an international icon.

Nabila has also started her makeup brand, called ZERO Makeup. Her most famous product is a face palette that has even been reported being used at the sets of long-running American medical TV show Grey’s Anatomy.

Twitter: @Nabila_Salon

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Q. Which country has the most female entrepreneurs?

A. The country with the highest proportion of female business owners is the West African country of Ghana, with women owning 46.4% of all businesses, according to the Mastercard Index of Women’s Entrepreneurship (MIWE) released in 2018.

Q. Who was the first woman entrepreneur?

A. Madame C.J. Walker, born Sarah Breedlove, is the original “self-made woman.”  She was the daughter of slaves and was orphaned when she was only seven years old. Soon after that, she lost most of her hair due to a scalp ailment. In 1905 she created Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower, a scalp conditioning and healing formula. It got so famous that she soon set up factories for mass production.

Q. What are the female entrepreneurship numbers in Pakistan? 

A. According to the World Bank, Pakistan has the world’s lowest rate of women’s entrepreneurship, with only one percent of female entrepreneurs compared to twenty-one percent of males.


2 Comments

  1. Raed Alzahrani June 27, 2017
    • hakim February 10, 2020

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