For many women, running a business in Pakistan can be extremely challenging and in some cases, nothing short of a dream, as when it comes to entrepreneurship, women are usually expected to take the back seat.
However, numerous cottage industries have sprung up, many of which are headed by women, and they run their businesses successfully which require them to reach out to potential clients and handle finances; for the most part, they design work hours that appeal to them and work from the comfort of their own homes.
For example, Dr Arooba Batool started her blog on Instagram, Aroobas DIY (@aroobas_diy), three years ago while she was a medical student. She made her first bottle of oil for a friend – which is now well-known – who was suffering from male-pattern baldness and published it on social media. Subsequently, she created a dedicated account on Instagram to promote the product and by the end of 2021, she managed to sell over 5,000 bottles of oil; each bottle had a specific blend of organic ingredients that targeted different hair concerns. From researching the ingredients to designing labels, Batool has been running the show single-handedly and was pleasantly surprised when she began receiving orders from countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt. She believes in addressing skin and hair conditions through a customised approach for each customer and wishes to set up a brick-and-mortar store in the future.
Areesha Junejo is another entrepreneur; she runs ‘My Cactus Romance’ (@mycactusromance) on Instagram; the page is a design-centric virtual greenhouse that sells hand-painted planters. A SZABIST graduate, Junejo decided that a 9-to-5 job was not her cup of tea and that she would rather spend time doing what she loved for a living. Hence, she combines gardening, creativity and her love for crafts to create custom planters, and finds that running her business on Instagram is low-cost, fun and lets her interact with her customers easily. Shortly after she set up her page at the age of 28, she successfully delivered more than 600 planters to the Aga Khan University Hospital; she now provides her ‘plant babies’ to Object in Dolmen Mall, Karachi.
Junejo does not currently want to expand to other social media sites because she thinks that the traffic from Instagram and her website is satisfactory. Even though she always found solace in her garden, she thinks that boredom during the pandemic helped steer her in the right direction and kick-start her business.
Oraan (@myoraan) is the first female-led and owned Fintech start-up that has been catering to women’s financial needs since its inception in 2019, and the company digitised the traditional committee saving method which is followed by most women in Pakistan. Founded by Farwah Tapal and Halima Iqbal, the platform aims to provide services to 93% of the women in Pakistan that do not have access to bank accounts. Oraan also has its own female-only Facebook community that allows users to interact with each other and provide feedback actively. The company utilises social media to educate women and encourages them to take control of their finances. The founders believe that social media helps their users invest something irreplaceable in their business: trust.
Hiba Usmani is a passionate writer and dentist by profession.