How Fouzia Qazi is blazing trails for female entrepreneurs in Pakistan
Jul 21, 2021
By Emma Langbridge
Fouzia Qazi has true entrepreneurial spirit. She set up her tourism business in Gilgit Baltistan in north Pakistan four years ago, and soon noticed that tourists were bringing back dried fruits from the north as a specialty gift. Spotting a new business opportunity, Fouzia established her second venture, Nature’s Best, selling dried fruits, honey and oils.
Fouzia is frank about what she has overcome as a businesswoman:
“The biggest hurdle I faced was the element of fear, and whether I would be able to achieve my goal. I broke that barrier,” she explains.
In Pakistan, only 1% of women are engaged in entrepreneurial activities, as opposed to 21% of men, so Fouzia is one of only a few entrepreneurs blazing the way for other Pakistani women. Fouzia does not take this responsibility lightly and she has already taken a fellow entrepreneur, Fariha, under her wing, offering her encouragement and business advice.
The low representation of women in business and Fouzia’s initial fear can be explained in part by the cultural practice in Pakistan of men making all the decisions both at home and in business. Fouzia and her husband, whom she runs the businesses with, have broken that mold.
“In the two businesses I am solely responsible for all the analysis and I make a lot of the decisions on my own,” she says.
The couple employs one permanent member of staff and several temporary staff.
For women, securing a loan to start a business is also a challenge.
“It is more difficult for women than men to get a business loan as women rarely own any assets to use as collateral. Literacy and less knowledge about financial procedures is another impediment, as well as the lack of a guarantor,” Fouzia explains.
She used her own savings to start her business and will now be applying for loans and financial packages specifically tailored for women to help grow her business.
Fouzia clearly has a good head for business and recognizes the importance of networks and developing her skills.
“I am a very introverted person and I wasn’t good at networking, but I broke that barrier, too. Now I am part of the Chamber of Commerce and I have great networks across Pakistan.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Fouzia’s businesses hard with tours halted, staff laid off and no income, but she knows that adaptation and developing her digital and marketing skills is now essential.
“The world has changed and the way that we interact with our clients online has also changed. We need these digital skills.”
Fouzia’s two businesses are now predominantly online, with a small office and packaging space in Gilgit.
The opportunity to further develop these networks and skills will now be possible for Fouzia and other entrepreneurs like her through CARE’s Ignite program, supported by the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth. The program, focused on growth-oriented entrepreneurs like Fouzia, will work with local service providers to open up much-needed access to financial and digital resources, while building their business capacity and networks.
“If your mind is set on starting a business, including facing any hurdles that come your way, then you are ready. This world is very big—come and feel the sense of independence, share your creativity and contribute, for Pakistan and for your own home.”
Find out more about Fouzia’s businesses: https://rovepakistan.com/