Women entrepreneurs promotion vital to foster economic development and growth

Nov 05 - 11, 2007

LAHORE: Born in a remote area of Jhang District, Ms Shamim Akhtar, Chairperson Women Entrepreneur Committee of the Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry (LCCI), who is also Chief Executive of Care Marketing, was devotedly working to promote women enterprenuership.

In an interview with the Pakistan and Gulf Economist (PAGE), Ms Shamim Akhtar told that she started her professional career with the pharmaceutical industry. After proving her worth through hard work and commitment, she got rapid promotion. During this period, she continued to upgrade her on job skills and training from different institutions. She also got scholarships to attend training on Enterprenuership at the US and Japan.

Back in the year 1996, Ms Shamim Akhtar started her own business venture and started the business of sale of diagnostic kits. Ms Shamim Akhtar achieved major breakthrough when having seen success of Care Marketing in the business; different multinational approached her for marketing of their products. Her company is sole agent in Pakistan of two Dutch companies Enzypharm and Bional.

Sharing her views on women enterprenuership Ms Shamim Akhtar described lacking financial resources, proper marketing and stiff competition as main problems confronted to businesswomen.

She said the government should provide soft loans to pave the way of growth of women enterprenuership in the country. She also called for allocating special quota in plots for women entrepreneurs at all the Industrial Estates being set up in the province so that the goal of bringing industrial revolution could be achieved.

She said the government needs to take steps to remove inequities and imbalances in all sectors of socio-economic development and ensure women's equal access to all development benefits and social services.

She further said the government should take steps to ensure the access of poor rural women to land, agricultural and livestock extension services and support mechanisms and facilities; providing women easy access to micro-credit, especially through the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF), Rural Support Programmes (RSPs), First Women Bank (FWB), Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) and the Khushali Bank. Shamim Akhtar was of the view that women entrepreneurs are facing liquidity problems and opportunities to excel their businesses. 'Most of the women doing businesses are associated with business entrepreneurs, cottage industry and services sector. There are also a large number of women who are doing business in an unorganized manner and their hard work is exploited by middlemen', she added.

Shamim Akhtar suggested that Pakistan has to ensure access to micro credit to all poor including women to achieve desired results in the right direction. About 1.2 billion people around the planet lack access to necessities and microfinance could be their pathway out of despair, she argued.

Talking about Women Resource Center set up by the LCCI, Shamim said its objective is to promote enterprenuership among women so that they become more skilful and competitive to contribute significantly towards country's economy. 'We are focussing on training and development on business skills and facilitating networking for business', she added. She was of the view that women are better organisers as compared to men.

To a query, Shamim was of the view that the characteristics of women entrepreneurs in the low-income groups are significantly different from their counterparts in the medium and high-income groups.

'Women entrepreneurs in the region are expected to foster economic development and growth by reducing poverty and unemployment', she argued.

Lahore-based Ms Nilopher Sikandar, who is MD of Design Studio, shared her experiences in the architectural, interior and landscape consultancy. Nilopher who is member of the Royal Institute of British Architect, told PAGE that she started her professional career with Nayyer Ali Dada.

According to her, the future of architect and interior designing is bright in Pakistan. Realising its importance, almost all the colleges have started classes of architect.

Nilopher feels proud for having worked with Metechno, the firm engaged in steel construction, in quake hit areas where she supervised constructions of a large number of schools and health centers. 'I am working with Metechno as Consultant now and my message for businesswoman is 'be adamant and pursue in a professional way'.

Nilopher, who is the first Pakistani women who arranged very first painting exhibition at Singapore, said Pakistani women are talented enough and can handle difficult task in a professional way.

According to her, Pakistan has some good companies in architecture but she agrees that the industry is not as big as India. "However, the last one year has seen Business Processing Outsourcing (BPO) really taking off in a big way in Pakistan.

Another business woman Saira Bano Dastgir who is Chief Executive of Aya International was critical for not giving due representation to women in business delegations abroad by Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP). She said she is engaged in the business of jewellery and carpet export. She said TDAP should send separate delegations of women entrepreneurs abroad apart from fixing ratio for businesswomen in trade delegations.