Joseph Conrad once rightfully said that Being a woman is a terribly difficult task, since it consists principally in dealing with men. When it comes to entrepreneurship, women entrepreneurs, specifically in Pakistan, face a lot of uphill challenges. Male dominant society proliferated with chaotic challenges & primitive doctrines of the majority in Pakistan are some of many challenges of Entrepreneurs in Pakistan. And still those women entrepreneurs who manage to surpass these challenges and achieve success in their respective entrepreneurial ventures; demand huge applause & appreciation. Its in these spirits that CIPE envisioned to promote the untold stories of Women Entrepreneurs in Pakistan. Something that can be heralded on global scale. This nationwide event, led by Mr. Hammad Siddiqui, was meant as an elixir to enrich the entrepreneurial mindset in Pakistani masses and bring the heroic Women Entrepreneurs in Pakistan under the limelight. towntawks, being Hammad Siddiqui’s most darling mentees, got the invitation for the CIPE’s Global Entrepreneurship Week session in Lahore. And after an extremely insightful & astute session by Career Guru i.e. Hammad Siddiqui, the invited bloggers got engaged in conducting interviews of the Pakistani Women Entrepreneurs that were invited there. We conducted two interviews and the first one of those is shared with you all. Story of Ms. Alia M Khan running two businesses with remarkable success. May this story intention to inspire the ones with these exemplary Women Entrepreneurs in Pakistan and to give due credit
Q: Hello Ms. Alia Khan. Thanks for being here to share your story with the world. So would like to share with readers about the line of your business?
My pleasure. I am actually running two businesses at the moment:
In this Fabrics business, I basically buy & sell fabrics at much competitive price in the market. I also have Fabrics production unit as well. I also have expedited on exporting fabrics to foreign countries as well including Hongkong.
A travel agency that specifically offers attractive Umrah Packages. It also has IATA license. For accommodation & other facilities, I also have obtained license from Saudia Arab Government as well. I am also working to offer Hajj Package sooner as well.
Q: Amazing! So how did you land into your entrepreneurial career or in other words, how did you become one of the aspiring Women Entrepreneurs in Pakistan?
Before starting my Oyester Fabrics business, I had a job in textile Industry namely Zahoor Textile. That experience added a lot to my exposure and insight as how this whole textile business actually operates. I emphasized a lot on learning knitty-gritty details of business operations there. Then firstly, I started Fabrics Trading company and I used to buy Fabric at low cost and sell it at still competitive price in the market in addition to exporting abroad. And then I expanded my business gradually and launched my own Production Unit. Then in 2000, I started travel Agency company (Al-Huda Mustaqeem) with the USP of offering economical Umrah package.
I had immense belief and confidence in myself. And I was of the conviction that I have a huge phantom of talent and potential which isn’t being leveraged during my job career. I was feeling my abilities to be limited by my job oriented career. I wanted to breach it and had the strong urge that I should work for myself instead of working for others. Should build my own fortune instead of working for the rest of my life hired to build others.
Q: What is Entrepreneurship in your words?
To me, Entrepreneurship starts with faith in your ownself. For me its the hybrid of passion and to be yourself and catering to your financial needs by working for yourself and achieving your dreams. And while running your startup/business, you must strive t to be self-sustainable asap. Generating your own resources.
Q: What are the key challenges for you as Entrepreneur or the ones that Women Entrepreneurs in Pakistan face? Or the challenges that you faced when you were starting up?
The main challenge for women Entrepreneurs in Pakistan is that its utterly a male dominant society. This fact itself poses a lot of challenges for us women. When I started up, I faced a lot of challenges in my entrepreneurial business like I faced a lot of rejections during deals & transactions. People used to belittle me by saying that what women has to do with fabric/textile business? They used to assault my moral by saying that I should open a beauty parlor and cant run this fabric business. The environment in Pakistan has the fibers which creates huge discouragement for women entrepreneurs.
But still when I started off, I found an educated male partner who was sane enough and had faith in my skills and abilities. And despite all challenges & hurdles, I remained consistent and opted for perseverance. Also, in businesses, Links & Relations are extremely important. And like other entrepreneurs, I also faced the cold start syndrome problem i.e. I had no links and it took time to develop those.
Q: How do you Market your products/Services?
We mainly leverage Internet, leaflets & billboards for marketing our business and reaching out to our targeted audience. At the moment, we are not using Social media proficiently and are lacking the roadmap to capitalize it.
Q: What is your current size of business? Are you satisfied with its growth?
For me, sky is the limit. And I call my business to be still medium in size. And I am still concerned and working out ways to grow it beyond limits.
Q: Where did you get the investment of your business?
Initially, I was lacking the funds and capital to start the business. In this regard, my partner helped me out and provisioned the capital needed to kickstart the business.
Q: What was the role of Luck in making you one of the successful Women entrepreneurs in Pakistan?
Oh I think luck is extremely important in my success. I highly believe in Luck. Luck is about finding the chances and then reacting and capitalizing them. In this regard I think that the role of luck in my success has been incredible.
Q: What are your key learning as Entrepreneur? And what message would you like to give to our readers especially the women/female aspiring to become Entrepreneurs?
In business, one faces a lot of difficulties. In fact avalanche of challenges. But if you remain consistent and try as much possible to help out others, your chances of success increase a lot. I think there should be platform for women where they may improve and groom their skill set. Where they may learn the fundamentals of doing business and get the exposure. I personally think that SMEDA is failing to deliver on its commitments and values and hasn’t been doing any thing practically positive for the betterment of SMBs in Pakistan. Women generally lack confidence while starting their business but I think that if you have the education, skills and belief in your abilities, nothing can stop you from claiming the greatness that you deserve.
The story of Ms. Alia Khan highlights the challenges that Entrepreneurs face in Pakistan especially the women entrepreneurs. CIPE’s efforts to highlight these women on global scale is highly commendable and we hope that this may kindle the entrepreneurial passion in the female sector of Pakistan; resulting into the consolidated economy of our country.