The women who outshine in Pakistan’s tech industry

A list of extraordinary female entrepreneurs in a male dominated industry.

Farrukh Zafar September 08, 2013
Many women have contributed to Pakistan's technology industry and have made a name for themselves. PHOTO: FILE

DUBAI: It might be a little hard to digest if I tell you that it’s not just Pakistan where the technology sector is dominated by men to an extreme level, but in fact the world over. The difference is that their tech industry glorifies their women rock stars and we don’t.

So how about we get to know our rock stars today in this column? I will try to talk about as many as I know, but of course there might be many I’m unaware of.

The first name that comes to mind is Kalsoom Lakhani, the founder and CEO of Invest2Innovate – a social venture that provides support to seed-stage social enterprises and provides them access to capital in new markets.

She received her bachelor’s from University of Virginia, and master’s degree from George Washington University.

Apart from being a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers, the George Washington alumnus is also a co-ambassador for Sandbox, a global network of innovators under 30. If you are working on a strong social startup and require seed funding, she is definitely your go-to person.

Then we have this multi-talented Stanford grad, Sheba Najmi – once a Pakistani television news anchor, now an extremely versatile user experience designer and product strategist. She was a Code for America Fellow (2012) and has previously worked at Yahoo! as a lead designer for Yahoo! Mail – a product that caters to 260 million users worldwide.

Sheba is currently the founder of Tech for Pakistan. She is also on the Go-Fig Solutions Board of Advisers and a User Experience Design Instructor (in both San Francisco and Pakistan).

Then we have two women entrepreneurs whom I met last year at the Innovation Punjab program in Lahore, where all three of us were featured as innovation heroes by Google Pakistan and the Punjab government for its upcoming IT innovation policy.

Maria Umar, the founder of Women’s Digital League, was one of the two. She comes from the terrorism-stricken province of Khyber Pakhtunkhua, yet takes this double adversity to positive effect while she runs a one-of-a-kind venture that empowers women from all over the country to work from home while she provides them with online work such as application development, graphic design, content creation, data entry, social media and community management, and much more on similar lines.

The other innovative lady who I met is Sidra Qasim, the co-founder of Home Town Shoes – an extraordinarily unique e-commerce portal that sells beautifully handcrafted shoes made by Pakistani craftsmen, and sells it to the rest of the world, with a major buyers belonging to countries in Europe.

Then comes a name from aerospace engineering – a field that you’d least expect to hatch out a female entrepreneurs– Nida R Farid is an MIT graduate who is currently working on a project which she’s named “Karachi Energy Conservation Awareness – Small Tricks for Large Savings”.

The name of the venture being self-explanatory, her goal is to cut down the energy consumption from Karachi’s upper class neighborhoods, which she states, accounts for 70% of the entire city’s energy consumption, through awareness campaigns. The next time you come across a tea-seminar that creates awareness about how to use home appliances in line with the acute energy resources, there’s a good chance Nida’s the one behind it.

Then there’s Salma Jafri, who founded her own content marketing firm in 2008 and now works with Fortune 100 companies as a service provider. She work from home managing a remote team, apart from engaging into great new ventures such as her upcoming tech product, a content repurposing tool for marketers, which has made it to the quarter-final round of an international startup competition organised by the GIST Initiative, a partnership led by the US Department of State and CRDF Global.

She’s also the go-to person for Elance training in Pakistan, apart from being a columnist for leading industry publications such as Search Engine Watch.

Last but not least is a lady from Karachi, Arjumand Younus, who recently became Google’s Anita Borg Memorial Scholar for Europe, Middle East and Africa region. Google awards this scholarship to women who excel in computing and technology, who become active role models and leaders. She’s currently doing her PhD at the National University or Ireland, who also happens to be a part of the Faculty at IBA, Karachi.

The writer runs a software company in Dubai.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 9th,  2013.

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Nida R. Farid | 10 years ago | Reply

Thanks, Farrukh, for such a glowing article. Just a minor correction here, the domestic sector uses 45% of all electricity produced, with the richest 20% of Pakistan consuming a large chunk of that. However, in their roles as management and owners of all commercial and industrial activities, they make the decisions for more than 70% of all electricity used in Pakistan.

Thanks for the love, Mrs. Kapadia. Sheba and I could have never reached so far without all that you and the other teachers at SJC taught us.

Malik A Ghafoor | 10 years ago | Reply

May Almighty Allah bless all these

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