25 Ladies Bending the Tech Entrepreneurial Universe in Pakistan

Yusuf Hussain
5 min readFeb 3, 2018

With lots of accomplishments and global and national recognition, they would be rockstars anywhere in the world. Selection Methodology at the bottom. This is my personal opinion and does not represent the views of any organization.


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In no particular order:

Sarah Qureshi, Aero Craft Engine, Developing aircraft engine that reduces global warming by recovering water to eliminate contrails, white line-shaped clouds from engine exhaust.

Shabana Atif Khan LMKR, Global leader in Unconventional Hydrocarbon exploration and production software

Anna Naveed, WebHR. Leader in Gartner Magic Quadrant for HR software

Navera Waheed and Wajiha Habib, Orbitz, Winner International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) award for Augmented Reality based Education

Anusha Rahman, Minister IT, beginning to be recognized for headway in Digital Pakistan. Winner of UN and ITU awards.

Sihah Sheikh, RiseMom, Making life easier for working mothers through video surveillance of day care centers. Nominee for US State Department Global Entrepreneurship Summit

Sadaffe Abid, Circle, former Kashf, now championing tech innovation.

Maryam Mohiuddin Ahmed, Social Innovation Lab, an incubator that has graduated startups like Rizq, that seek to fix the hunger problem

Kalsoom Lakhani, i2i, becoming an institution for startup acceleration and industry research

Jehan Ara, Nest I/O, an institution at PASHA, now running Nest I/O, a star in the entrepreneurial ecosystem

Durdana Achakzai, Telenor, churning out disruptive products

Ayesha K Khan, Acumen, funding startups with outsized social impact

Saj Khan, former Convo, one of the best tech startups to come out of Pakistan

Momina Rajput, Careem, First Telenor Velocity now a unicorn

Sharmeen Ali, for evangelizing tech innovation through PTV

Fatima Rizwan, for changing mindsets through TechJuice

Salaina Haroon and Aqsa Tariq for in-depth tech reporting through the global IDG platform

Talea Zafar and Rabia Gharib, The New Spaces and ToffeeTV, evangelizing tech in corporations and reviving Urdu amongst children, respectively

Sara Khurram and Iffat Zafar Aga , Sehat Kahani, rolling out telemedicine to the bottom of the pyramid

Aniqa Afzal, charged with transforming Jazz and up to the challenge

Suniya Sadullah Khan, Mauqa, rocket scientist, engaging the illiterate in the digital economy.

Sadia Khan, Autosoft, core banking platform that also drives mobile wallet SimSim

Sahr Said, Beauty Hooked, fashion products, beauty tips, consultants, and an online salon network

Saba Gul, Popinjay, eCommerce portal offering supremely crafted fashion products to a global customer base.

Fiza Farhan, Bukhsh Foundation, clean energy solutions to off-grid communities, Forbes 30 under 30.

Nadia Patel Gangjee, Sheops, Marketplace for women that takes the hassle out of marketing, buyer validation, transactions, and delivery for all sorts of new and used products like clothing, fashion, and edibles

Wajiha Ghazal, Affordable.pk, marketplace for buying and selling branded fashion products with ease

Anum Kamran, Buyon.pk, linking small and medium sellers with customers in smaller cities and towns across the country

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Entrepreneurs run new businesses vs businessmen/businesspeople who run businesses, old or new. Entrepreneur-run new businesses are of two types: Startups and MSME (Micro Small & Medium Enterprises.) MSME, like salons, gyms, dairy farms, software houses, digital marketing firms, web design firms, and freelancers are usually relatively risk averse, service-oriented, lifestyle businesses, which grow to a certain size, depending on preferences of owners. Note that just because a firm creates digital content or does programing, even at a world class level, does not make it a startup; it can still be a tech SMSE. Owners usually own 100% of the business and if they seek funding, its in the form of credit or maybe grants, if they are a non profit. On the other hand, startups are risky, innovative, and product-oriented. They abstract their business model and seek to scale over time. They obtain equity investment, in the form of angel or Venture Capital to fund product development and market expansion, and therefore the ownership/equity share of founders dilutes over time. They may also qualify for innovation or R&D grants. Chaye Khana is an MSME; McDonalds was a startup, before it grew up.

The key differentiator between a startup and an MSME is scale. So how does one discern scale potential in a startup? After all an MSME can also express intent to scale. The litmus test is that startups abstract their business model in a way that it can be replicated. This abstraction could be in the form of “franchises”, like McDonalds Restaurants, EasyPaisa Retailers, RiseMom DayCare Centers, Sehat Kahani Telemedicine Clinics, and Buksh Foundation Village Incharges, or it could be expressed in a product, such as the Apple iPhone, Aero Craft Engine, Orbitz AR mobile education app, LMKR Geographix, and Mauqa UI, or it could be expressed in the form of specialized services like in the Google Search Engine, WebHR, Telenor mAgriculture, Autosoft mobile wallet engine, and BeautyHooked salon services. I use “products” to refer loosely to all three categories.

Startups can disrupt the way people live, work and play: For example, Rozee.pk changed the way employers hire, Careem is changing intra-city travel, EasyPaisa fixed domestic remittances, AirBnB is fixing housing for travellers that limited hotel space cannot address. These are also examples of Tech Startups, because unlike McDonalds, tech is core to their business models. Innovation is now coming through tech like Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, and Augmented Reality, which together with other such tech, is sometimes called 4IW (Fourth Industrial Wave.)

The leaders selected in this list are either CXO of Tech Startups, or CXO of Corporations, where they are leading tech product innovation, or CXO of incubators that focus on tech startups, or CXO of funds that invest in tech startups, or CXO of media firms or popular media programs that project tech startups, or CXO of Government organizations that help tech startups. In most cases these leaders are not techies and neither do they have to be to lead tech innovation. Steve Jobs was not a techie. Brian Chesky of AirBnB is not a techie. Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay, who took the company from just $4 million to over $8 billion in annual revenue, is not a techie.

MSME are a backbone of the economy. Tech Startups revolutionize the economy and take it to a new level. Both are worthy of respect and support. This list is about Tech Startups and those who support them.