Karandaaz Innovation

Nurturing the Ecosystem for Transformational Initiatives

Innovation Challenge Fund

Innovation Challenge Fund (ICF), launched in 2016 with funding from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID). The goal of the Fund is to generate innovative yet practicable solutions for solving complex problems in the areas of financial inclusion and entrepreneurship. The fund is especially focused on addressing barriers faced by SMEs, women and youth in accessing appropriate financial services and participating in the economy. ICF periodically issues competitive calls for proposals against a pre-defined problem. The fund follows a competitive process to select winners and provides them with risk capital and grants, depending upon the nature of the theme and specific objectives of a round. Given the scale and scope of Karandaaz’s work, the ICF remains agile and dynamic in its approach to design challenge rounds and support winners. The fund is managed by a lean team supported by an advisory committee of experts leading selection and funding decisions.


Periodically, Innovation Challenge Fund launches theme based rounds and issues a call for proposals.  Eligibility criteria, including who can apply, are set in accordance with the problem that Karandaaz seeks to solve in a particular challenge round. A two-stage process is followed for selecting innovators. Initially, expressions of interest (EOI) are invited. Shortlisted innovators submit full business plans and present before a selection committee. Winners are supported with funding from Karandaaz. Post award, ICF works with innovators to transform their ideas into tested, commercially viable solutions. By demonstrating success in solving entrenched exclusions and challenges of access to finance and entrepreneurship through a commercial approach, ICF aims to stimulate the market and create knowledge spill overs across industry players.

Launched: September 2016

Status: Applications closed.

The first round of Karandaaz Pakistan’s Innovation Challenge Fund focused on improving the current mechanism of foreign remittances from Pakistani workers working in different parts of the world. Three projects are being supported under ICF Round 1 through grants:

  • Telenor Microfinance Bank
  • JS Bank and Paysys (Consortium)
  • Samba Bank and GFS (Consortium)

The Challenge:

Currently, banks use a standard corporate rating model for SMEs, emphasizing property-based asset collateral to assess credit risk. Procedures and requirements for SME financing remain complex, time-consuming and costly.

Karandaaz seeks to disrupt the status quo and develop and test innovative approaches to assessing credit needs and risks of SMEs, that break away from the conventional, collateral-based model used in banks today.

What We Are Looking For:

Karandaaz invited Local Financial Institutions, Fintechs, Advisory and Research Firms, Credit Agencies and similar entities, and international organizations of a similar nature, in partnership with Local Financial Institutions to participate in this round to develop and test path-breaking credit scoring models for SME lending in Pakistan.

The goal is to provide lenders with an opportunity to use new and existing sources of information and data, such as Big Data and Smart Data to build better and more appropriate risk assessment models for SMEs and test clean lending methodologies.

For more information go here.