Karandaaz Innovation

Nurturing the Ecosystem
for Transformational Initiatives

Women Entrepreneurship Challenge

Market scoping exercises involving female entrepreneurs revealed that unfavourable business and regulatory environments, coupled with societal and cultural barriers, lack of networks, knowledge and links to high-value markets impeded access to finance for women-led and managed businesses. While this was a problem for SMEs in general, it was disproportionately impacting women in Pakistan. Recognizing that financial institutions were reluctant to develop a sustainable strategy to address this significant market gap, Karandaaz launched its own program to help serve women-owned businesses.


Launched: May 2017

The first round of the Women Entrepreneurship Challenge (WEC 2017) focused on improving access to finance for women-led business in Pakistan. Karandaaz Pakistan invited incubators and accelerators to create a programme designed to provide technical and financial support to female entrepreneurs. Two partnerships were initiated under WEC 2017:

Following extensive country-wide outreach, 36 women-led/managed businesses, were shortlisted to receive customized incubation/acceleration through Karandaaz’s implementation partners. After successfully graduating, the female entrepreneurs pitched to a panel of judges; 15 women-led businesses were selected to receive funding through Karandaaz. Four businesses received growth capital as an investment while the rest were given smaller grants. 

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Launched: June 2018

The approach for the second round of the Women Entrepreneurship Challenge (WEC 2018) was pivoted on lessons learned from the first round. WEC 2018 targeted women-led businesses that had been operational for 3 years, or more, and were looking to scale their business. 19 women-led businesses were selected to receive customized business development support through WEC 2018. After pitching to Karandaaz for the investment of up to PKR 20 million, or more in exceptional cases, 8 of these businesses received investment in the form of growth capital.

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Launched: April 2019

Karandaaz has recently concluded the application stage of WEC2019 and will soon be announcing the names of the businesses that have successfully qualified to be part of the Women Entrepreneurship Challenge 2019.


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Non-profit company registered under Section 42 of the Companies Act, 2017