Thursday, April 18, 2024

Daraz, HBL & Visa aim to work towards female financial inclusion in Pakistan through joint capacity building initiatives

Daraz recently had a panel discussion on female financial inclusion with two esteemed partners HBL and Visa International. All three corporate giants highlighted the significance of financial inclusion, its importance for women along with the financial and non-financial barriers and challenges that are faced by the women of Pakistan.

The special guests, Essam El Daly from VISA International, Shazia Gul from HBL NISA joined the session along with Syed Zeeshan Ali, the Director Digital Payments at Daraz. This was a virtual ‘Episode of the original conversation with Daraz,’ that was organized by Daraz Pakistan.

Essam El Daly

Essam El Dely, the first panelist of the women inclusive initiative, is the Head for Merchant Sales and Acceptance for North Africa, Levant and Pakistan VISA International. Essam himself is a season payments banking and financial services professional with almost 20+ years of business experience while including 14+ years in team leadership driving businesses in these sectors.

Essam joined Visa in 2013, and he continued to serve the company and currently, he is involved in leading multiple partnerships like the one with Daraz.

Shazia Gul

Shazia Gul is the head of the Women Market Program and NRP Banking at HBL, she is playing a role in financial inclusion and financial literacy in Pakistan. She is an accomplished individual with a collective experience of over 21 years working for HSBC and HBL, currently, she runs the women’s market program namely, ‘HBL Nisa’, which a lot of us might be aware of in Pakistan. She also serves the NPR banking platforms while managing and developing propositions with these unique segments.

Shazia Gul is looking after the HBL Nisa program that is specifically dedicated to women’s inclusion and it also enables economic activities. Moreover, Essam from Visa International is looking after merchants and acquisitions and he is a great support to Daraz.

Visa and HBL (Habib Bank Limited) have had a strong partnership with Daraz for a long time and the synergy shared by all the partners can hopefully resolve the issues of lack of financial inclusion of women in the country.

The discussion in the meeting was based on the question and answers where Essam, Shazia and Zeeshan also discussed their experiences along with the ongoing projects of Visa, HBL and Daraz enabling women of the country and supporting female financial inclusion.

Daraz, HBL & Visa aim to work collectively towards female financial inclusion in Pakistan through joint capacity building initiatives. However, their recent discussion was based on the following points:

  • What is the importance of financial inclusion?
  • Why do you think financial inclusion is important for a woman?
  • What had VISA’s and HBL’s experience been within this domain?
  • Why do women need financial access?
  • And how is your organization’s experience in Pakistan and the region as well regarding financial inclusion?
  • Current barriers of financial inclusions specifically for women.

The discussion also includes little about, how Daraz is working for the initiative to support women, the problems faced by Daraz, and how lack of female financial inclusion is a barrier to e-commerce growth in Pakistan and specifically to Daraz.

The topic of female financial inclusion has been under the limelight recently but Daraz as a part of the ecosystem not only in Pakistan but also in South Asia we felt that it is extremely important to discuss the financial inclusion for females and how it boosts the country’s economy.

The reason behind discussing this topic was the lack of financial inclusion and lack of literacy that has led to too many barriers; however, just in a recent task, Daraz ran a campaign for female seller acquisition where an opportunity was given to women to grow online and sell products on Daraz, 60-70 percent of females who signed up with Daraz who wanted to grow their businesses were the ones who do not even own their personal bank account.

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) stats show that only 21.3% of adults in Pakistan own the transactions in the country and out of which only 7% are women.

This has been a barrier not only to the ecosystem but to our economic growth as well. 49.8% of the population in Pakistan is of women and only 7% out of them owns their personal bank accounts. So, here is a huge gap that needs to be covered.

According to the spokesperson of Daraz, these statistics are very alarming that is where Daraz realizes that they need to resolve the problem for women of our society. To collaboratively work with Daraz, HBL and Visa also joined the initiative to resolve these issues; however, they also discuss that how they all together can enable the female population to be more financially inclusive. Steps to be taken for financial literacy were also part of the discussion. This is just the concept behind initiating this new project.

During the discussion, the previous and ongoing initiative of Daraz with Visa and HBL was also discussed that are as follows:

Daraz and Visa Initiatives

According to the Director of digital payments at Daraz, Zeeshan Ali, Visa is working with Daraz for many years to promote digital payments on Daraz from multiple sites. He stated that,

As partners, we have built so many initiatives to develop consumer awareness towards digital payments and had also promoted digital convenience and security that exists on digital payments in order to ensure high success Digi payment rate. However, we have worked together for Seller awareness projects also.”

Recent successful initiative programs were where Visa consumer base tried to educate their own consumers towards selling on Daraz which ends up with sustainable results. Visa along with Daraz helps to educate the customers with Digi payments.

Daraz and HBL Initiatives

Zeeshan stated that,

“Daraz and HBL have been partnered for many initiatives previously and the latest one was where the HBL went out to its SMEs base and promoted Daraz stimulus packages to SMEs during COVID-19 pandemic to HBL SMEs.”

This generates more awareness to educate sellers to sell on Daraz. Daraz the e-commerce giant is a beneficial platform of online business and HBL remained a successful partner for long-term benefit in the online and offline market.

Daraz has been doing multi-dimensional things with both Visa and HBL for a long time.

The viewpoints of Essam and Shazia while answering the above-asked questions were amazing; however, their contribution to the discussion is mentioned below.

Viewpoint of Essam El Daly:

According to Essam financial inclusion for women is a crucial discussion and very significant for all to discuss the matter.

Essam stated that,

“We generally believe that SMEs are the backbone of the economy; hence, considering the importance of financial inclusion we have been working on it globally and also in Pakistan with our various partners including Daraz and even throughout our commitment with 50 million SMEs or SMBs over a couple of years.”

He further said that, as we all know that the main growth especially in developing markets like ours is driven by SMEs. There is a massive percentage of those who are contributing to the GDP and economy. So, we generally believe that enabling SMEs, providing capacity building drives and supports the economy.

When we talk specifically talk about financial inclusion for women the stats shared above say it all. The low percentage that we, unfortunately, have in more markets like fewer ratios of women towards having financial stability and women access in financial services or financial inclusion makes its important topic.

To grow women in financial inclusion is a global concept. As per Essam, they start the Visa foundation for women globally with partnerships to support women to grow their income and increase their overall concept of financial inclusion. They also their next program that is merely built around promoting and building the network of entrepreneurs women so that they can collectively share best practices as mentors to support other women as well.

Visas everywhere initiative with the women is a global addition. They are also running other initiatives in Egypt and there are many in Pakistan also where the women capacity building, sharing successful experiences of women to put other forward they are building an SMB for financial inclusion for women as well.

Viewpoint of Shazia Gul:

Shazia’s view on this key project, ‘Women Inclusion’ is really important and clear as HBL being a bank and a leading financial institution of the local industry in Pakistan is concerned for a major population of women.

According to Shazia,

“HBL has always been at the forefront in the developing programs in Pakistan. We are also a part of a big initiative the ‘Ehsaas program’ as financial inclusion basically runs to our core theme; however, it resonates everything that we do.”

So, HBL believes in financial inclusion quite a lot. Everything that HBL does is while keeping financial inclusion in mind and when they talk about financial inclusion women are a major part of this segment or landscape. Shazia stated that,

“I think, financial inclusion is a basic building block for you to actually develop an intrusive and sustainable growth; so, financial inclusion is extremely critical for poverty reduction, for economic growth, for employment generation, and so on.”

In order to make our economy grow Shazia thinks that financial inclusion has key importance. HBL has policies regarding financial inclusion and they believe in it while implementing them.

This is a reason they created the ‘Nisa program’ that is a women market platform that was launched back in 2016, where it started with an aim to bring women to the forefront as well; however, at that point, SBP also expressed the concern about including women to the mainstream banking as well.

HBL Nisa is a sub-brand that was initiated to enable women. The idea was to develop a brand the women could identify with, this is a brand that spokes for women, women empowerment, gender equality, and giving women the access and same financial services that are currently offered and available for the male population of our country.

Only 7% of women have an access to bank accounts in Pakistan; however, over 49% population is women, so this is an alarming ratio. As a bank, HBL is deeply concerned about this issue and that is why their policies to have more women banking with the institute itself are made and that is the reason their bank launched the Women Market Program at HBL.

HBL has done extremely well in terms of encouraging women over the last few years and is currently bringing more women into the financial sector. So, today HBL Nisa has a complete range of services for women from transactional accounts both in sharia compliance and conventional banking as well, they have both local currency and foreign currency products and they also have in-built insurances as well.

Moreover, HBL Nisa is also looking towards landing facilities for women in Pakistan. As per Shazia’s statement, we consider that SMEs or SMBs as very critical aspects of our economic growth and economic development of the country; so, we are also looking forward to aligning landing facilities to women within the HBL Nisa program.

Lastly, Essam from Visa International was asked a question that,

Is there any similarity between Egyptian and Pakistani markets?

“There are a lot of similarities in many ways like in terms of distribution the ratio of men and women, lower access to financial services and lower number of bank accounts. In Egypt the women’s contribution either in cultural perspective or economic perspective is quite strong and very much similar to Pakistan,” Essam stated.

A major barrier is not only the lack of financial services but also the capacity building and lack of confidence that women have like how do I create my business, how I am able to take it forward and provide the products or services. However, this depicts the lack of knowledge and awareness of business and financial inclusion among the women of Egypt and Pakistan.

Another barrier for female financial inclusion in Pakistan is that many women in Pakistan do not feel the need to open their personal bank accounts as they are somehow not comfortable with it and appreciates and support the fact they don’t feel the need to have a bank account because the male in their family already has one.

As per Shazia, they have to keep in mind that Pakistan remains a patriarchal society where the men usually have the primary power and plays a more powerful role in any family. But the importance of women’s businesses and women being financially independent becomes even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In our society, ownership of assets is a major issue for women. Financial stability is everyone’s right. HBL encourage women to have an access to financial services and also teach women the other non-financial sides of the bank from an Islamic perspective at Nisa platform that includes education and the awareness of the financial services including the basic differences as what is a debit card, what is a credit card, a current account as well as a saving account, etc. All the details are also present on the official website of HBL as well.

The women of Pakistan can get awareness along with education regarding financial inclusion by being a part of the Nisa program. The HBL Nisa Program brings knowledge to women and women should go to HBL to ask for access to the personal account as the Nisa program helps women to learn regarding their financial rights, access to accounts, and other benefits, etc.

HBL’s successful initiative to empower women is ‘Nisa program’ that also teaches for having ownership of your assets in your name and have financial independence. HBL is also currently working to makes women learn the skills and get trained.


Daraz, Visa, and HBL are collaboratively working in encouraging women entrepreneurs also. Capacity building has to go hand in hand with financial inclusion and this is what the moto is to empower women and prevent financial inclusion for women in Pakistan.

Daraz along with these partners is trying to bring more women to be a part of economic activities by knowing and working online independently with their e-commerce platform. Working collectively on women’s inclusion projects will surely boost the economy of Pakistan in the upcoming years.

Mehjabeen Qasim
Mehjabeen Qasim
Business Journalist at Startup Pakistan

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