Naumeena & Roshani are empowering Pakistani women to take financial control
In a country where most financial decisions are made by fathers, brothers or husbands and women require approval from their male family members for the smallest of monetary choices, a new online platform is simplifying financial products and services so that more Pakistani women can become financial decision makers.
Their platform enables users to easily understand and compare pricing, terms and conditions of different services such as credit cards, business, home and car loans. This development comes in succession with another positive news from Pakistan – Sima Kamil became the first woman to head a major Pakistani bank.
Still, banking continues to be largely driven by Pakistani men for Pakistani men. We spoke to the two female founders Naumeena Suhail & Roshani S. Zaidi on their own journey towards entrepreneurship, their fintech startup and the social barriers holding Pakistani women back from making their own financial decisions.
Why do most Pakistani women leave important financial decisions to their male family members?
Pakistani women are usually scared to use financial services due to their “what if” fears. For others, all the paperwork and fine print seems too overwhelming and frustrating. However, trends are quickly changing and more women are getting independent and they along with their male counterparts are making financial decisions. In some cases, they act as backend support partner.
Are Pakistani women represented fairly in top leadership position at banks?
There are women, though rare, at senior banking positions. However, it takes a lot more effort for women to reach the top while maintaining a work life balance in the banking industry.
What is your professional background?
We are a two member team and we bring together a diverse digital marketing and banking experience. Naumeena has amassed a wealth of experience in Communication/Branding, Business Development, Product Sales, and Direct & Indirect Marketing. Having worked with more than 25 local & International banks, industries, and companies over a period of 17 years, she has already set up a firm before this.
I’m Roshani and I’m a banker who has worked with Union Bank Pakistan Limited, Standard Chartered Bank and Habib Bank Limited over a period of 7 years.
Why did you choose to become fintech entrepreneurs?
Roshani: After leaving my banking job to become a homemaker, I wanted to continue working in the same field that I have experience in. As an entrepreneur, I could work from home, be productive while also taking care of my daughter.
Naumeena: I already had experience running my own firm. As an entrepreneur, one needs to diversify in multiple businesses to keep the cash flow and incase where one business is low the other is able to sustain.
Tell us a little about your fintech platform? What problems were you solving?
We started this platform a year ago because we saw the need for a financial marketplace where visitors could find correct comparative information of banking products in laymen terms. Most banking products are usually a commitment of 1-7 years. A customer wants to look for a bank that offers a variety of services that they can avail during the period of the loan. To get the right information about these products, they can either call up various bank call centers, visit branches, call someone they know who works in a bank or visit different banks online. All of the above, while possible, are lengthy and confusing options as customers need to get information from various sources, compile them, and compare the many factors.
How does Compare Bank empower women to make better banking decisions?
Our website www.comparebanks.com.pk compares multiple financial products offered by different banks present in Pakistan. CompareBanks gives instant results based on interest rates and bank’s presence in the customers’ city. You can choose the bank you like after comparing installments, upfront fee, bank features, eligibility criteria and documentation. The present day consumers enjoy the right to make the most informed decision from the comfort of his/her home. When the client has chosen the product and the bank, they are contacted directly by the bank for further questions and follow up.
How can we get more women to start their own businesses?
It’s important to create awareness and recognize entrepreneurial women’s achievements on bigger platforms. Women working from home on a smaller scale should have easy access to financial services like accounts, investment products and loans. Most of all, we should encourage women with unique entrepreneurial ideas to start up their own business.
Has being a mother slowed you from professional endeavors?
Roshani: When we started, I was a mother of one and getting used to being a homemaker. Starting my own business means I can choose my hours but since it’s our own startup there is no limit to the hours, energy and effort we put in. There have been some challenges in maintaining a work life balance because the life part includes a few other people also i.e. my family. So i am usually juggling between chores, spending time with kids; one of whom is an infant, setting up and managing meetings, following up etc.
Naumeena: When I started my first company TDF I was a mother of 1 child and now I have two kids. It has been almost 15 years since I am going on. Yes, there are time and moments in life as a mother when you do slow down but then how to balance both life is the real challenge.
What roadblocks did you face when starting Compare Banks?
Pakistan banking and financial industry is still not very welcoming to new ideas and ways to doing things. Changing the ways of banking does take loads of efforts, hard work and patience. This is also because of regulation which, though help mitigate risks, also makes it a little difficult for new business ideas.
Our journey with Comparebanks has been steady due to our experience and presence in banking and financial industry.
How can we get young girls to think more about entering financial fields?
A lot of women are entering the financial industry now. Not just banking but also investment companies. As with all other industries, young girls need career counseling and if they have the drive for the financial sector they should go ahead and opt for further education and/ or experience in the industry. In general, girls and women should be allowed to choose what industry they want to work in instead of expecting them to get qualification to ensure good marriage proposals.
What advice would you give to young women regarding fintech/working/starting their own business?
If you have an idea! Go for it? Go for a pilot project, make a business plan, research, have every area looked into it on paper. It is not necessary that things will go the way you plan. Keep room for changes and keep making changes on basis of requirement. Ground realty is quite different from what we imagine or as we plan.