This entrepreneur has helped 7,000 aspiring females exhibit their talent through Facebook and social media
KARACHI : In Pakistan, women are seldom encouraged to dream big, let alone offered support to excel professionally. A country where patriarchy is deeply entrenched and dominates the social setup, enterprising is difficult for most Pakistani women. Yet, there are some who break the barriers imposed by patriarchal thinking to walk the path of success. A few among them even lead the way for others to achieve their dreams.
Anum Merchant is one such pioneering woman who has enabled 7,000 aspiring females to exhibit their talent through Facebook and social media.
An MBA graduate and a gold medallist from the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology, Merchant is currently working as a learning and development strategist. However, despite being praiseworthy, her academic and professional success holds little value in front of her efforts towards empowering women in and outside Pakistan.
Stepping into ecommerce
Merchant’s endeavours to empower women can be traced back to the launch of her Facebook page, Sheviews, quite a few years back. The page was a complete guide to buying products online.
Merchant would purchase and test various products, posting their reviews on her Facebook page, aiming to assist women with making the right choice. Her page soon gained popularity within and outside Pakistan, as her inbox was flooded with requests by women asking for suggestions about different products.
The success of her page made Merchant realise the potential of ecommerce as a platform for women to enterprise and put their skills to productive use.
Merchant wanted to provide women who were talented and capable, but were not working, with a platform to utilise and promote their skills and elevate their status in the society. Through Sheviews, she enabled them to connect with other skilled and talented women as well as gain access to a wider consumer base.
Mainly comprising members belonging to the middle and lower-middle classes, according to Merchant, Sheviews is a wide network for women entrepreneurs to connect with resourceful women who can support them in their ventures.
Merchant is currently providing online consultation and organises training sessions on Skype. She assists women from different countries through online sessions under her Womentorship programme. Planned as a six-week consultation programme, its first session was held in January 2019, where seven women from the US, Dubai and Pakistan were provided with one-on-one consultation to help them build a workable business strategy.
A business not backed by a sound strategy is bound to fail, says Merchant. In most cases, women have no idea how to market their business, she adds. Merchant provides online consultation to help such women develop business acumen, conduct market research and analyse markets to make sound business decisions.
Merchants endeavours are. however, not just limited to online or social media platforms.
In the last two years, Merchant has conducted various workshops and trained more than 400 women. The workshops are aimed at imparting not just vocational training, but also introducing the women to recreational activities such as painting to help them deal with stress. She aims to use these workshops as a tool to empower women in all realms of life, not just professionally.
During her training sessions, Merchant encourages women to connect with each other and share their ideas, which in turn helps them build self-confidence so that they may lead successful lives.
Recently, the British Council selected Merchant as a trainer in their Developing Inclusive and Creative Economies (DICE) programme for the promotion of social entrepreneurship in Pakistan. Eight of the 22 trainers are from Karachi and Anum is the second female trainer selected from Karachi.
Merchant now wants to expand the scope of her services. She hopes to provide trainings to women in rural areas too, for which she says she needs government support. The entrepreneur believes that programs such as DICE should be adopted by the federal and provincial governments so that women may be given more opportunities and can contribute to the economy.