Hira Rizvi, a Georgia Tech graduate, would not have considered herself an entrepreneur. But during a Pakathon workshop in Atlanta, she remembered her childhood experience of carpooling to school in Pakistan. Her parents had to coordinate rides with her friends instead of letting her use public transport, as they considered the latter unsafe for women. Seeing an opportunity to create an enterprise that would positively impact lives, she developed a business plan and moved back to Pakistan. There she incorporated She’Kab, a subscription-based carpooling service that connects professional women to background-checked drivers in Islamabad. To-date it has conducted more than 800 rides.
An approximate 5,000 graduates like Hira return to Pakistan each year from universities in the U.K., the U.S. and Canada. Pathathon’s thesis is simple: what if we helped these “returners” make a big difference in Pakistan by using their skills in the social sector? By helping returners succeed we can reverse the brain drain of Pakistani college graduates who move out of the country to pursue opportunities elsewhere.
Social ventures are businesses that address important issues in sectors like energy, healthcare, sanitation, and education. By helping returners launch these ventures, they can sustainably make an impact in their native country of Pakistan, while also earning a living and utilizing their experience and education from university.
This approach challenges prevailing norms. Family members expect returners to work for multinational companies or their family business once they return to Pakistan. This makes them more attractive in the “rishta marketplace.” By promoting and strengthening a safe environment for Pakistani women to create and build businesses, She’Kab contributes to a community and agenda that encourages returners to utilize their foreign education in Pakistan. Returners who were apart with their home country for years also lack the network of business relationships and funding to launch their own initiative. We help returners through these challenges.
Pakathon’s mission is to reverse the brain drain by mentoring and funding Pakistani expats moving back to launch a business. They bring the expat community together at events and workshops around the US and Canada. Entrepreneurs selected as the most promising receive funding and one-on-one mentorship.