Saturday, July 31, 2021

USAID challenge fund for Pakistani SMEs


Zubair Yaqoob
The author has diversified experience in investigative journalism. He is Chief content editor at
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United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to uplift Small and Medium Enterprises Activity (SMEA) has launched a “Challenge Fund” to provide grant and business development services support to improve the financial and operational performance of competitive Pakistani economic sectors such as Information Communication and Technology, hospitality, logistics, light engineering, minerals, textiles, and agri-business and processing, including targeted support to women-led businesses. through this project.

The Challenge fund provides growth and innovation grants to start-ups and existing businesses. Under the project, USAID provided a grant to Imran Soleh, a resident of Lahore. Soleh, after acquiring a grant from USAID improved his business and started making cheese of international quality.

Through the grant, Soleh set up his company “Farmer Cheese Making Company” has started producing quality cheese in Pakistan that is comparable to international quality cheese standards. Soleh started cheese-making in his kitchen in 2009.


He says that in addition to growth in my business the grant enabled him to create job opportunities for others. The majority of grants provided by USAID are for youth and start-ups. One such grant was given to Closet which is a business started by three young women Laiba Amir, owner of Closet says that the inimitability of her business is that it provides an opportunity to masses for acquiring wedding and party dresses on rent instead of purchasing them.

“The grant provided by USAID gave them the ability not only to start a successful business but to provide jobs to at least nine people”, Laiba said. Islamabad based software company which has also been provided a grant by USAID, which not only helped a business start-up but provided jobs to many individuals.

Another such business an unconventional educational institution in Islamabad, run by Rubina Shaheen. Schola Nova has been working since 1998 and was also supported by USAID through the business development services under SMEA.

The support included participation in Lyft Pakistanis in 2019, digital media marketing, and management over nine months. Rubina said, “The support provided by USAID not only helped me to generate more revenue but enabled my business to grow,”.

She added that due to the support, she was able to overcome the challenges faced during Covid and she was able to manage online education during the pandemic.

Payments through mobile phone applications have become much easier now, such a fund transferring procedure is called QR payments.

The system is becoming popular in Pakistan and a large number of consumers have started trusting the QR payments process. USAID provided business development support through certification to one such business “Digital Commerce and Payments (DCP)”. Owned by Farhan Saleem says that with the certification of USAID, he has been able to offer a digital payment facility to his customers. 

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