The Fintech landscape has taken roots in Pakistan and is growing quite rapidly. Within a decade, Pakistani digital financial services have jumped the upward spiral. With high bandwidth (3G/4G) penetration crossing 43% and mobile penetration moving beyond 77%, it is no surprise that Pakistan has become a playground for fintech innovation.
In 2015, Pakistan first published its National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS). This strategy targeted the inclusion of 50% of the adult population by 2020. This target has been revised to 65 million digital accounts by 2023 in the 2018 NFIS.
In addition, utilization of DFS has increased, recognizing the importance of reaching the underserved areas and population of Pakistan.
During a study in April 2020, it was found that 94% of Fintechs in the country believed that the measures taken to curb the spread of COVID-19 will increase the use and adoption of DFS.
Those are a lot of numbers, but if you look holistically, these predictions are not so far off. The suggestions of increase in bill payments, mobile top-ups; e-commerce is no joke now. There has been an increase of 31%, 23%, and 15% respectively. COVID-19 has been a temporary catalyst for the adoption and use of DFS.
The opportunity, created by COVID-19 for the larger digital finance ecosystem, is to build on the shifts in practices and behaviors towards DFS. This is evident because of the increase in both mobile banking, by 50%, and mobile money transactions, by 34.3%, from 2019 to 2020.
We will talk a little more about the numbers before we get to our Superheroes because without knowing the facts, we won’t be able to decipher the impact or the importance of financial independence.
More than 64% of Pakistan’s population is under the age of 30; hence, making Pakistani fintech critical stakeholders in the financial technology landscape as they are positioned to leverage technology and initiate the new wave of Digital Financial Services.
Pakistani banking and financial services have transformed, but the ultimate and most important factor for its growth are the customers. Consumers are always on the lookout for a top-of-the-line digital experience, which prompts banks and financial institutions to build intuitive, engaging, and user-centric channels.
The biggest turnkey of Pakistan’s fintech adoption is the utilization of innovative technologies and collaborating with technology partners, who have a track record of building fintech ecosystems.
Pakistani Superheroes, Adopting Financial Independence
All sorts of crises disproportionately impact women. Even history shows us that in the aftermath of economic tornadoes, women earn less. Their savings are limited and have less access to social protection.
The question is, why does work of any form or structure impact the lives of women? Because employment brings financial independence with it, which means an equal voice — a voice heard everywhere.
Why snub that voice out? This financial independence can lead to a lot of positive things in society. Women with financial independence help their families, make efforts for themselves, improve their lifestyle and become more confident.
The initial steps taken by these superheroes were just the beginning. The real empowerment started with good design insight. Using a fintech app, these people were able to make better financial decisions.
Our examples are of the people working as part of the Guddi Baji Program. These are entrepreneurial women who are ambassadors and route to the market agents for Unilever. In return, Unilever provides them with income to support their families.
With their help, anyone can run a Kiryana (utility) store from the comfort of their homes or sell the Unilever goods door to door or sell them at a physical store. Each item that is sold provides a profit that helps people get a livelihood. Additionally, the Rural Support Program Network (RSPN) is a place for Guddi Bajis to recruit and train other women.
We had a discussion with a group of four women. These women taught themselves how to use smartphones and broke barriers. We are well aware of the stigma in Pakistan regarding working women. These women took a stand and started selling Unilever goods door-to-door. Eventually, earnings started to become more evident.
After working with the Guddi Baji Program for over 2-years, even with the harsh comments and restrictions from their families, they finally convinced them. The biggest outcome of being part of this program was the confidence and exposure they gained. These women, who were always instructed to keep their heads down while walking outside, were now able to walk with their heads held high and talk to various people.
Self-confidence aside, they were empowered economically. They were earning good money and could afford the better things in life. The feeling of self-accomplishment seemed evident when they spent their own money on themselves and their family.
Now, equipped with confidence and knowledge, these women had ideas to increase their profit margins by subsidizing products from other distributors and using smartphones to progress with their business, which includes procuring stocks, acquiring loans or digital loans.
Do you see the shift? These were women who had no knowledge, confidence, or experience. With the GB Program, they got their financial independence, they gained confidence and they started thinking analytically and scrutinizing their earnings. This shift is one of the biggest causes of increasing our fintech landscape. The more people move toward financial digitization, the more our fintech industry grows.
Moreover, the empathy, to help others who are struggling, grows with it too. These women, being financially independent, didn’t lose their humanity. Their way of reaching out to others will make way for better growth in the fintech sector.
A divorced woman, who holds a MA degree, used to teach in a school, is now working as a tutor and as part of the Guddi Baji Program to pay the bills and her children’s school fees. She strongly believes in the GB Program. Her thoughts on the difference between men and women business owners couldn’t be more accurate. She says “I don’t think there’s any difference. Men have hands, women have hands, men have a brain, women have a brain. We’re not any less. I don’t see a difference”, it is simple, yet true. She is focusing on learning to use smartphones more effectively to expand her business. After learning to use the fintech app herself, she proactively taught others in the same program how to use the app for the management of their finances. Using the app not only manages their finances but gives these people a great opportunity to make better financial decisions.
Doesn’t it make you feel good that your country and its people, mostly the minorities, are making an impact and progressing proactively? Ideate is a place that contributes towards that great design. Design that interacts!