Issues and Challenges

E-Marketing: Unlocking Opportunities for Women-Owned Businesses

Digital media networking is crucial for businesses looking to expand their consumer base and brand recognition. Women-owned businesses should also use it to promote their unique point of sale through e-marketing. Undeniably, women have n0t always had the smoothest road in starting their own businesses leading to financial independence. Fortunately, technological advancements, e.g., internet, social media, information and communication technology (ICTs), etc., are being readily utilized by women to become independent. Women have found success in business ventures using digital platforms. For women, harnessing the potential of e-commerce can empower them socially and financially. In Pakistan, various online platforms help women in accessing and availing opportunities through digital means. As the nation’s e-commerce sector grows, analysts predict it will open up multiple economic prospects for women. Moreover, e-commerce enhances their reach to a larger audience for the showcasing of their products from their homes. Empowering women through digital platforms has become quite easy in present day world as it is easily manageable from any device, e.g., smartphone, laptop, etc.
Numerous women-owned businesses in Pakistan have materialized in recent years through e-commerce and social media avenues. Mostly, women-owned businesses are small or medium enterprises and generate huge economic benefits with less expenditure by using digital platforms. Women-owned businesses help in portraying the positive image of Pakistan internationally.  Following are the most vibrant women-owned businesses in Pakistan:
Handmade/Indigenous Crafts
Handicraft exports have contributed in the representation of Pakistan’s rich and unique culture globally. Pakistani handicrafts fall under the category of fashion and interior/home décor. For instance, Suraya Abdullah, a master artisan from Kahror Pakka, has seen the lasting popularity of chunri over the years among women of all ages, locally and abroad, after digital recognition of her work by various digital platforms. In 2018, Sarah Asif Rana founded Dazzle by Sarah, a platform that deals in the manufacture of distinctive handcrafted juttis by fusing stunning patterns with comfort. Dazzle by Sarah developed into a leading enterprise in the fashion footwear sector in just three years through digitalization and e-commerce.
Other popular startups include Polly and Other Stories, a shop that collects and displays handcrafted goods from all around Pakistan. About 1,200 craftsmen and 92 small enterprises may market their goods under the single roof of digitalization through their websites, social media handles and concept stores in Karachi and Lahore. 
Home Décor
Home décor and supporting ventures pave the way for new creative business opportunities for women in Pakistan. Colish, a “luxury home fragrance business” based in Karachi, produce scented candles, reed stick diffusers, interior sprays, etc. Numerous other décor products like clay pottery, knotted carpets, blue pottery, camel lamps, etc., are being sold by e-commerce setups in Pakistan.

Health & Fitness
Shafaq Sewani is one of the co-founders of Fresh Basket, Karachi’s “first agri-retail chain that encourages healthy eating” by making fresh, natural, sanitary food and pantry products easily accessible. Moreover, fitness venture AimFit, introduced by co-founder Mahlaqa Shaukat is a female-specific digital fitness platform. Remotely accessible live exercises from AimFit help women in achieving their fitness objectives. With the AimFit app, members can connect from anywhere, globally. As their gyms are located in Pakistan’s largest cities, they also provide in-person fitness courses. 
Female freelancers in Pakistan have created a hybrid workplace paradigm that is reasonably priced and favored by companies. Businesses may save costs by up to 50% while increasing productivity. Through Upwork and Fiverr they have extensive access to the worldwide market. Ayman Sarosh is a remarkable example of an inspirational woman from Pakistan. She received the “Freelancer of the Year 2019” award from Payoneer. Moreover, she trained more than 3000 women in KPK in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Technology Board (KPITB’s) “KP Youth Employment Program,” Pearls University students, Tech Karo by CIRCLE students and participants in the foster learning program at the Arid Agriculture University. 
Women-owned businesses reflect the thriving women of Pakistan, availing opportunities as freelancers and setting up their own businesses. Pakistan’s female digital workforce is popular with various digital services including virtual assistance on Amazon, online bidding experts, graphic designers, SEO experts, PHP developers, web developers, Andriod/IOS developers, and the Alibaba store.
It is pertinent to mention here about the efforts that are being made by various organizations towards empowering women through digitalization. Product Development Hub of Islamabad, Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry collaborated with government and non-government organizations to generate cognizance about economic prosperity for women through online entrepreneurship. Training programs are being offered related to redesigning and manufacturing different products, i.e., textiles, jewelry, marble and handicrafts. They are helping them in expanding women businesses from the local to international market. To achieve women’s empowerment and gender equality, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) also works with the Government of Pakistan to empower women economically. USAID provides assistance to women-owned businesses with business development services, training, and grants in coordination with Women Chambers of Commerce and Industries in Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, and KP, as well as with the Ministry of Industries & Production’s Enterprise Development Authority.
Indeed, Pakistan is capable of adopting a digital manufacturing approach to empower women financially. But, the main reason that is compounding this approach for Pakistani women is that they lack knowledge about the technicalities of employing digital platforms and ICTs, analytics tools, social media algorithms, etc. 
Government and educational institutions should introduce special courses and degrees upon this issue to fulfill the gap and make women aware about new technologies such as supply chain modernization technology, use of data analytics and AI to initiate business strategy, incorporate the social media tools and their platforms to understand consumer behavior, interest and purchasing power. Individually, women should strive to enhance their skillsets in digital marketing that would boost their business strategy and expertise in technical practices along with new trends. HH

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