Home-based work is one of the oldest professions and has a long history in South Asia. But now, home-based work has become a stable and profitable production mode for firms globally. It is estimated that there are around 100 million home-based workers; more than half of these are in South Asia while around 80 per cent of these 50 million are women.
Given our cultural setup, home-based work is particularly beneficial for women as they don’t have to go out and can combine their household responsibilities at their convenience. Moreover, now home-based work is not just limited to only production; rather it involves services as well, like a businessperson working from home, a consultant working from home for some other country, writers, artists and so on.
Over the last decade, internet, smartphone and its applications, and changing attitudes about work places have made working at home a reality for millions of people around the world. This industry continues to grow and provide a number of avenues for people to start their own businesses, especially women. Keeping this in mind, this week You! talks to a few women who used their passion to start their own businesses...
As a child, Muntaha Jahanzaib always had an artistic inclination; she loved colours and especially loved the intricate henna artwork. Mesmerised by the delicate designs, she started doing henna art in 2004. She had been practising since she was merely 10 years old. “I practised whenever I had free time. I made designs on paper and maintained a journal for it. My family, friends and even my teachers appreciated my art. Their compliments were a source of encouragement and really gave me the boost I needed. They were always ready to support me and let me practise on their hands at any given time. I am very fortunate to still have their support and now from my in-laws too,” she tells.
Pursuing her passion, Muntaha recently started her own Facebook page ‘Muntaha Creativity’. Through this page, she gets to show off her work as an artist and gauge the attention of the customers. “When it comes to my speciality, I focus on sketching cohesive, clean lines and patterns, careful not to smear the design – which is therapeutic to me as well. I truly love the feeling of making my clients feel special and beautiful. This is why I keep improving my skill,” she says. “As a wife and mother, I have quite a few responsibilities to take care of, and this business allows me the flexibility to manage my work and home easily,” she adds.
For young aspiring henna artists, Muntaha advises, “If you love creating henna patterns, you can easily start your home based career. Stay updated with the latest trends and styles to create your own. If you have a knack for something, pursue it without fear and show it off. Being financially stable liberates you from relying on anyone. Don’t worry about the societal pressures and challenges because women can do far more than they imagine.”
In the past years, there has been a big boom in the baking industry (thanks to the internet). A large number of home bakers, local and international, have started baking customised cakes and work from the convenience of their homes. Sana Owais has a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Karachi, and is a cake artist who creates theme-based cakes at home. She got her first order in 2017 that she made for friend’s daughter’s birthday and that led to more such orders. “Making cakes for a living has been a dream of mine. When I was in 10th class, I used to analyse tiny details of cakes. I’d wonder about how the designs were executed, what ingredients, etc. A family friend taught me a lot of my baking skills and I realised that making cakes is much more than merely mixing the ingredients together,” shares Sana.
Shedding light on her business, Sana tells, “I do cakes that feature floral icing designs, dolls, hats, cartoon characters. And I make sure that I share original images of my work as to not keep my potential customers in the dark. Moreover, I deliver fresh items so I have to follow time schedule, planning, and efficiency.” Inspired by Cake experts Liz Larson, Zoes and Danish, Sana keeps on learning new skills and techniques through books and the internet – like watching tutorials on YouTube. “Creating elaborate cakes can take hours and hours. I recently made a hat-shaped cake which took me at least five hours to finish. But, once as I uploaded a picture of it on my socials, I instantly started getting orders for it,” she informs.
The biggest advantage Sana has from this business is that she is able to operate from home and take care of her two children. “I live in a joint family which honestly is a blessing for me. My in-laws support me and, in fact, it was my mother-in-law who nudged me to start this professionally. And, my husband supports and critiques my artwork so I can keep on getting better. Working from home has allowed me to work at my best,” says Sana.
A software engineer by profession, Iman Saad is a travel enthusiast and a blogger. Based in Karachi, Iman started her women-only group ‘Travel Diaries Pakistan’ in April 2016 to encourage women to share their travel experiences and incite wanderlust. The private group on Facebook provides credible and useful information regarding travel. “Travel Diaries Pakistan is an online space for women where they can discuss travel related queries. I feel that it is very unfortunate that women in our country do not have enough opportunities to travel and explore on their own. However, if we have groups where women feel safe to discuss their concerns related to travel, then we are getting one step closer to achieving those long-awaited solo trips and travels with our besties,” enthuses Iman. “Our members are fighting taboos and they definitely enjoy sharing their experiences. We need more young and daring women who can motivate others to follow their heart. This is where these online communities come in - as an online support system.”
Moderating Facebook groups can be tricky, especially if you have a women-only group. Most men will try to get in these groups through fake profiles. To overcome this issue, Iman explains, “I don’t pick favourites or do special favours. I trust my instincts at being able to tell men apart from women while I’m accepting membership requests. Moreover, once the requests are accepted, I make sure the members respect each other. Facebook groups and social media management is a relatively newer field so they require some more time and energy compared to a regular 9-to-5. But, if done right, the results are not disappointing at all.”
Farhana Moin had a keen interest in designing outfits so she started stitching clothes as a hobby after completing her Matriculation. Word got out about her skills and soon she started getting customers. “My fascination with fashion and design is what pushed me to take this up professionally. Everything happened on its own. It has only been a year and I already have clients both, nationally and internationally. Plus, the biggest benefit is that I get to work whenever and wherever I want,” she shares. While Farhana has had success through word of mouth alone, she adds that she had to struggle her way to get where she is now. “It was really hard initially, not all clients would trust my skills. And I don’t exactly get a fair price for the clothes I design. However, my family keeps me motivated. Their support gives me peace which helps me stay focused and work harder.”
“Taking up your passion as a profession should always be your motto. As far as home-based business is concerned, just be patient and disciplined. Your daily routine should dedicate specific work hours to stay consistent. You’ll face many obstacles but in the end it will all be worth it,” she imparts.
Who says that technical education is more suited for boys? Ambreen Salman has a Bachelor in Computer Science and Masters in International Relations. Moreover, she has completed professional development courses from Arizona State University & University of Iowa. Ambreen works as a Teacher Franchise Partner and Area manager for ‘Dot & Line Learning Center’. It offers quality assured, after-school learning environment in Pakistan. It reinforces critical thinking, individualised learning, and brings lessons on paper to life. “I am a regular user of Learning Management Systems, especially Canvas, where I completed a lot of virtual courses from time to time. I chose to work from home because I didn’t want to compromise on my mother’s health and my children’s well-being. My absence for a full day was starting to affect them so I found an avenue through this venture. I’m glad that my children get to see their mother utilising her time positively and they will eventually learn to manage their time in their lives as well,” shares Ambreen.
While working from home has its perks, Ambreen sheds light on how people’s attitudes still need to change towards home businesses, “Relatives are often insensitive to our work schedule and the seriousness of our job. They assume that we are available for their uncalled-for visits and gossips. People still need to learn and respect the privacy and priorities of others.” Nevertheless, as competent individual who knows her job well, she is grateful for the unwavering support she gets from her family. “My children assist me in managing my classroom. They organise the seating arrangement, take care of the stationery and books, and they’ll sometimes monitor the class as well. Even my elderly mother is involved and distributes certificates to students who complete their level,” beams Ambreen.
Based in Sukkur, Nishat Malik is an event planner since the past four years. She started her business ‘De’ Event Fusion’ in 2015. “There aren’t many avenues here that arrange good events and people don’t have a lot of resources. I observed this void and decided to do something about it. My husband and father-in-law were the ones who really supported my venture. With this start-up, I not only get to keep an eye on my kids and fulfil my household responsibilities, but also work in peace without a lot of stress,” tells Nishat.
To promote her work, Nishat believes that technology plays an important role. It gives your start-up the space to grow more efficiently, which is why she stays active on social media.
For women aspiring to do achieve something, Nishat advises, “I always suggest my peers to never waste their education and potential because of family restrictions.
Starting your own small business is not as hard as you think. Stay consistent and confident. If your home business kicks off, that’s great. But, if it doesn’t do so well, you gain experience, which is valuable in itself.”