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SBP takes necessary steps to promote tech startups

Business

March 16, 2021

KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan is taking all necessary initiatives to provide an enabling environment for the information and technology startups and women financial inclusion, the central bank’s governor said on Monday.

“The SBP is working on gender mainstreaming policy titled ‘Banking on Equality: Reducing the Gender Gap in Financial Inclusion’.

The proposed policy aims to introduce a gender lens within the financial sector through identified pillars and specific measures, to bring a shift towards women friendly business practices,” the SBP’s Governor Reza Baqir said at an event organised by Sehat Kahani, a telemedicine startup that has raised $1 million in a Pre-Series A round.

The SBP is building market infrastructures and facilities that support women entrepreneurs in the country, he said. For the SBP, entrepreneurship and especially female-owned businesses has held utmost priority, Baqir said.

“Over the years, we’ve introduced a variety of initiatives which include but are not limited to offering incentivised loans at 5 percent markup,” he said. “We are also allowing startups to form holding companies abroad to enhance our foreign remittances. This is a model that is followed worldwide to empower local economies and businesses.”

He said cases such as Sehat Kehani can serve as an inspiration for other startups especially those created and led by women. “I would like to congratulate Sehat Kahani for this milestone achievement. This shall be a case study for many other female entrepreneurs that how gender should never be a barrier on the way to success,” Baqir said.

Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunications Aminul Haque said the IT sector in the country has shown substantial growth in the last few years. The country’s exports of IT related services have grown by 40 percent in the last six months only.

“5G services are also expected to be launched by the end of the year and local smartphone manufacturing has also begun in Pakistan thanks to efforts made by the current administration,” Haque said.

“This is very heartening to see female entrepreneurs coming forward in tech and I wish to see more such events where females led organisations are raising foreign investment for Pakistan.”

Founded by two female doctors turned entrepreneurs, Sara Saeed Khurram and Iffat Zafar Aga, Sehat Kahani has raised a one million dollar in pre-series A round from leading global investors including Saudi Arabia based Islamic Development bank, Washington based 10Pearls Ventures, Silicon Valley based mentor’s fund, Singapore based Korean Impact Collective Funds, and Impact Investment Exchange.

KASB and Din Group from Pakistan along with other international and national angels also contributed to the round.

Khurram said the investors trust has further reflected the massive success of Sehat Kahani that has celebrated a massive 425 percent growth in the last 12 months only.

“We are absolutely grateful to all the investors for trusting Sehat Kahani and we are thrilled to replicate our successful business model towards the mass consumer retail market in 2021and beyond,” Zafar, Co-founder and COO said.

With an expanded network of 5,000 doctors and a successfully implemented agile platform that can be tailored for different target markets, Sehat Kahani is now positioning itself for regional expansion in a world embracing the new normal with digital transformation.