The entrepreneur helping women get to work in Pakistan
A new ridesharing service is helping women commute, with funding from Shell.
In one city in Pakistan, 90% of women who travel by bus experience harassment, says a 2018 report co-led by the UN. And in a country where only three percent of households own a car, commuting can be a real barrier to women entering the workplace.
Hira Rizvi, from Islamabad, moved to the USA to study as a Fulbright Scholar when companies like Uber started to take off. This gave her the idea for She’Kab, a ridesharing service designed for women.
“I wanted to create a solution that addressed women’s needs,” says Rizvi, whose company now operates in two cities, Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
But simply importing Uber or Lyft’s model was a non-starter. “The idea of women jumping into a random car was a huge consideration for people back home,” says Rizvi. “I knew that for a ridesharing service to work in Pakistan, it had to take cultural and religious realities into account.”
Hira Rizvi (third from left), the founder of She’Kab
She’Kab allows groups of women in the same area to carpool and split the fare for a single driver on a monthly basis.
Rizvi’s search for funding led her to Shell Tameer – the Shell LiveWIRE programme in Pakistan. Launched in 2003, the programme provides young entrepreneurs with skills training and support.
“Empowering women is a key focus,” says Muhammad Saifullah, Shell Tameer’s coordinator and communications manager.
Rizvi competed in Shell LiveWIRE’s Top Ten Innovators Competition, a global competition for businesses that demonstrate excellence in innovation. She’Kab won the runner-up award and $10,000 in funding.
“The award money came at a great time for us,” says Rizvi. “It helped fund our tech development, which has been crucial to the success of our business.”
Rizvi used the money to develop an app for She’Kab, which has helped attract more interest from investors.
So what advice would Rizvi give other women thinking about starting their own entrepreneurial journey?
“I wish more women knew what they could achieve. Take that leap.”
Five years after Shell funded a British start-up, the entrepreneurs behind it have pitched their idea to President Barack Obama.