News Column

Buksh Foundation focuses on "impact investment" instead of a mere charity based approch

January 31, 2014

Flare Panel sits with Fiza Farhan , CEO, Buksh Foundation & Director of Buksh Energy for formal chit chat. She says that driven by development challenges and passionate about breaking the norms for innovative solutions to eradicate poverty, I met Asim Buksh , the innovative and passionate entrepreneur when he was already contemplating setting up business models to tap the untapped markets of social finance and renewable energy. It was then that we both co-founded Buksh Foundation & Buksh Energy in order to create institutions working towards the larger microfinance segments and the un-electrified and energy deficit segments of the population “ Flare: Please share few words about yourself, education and professional life, how it all started? Fiza: In a few words, I am a believer, a passionate, independent and progressive professional and a very happy go person in my personal life. I belong to an agricultural family, based in Sialkot and have spent my childhood moving to and from rural areas. I have been able to look at the problems that the masses face in rural areas of country. I have seen the lower income households in the rural area of Pakistan suffering due to lack of access to basic necessities of life. Agriculture being the mainstay of our economy- the opportunities present in Punjab for doing creating economic impact and value were immense and I had started thinking about means and ways of impacting them. Driven by development challenges, and passionate about breaking the norms for innovative solutions to eradicate poverty, I met Asim Buksh , the innovative and passionate entrepreneur from the well-known Haji Karim Buksh family in Lahore back in 2008 when he was already contemplating setting up business models to tap the untapped markets of social finance and renewable energy, post his very successful enterprises in the niche retail industry. It was then that we both co-founded Buksh Foundation & Buksh Energy Pvt. Ltd in order to create institutions working towards the larger microfinance segments and the un-electrified and energy deficit segments of the population. Creation of Buksh Foundation allowed me to practically implement unique resolutions for economic enhancement of poverty ridden communities and to actively work towards women empowerment which has been a deeply inspiring experience as I was able to hone my learning and relevant skills through this process. I have been able to take on the responsibilities of heading both organizations within the capacity of CEO of Buksh Foundation & Director of Buksh Energy. Flare: What are the aims and objectives of the Pakistani business women? Fiza: Pakistani business women are aiming for job creation and income generation, reducing inequalities among men and women, in many emerging businesses, these women are now starting businesses at a faster rate than men, making significant contributions to job creation and economic growth. Business women in Pakistan are striving for good corporate governance as they are well aware that it is essential for sustainable private sector development because it helps firms attract and retain investors, better manage risks, reduce the cost of capital, improve performance, and better weather financial crises. Doing so also helps drive growth in national economy. Flare: What are the qualities of successful business women? Fiza: I believe a successful business woman is always on top of her ideas and is good at paying attention to details and it is this precision that often gets business women far ahead of the rest. A successful businesswoman has a clear vision. Her vision is ambitious but realistic and attainable. If she sets out to do something, she doesn’t stop halfway. Female entrepreneurs need to be bold enough to create new plans, rules and organizations when the status quo is no longer enough. She creates a modern twist to traditional ways in running a business by asking questions and recognizing the talent in other people. She knows that the key to business success is being able to collaborate with others and form win/win situations. It is very interesting that I find in at least my business communications- that successful business women unlike the myths in the society are very unemotional and powerful when it comes to business decisions. Flare: What is the major achievement of BukshFoundation for the last few years? Fiza: Buksh Foundation is an enterprising microfinance organization aiming to broaden the scale and reach of financial services in Pakistan with an emphasis on access to women, growth in rural markets and technological innovation. Initiated in May 2009 , Buksh Foundation has successfully completed three years of operation and is continuing its growth path by offering efficient and client friendly financial products and services. Its distinguishing feature is its keen focus on ”impact investment“ instead of a mere charity based approach. It takes a more holistic view of ”microfinance“ by transforming the myopic view of ”micro credit“ so as to bring about a marked difference in the lives of targeted clients. In the recent year Buksh Foundation has electrified 72 villages under LaML project in 11 different districts of Pakistan , positivelyimpacting the lives of around 18,000 beneficiaries directly and around 40,000 individuals indirectly. This project plans to reach 4,000 villages with a total of 1 million lives lightened by 2017. Flare: What is your biggest strength? Fiza: My biggest strength is to have a clear vision. My vision is ambitious but realistic and attainable. The drive to transform my vision to reality is strong and all my decisions are made towards achieving the goals both personal and professional. I believe my clarity and precision mixed with the consistency and commitment enables my dreams to convert into goals and then outcomes. Flare: Where do you rate luck and hard work in the success of any individual? Fiza: I believe when people succeed in life, it is majorly because of their hard work and commitment to achieve their goals. Being lucky has not much to do with success in life. ”Persistence is the material to success“, I believe in this quote. With a sincere effort, ones put in their work would help them to achieve their goal and eventually become successful in their lives. Flare: What steps or strategy the Microfinance sector should follow to make Pakistan an ideal state? Fiza: Pakistan being a rapidly developing country faces certain instability and economic challenges. In order to overcome those challenges we need to increase transparency and accountability in the society. We need to encourage foreign investments in the country. In my view, a key pre-requisite for an economic state is to ensure that a country experiences equitable and sustainable growth for a prolonged period of time. The starting point for sustained economic growth lies in achieving long term macro-economic stability through fiscal prudence and eliminating the bleeding of our public sector enterprises. In order to progress as a nation, we need to increase our expenditure on health and education. Flare: What is the importance of IT for the progress of our country and sustained economic growth in your opinion? Fiza: In my opinion, IT is the most critical component for progress and sustained economic growth in Pakistan and globally; there are multiple benefits the modern business world has derived from the use of IT from improving business processes, to gathering market intelligence for the most ideal product development, to achieving cost efficiencies, to achieving revenue growth and most importantly for spreading out on a global platform. IT has given a new facet to international business and has brought such streamlining and opportunities of excelling with the process of globalization that now businesses have the opportunity to grow at triple the pace they would grow back in the days when brick and mortar models were used. An example in the microfinance industry- the only solution to tapping the 89% unbanked market of Pakistan is through rapid expansion models based on branchless banking- and players like Ufone, Mobilink, UBL &Zong coming into this domain is a clear indication of the trend being understood in the market. Flare: Do you think that NGO’s serve the really needy people? Fiza: Buksh foundation, being a NGO, has created immense impact at the ground level through its revolutionary innovations in the MF Industry in Pakistan supporting the underprivileged and creating a positive socio-economic change by financially helping the impoverished become active economic agents and in the end doesn't matter whether a NGO is giving 100 % or a little less but the positive point is the work that NGO's are doing for the society i.e. creating awareness, sustainable economic activities and healthy life styles. Flare: What do you like the most about your job? Fiza: Being a CEO of Buksh Foundation & Director Buksh Energy , my responsibilities are setting strategy and vision for the organization and directions for my businesses but what I like most about my job is ”self-exploration“, I sense satisfaction when I realize my own potential and I feel happy when I support others to realize their potential by giving them challenging tasks and providing them the stimulating environment, that can put forth their potential and realize it in the outcome of their work. Flare: What is your present priority of life as business women? Fiza: As a woman business leader, I am constantly aware of not only the business need for diversity and continued growth and innovation, but also how embracing diversity creates expansion of ideas, creativity and thus produces innovative outcomes. My priority as a business woman is ”Be the change you want to see“. Flare: Can you give one piece of advice to women considering a career as social worker? Fiza: As a social worker, women will be able to pursue a cause that is meaningful to them; it will help them to have a positive impact on the community by providing solutions to poverty, divorce, addiction, emotional distress and over abundance of other psychological and social issues. Pursuing a career in social work may provide you with an outlet in which you can help countless others to overcome comparable obstacles. There are numerous opportunities for the women in the field of social work, they just have to be positive and take all the challenges and obstacle as a chance to excel and prove themselves. It is important that they realize their potential and consider each obstacle a new opportunity. Flare: What are the commonalities between Buksh Foundation &Buksh Energy and how does that align with your leading role in the two organizations? Both the organizations Buksh Foundation & Buksh Energy are working on the common platform of providing impact based solutions for different target markets of the country with a special focus on economic empowerment, reliable solutions and green economy. There are multiple projects that are scaling up in both the organizations such as the Solar ATMs for commercial banks including UBL, Bank Alfalah and Soneri Bank amongst others, the solar agri financing product with UBL providing solar tube wells to farmers at affordable financing. Solar and energy efficient commercial and industrial solutions, Smart Grids for Disco's for energy management and distribution efficiency through the implementation of smart IT solutions, Solar villages with the additional contribution of solar mobile charging stations and solar water filtration plants - This and so much more is enabling myself as a professional to grow as I grow my teams and the businesses. 2014 is certainly an immensely promising year with a lot more to look forward to!!! Flare: Some words about Flare Magazine Fiza: Flare magazine is a great source of latest and reliable information that servers as a prerequisite for strategic planning in telecom and business industry including analysis of current and upcoming happenings both nationally and internationally. Flare is positively highlighting the conspiracies that create hindrances in the growth of business & telecom industry.

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Source: Flare (Pakistan)

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