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Social Entrepreneur Works To Bring 100 Million Underserved People Into Pakistani Financial System
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Having created the fastest growing fintech company in Pakistan by on-boarding more than 70,000 people, Naureen Hyat, 33, co-founder and head of Tez Financial Services has a long way to go to reach her goal of financially empowering the 100 million people in her country who are unbanked or under-banked.
Visa recently held a Shark Tank-style competition for women entrepreneurs in around the world in two categories, fintech and social impact. Hyat won the $100,000 prize in the fintech arena—despite a genuine integration of social impact in her model. The prize also included mentorship and access to Visa products and services.
“Financial inclusion in Pakistan is extremely low. The World Bank estimates 100 million adults, out of a total population of 189 million, lack access to formal financial services. Low income consumers in particular struggle to access credit, smooth cash flows, manage bumps and shocks, and save to meet their future goals,” says Tahira Dosani, managing director of Accion Venture Lab, a seed-stage fintech investor that has invested in Tez Financial Services and now serves on the board.
Tez Financial Services provides smartphone-based access to financial services, including the ability to access tiny amounts of credit in just ten minutes, she says. The platform provides credit, insurance, savings and investment opportunities, giving people who’ve traditionally lacked access to some or all these services at any price, instant access via their phones.
Naureen Hyat CREDIT: TEZ FINANCIAL SERVICES
For Hyat, this is about fighting poverty. “Having worked in the field, we have experienced first-hand what poverty means—from compromised health to lack of opportunities for education, and no means to fund emergencies resulting in debt traps, where generations remain stuck in the poverty cycle.”
Hyat says her own research shows that when women are forced to cut back on the household budget, education and the quantity and quality of food get cut.
“We believe that the most sustainable mechanism to alleviate poverty is economic empowerment,” he says. “If meaningful work is to happen towards the goal of poverty alleviation, then people need to be provided greater income generating opportunities, and cost-effective and sustainable access to financial services.”
Most of her customers view saving in a jar or under the mattress as the primary alternative to Tez Financial Services. The startups products include innovative applications of culturally relevant savings and investment opportunities, including fractionalized interests in gold. Using the platform, small investors can invest as little as $1 in gold.
For the first time, many low-income families will have access to affordable retirement savings options via Tez Financial Services in 2020.
Credit of up to $100 has now been available on the platform for over a year as have some insurance products which are often paired with the credit.
Tez Financial Services is not a charity. “Tez’s all-digital platform lowers costs to acquire, assess, and serve customers, making it profitable for the business to reach a customer segment that others can’t effectively and profitably serve,” Dosani says.
Hyat says empathy is key to the success of Tez Financial Services. “It’s really being able to understand people’s needs and to be able to see things from other people’s lens.”
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