Pakistan is one of the largest countries in the world. With nearly 200 million residents, it is the 6th most populated country in the world. Unfortunately, it also has one of the largest underbanked populations—182 million people remain excluded from financial services. Less than 1 in 10 people have a bank account and only 0.6% have a mobile account. Pakistan’s large population, combined with significant growth in microfinance over the past two years, and a globally recognized strong microfinance regulatory framework, made it a logical addition to MicroVest’s portfolio.
The country was born out of an idea to create a separate country for India’s Muslim population. At the end of the British empire’s rule over India in 1947, a partition was created to separate Muslim Indians from mainland India. This is how Pakistan, and later Bangladesh, were formed. Political unrest, military coops, and multiple wars with India have marred Pakistan since its founding, but Karachi’s bustling commercial center and recent GDP growth point towards increasing economic resiliency. In 2016, Pakistan recorded a 5.5% annual growth rate, the highest it had experienced since 2006.
In December 2017, MicroVest completed its first due diligence trip to Pakistan. Thanks to a successful visit, Kashf Foundation became the firm’s first investment in the country. Kashf Foundation offers micro loans and school loans to over 354,000 underbanked individuals. As one of the pioneers in this sector, among Kashf Foundation’s many accomplishments includes successfully scaling health insurance in Pakistan; creating a product that now services nearly 1.5 million people.
The wide scope of Kashf Foundation’s social impact is impressive. From its product innovations to its management practices, it is clear that Kashf Foundation is committed to its mission driven principles. For example, the organization strives for a 50/50 gender balance amongst their employees in a country where over 70% of the workforce is men. To help them reach this goal, the organization has daycare facilities at its HQ and at 11 of its branches, and hosts “visit your daughter-in-law” days at the office to help families become more comfortable with women working outside of the home. Kashf Foundation’s progressive culture is led by Roshaneh Zafar—an impressive female executive who founded the organization in the late nineties after being inspired by Mohammad Yunus of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh.
While on the ground in Lahore, a city known for its historical mosques, MicroVest’s team met Perez, an entrepreneur who jointly owns of a local pizza shop with his wife, Balqees. Since the 1980s, Perez worked for one of the largest food and beverage manufacturing companies in Pakistan. After twenty years of working for this large supplier, he decided that he had enough expertise to run his own family business. Perez and Balqees took a risk and opened Mr. Zinger—a wholesale pizza company. The couple reached out to Kashf Foundation, and in less than a week, secured a $700 loan to purchase a cheese curdling machine and refrigerator. Kashf Foundation’s quick turnaround was impressive, especially in a country where it usually takes an extended amount of time for banks to approve loans. Perez and Balqees’ risk of launching their own business has paid off. The couple has been a client of Kashf Foundation for four years and has completed three loan cycles. They are currently in the process of expanding their business. Mr. Zinger now sells wholesale pizzas to stores, schools, and multiple chains across the city.
 All figures are based on self-reported data by Kashf Foundation as of June 2017.