HBL and Visa announce Winners of the First Edition of the She’s Next program in Pakistan

  • Five winners were announced for She’s Next, Visa’s global platform dedicated to women entrepreneurs, at an awards ceremony in Karachi
  • Hira Javaid, CEO of Foster Learning, wins People’s Favorite Award
  • Winners receive a US$10,000 grant each, a tailored training program by Katalyst Labs, and access to the She’s Next Club.
  • An independent committee selected winners from almost 2,500 applicants across various sectors, from education training and advertising to professional services, beauty and online retail.


Visa (NYSE: V), a world leader in digital payments, together with HBL, Pakistan’s leading Bank today, announced five winners of Pakistan’s inaugural edition of the She’s Next program,  Visa’s global platform dedicated to supporting women in their efforts to fund, run and grow their small businesses.

Winners included Ziana Sakhia, CEO and co-founder of Bechlo; Sadaf Rehman, Cofounder of CodeSchool; Rida Zainab, Cofounder of Porter Pakistan; and Ayesha Awan, Cofounder of SocialBlu. The program also included a People’s Favorite award, where members of the public voted online for their favourite finalist, Hira Javaid, CEO of Foster Learning.

Winners were chosen from almost 2,500 applicants from various sectors, including textiles, education, food and beverage, professional services, and beauty and wellness within Pakistan. The five winning woman-owned small businesses received a US$10,000 grant each, along with a tailored training program by Katalyst Labs and access to the She’s Next Club, where they will access multiple resources, including a workshop library and a community of entrepreneurs for mentorship.

A jury evaluated entries based on the progression of the applicant’s entrepreneurial journey, the robustness of their business metrics, their digital presence, and demonstrated ability to solve problems confidently. The members of the jury included Carl Manlan, Visa’s Vice President for Social Impact in Central Europe, Middle East and Africa (CEMEA), Maya Inayat Ismail, Chief of Staff to the Chairman and Chairperson, Sustainability Forum – HBL, Aatif Awan, Founder and Managing Partner of Indus Valley Capital and Sheema Sultan, CEO of Core Gym.

Leila Serhan, Senior Vice President and Group Country Manager for North Africa, Levant and Pakistan (NALP), Visa, said: “We are thrilled to announce the winners of our inaugural edition of She’s Next in Pakistan and recognise the ambition and confidence of these women entrepreneurs. We had a tough job selecting our finalists from almost 2,500 exemplary Pakistani women, and our judges had an even harder job picking our winners tonight. This is just the tip of the iceberg, and we hope to continue working with our partners to empower this inspiring community of women entrepreneurs.”

Aamir Kureshi, Head of Consumer, Agriculture & SME Banking – at HBL, said: “HBL is proud to be the exclusive partner of Visa for the She’s Next global program in Pakistan. The program aims to support and empower women entrepreneurs on their path to financial success. This initiative further supports HBL’s commitment to uplift women entrepreneurs in the country. While we have five winners from the ten shortlisted, the Bank acknowledges and celebrates the exceptional spirit of all 2,500 applicants, each a winner in their own right. HBL is committed to shaping the country’s financial industry. In this regard, SMEs, particularly women’s businesses, will remain a key focus area for us.”

Since 2020, Visa has invested around US$ 3.8 million in over 380 grants and coaching for women SMB owners through the She’s Next grant program globally, including in the US, Canada, India, Ireland, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Morocco.

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