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SME development for youth in Pakistan

In Pakistan, EYW is identifying and engaging small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in entrepreneurship and business development services (BDS) to create more job opportunities for young people, especially young women. The goal is to create positive social impact by supporting social enterprises in Jamshoro and Layyah districts through tailored group services.

Activities under this program include technical assistance to improve process efficiency, developing marketing strategies, packaging and branding needs, meeting domestic or international standards, accessing financial services, and other topics related to increasing the efficiency of SMEs.

How does it work?

The following three trainings were conducted in separate sessions:

  • Marketing and Sales Management: This training placed emphasis on the management of marketing and sales as one of the most important aspect of a small business and discussed the strategies for their effective use. Several local and international case studies were used to illustrate the concepts. The importance of digital marketing was given particular attention for SMEs in the post-COVID-19 era.
  • Business Model Canvas: In this session, participants were given a detailed account of the benefits of developing a Business Model Canvas (a template youth can use to describe, visualize, and plan their business model). All the participating SMEs were given the task to develop their own business models that were then presented.
  • Innovation Management: This session focused on identifying problems, offering innovative solutions, and how to implement them. Several local and global case studies were discussed at length which gave participants an overview of the innovation management being done by Pakistani and international businesses. The participants also reflected on how they could implement innovation in their own business environment.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions severely limiting the in-field activities, these sessions were held online.


  • Participating SMEs are becoming stronger in terms of business management, profitability, and reach. This in turn has a positive effect on employment opportunities that are created for youth.
  • Approximately 11,000 youth were engaged in EYW in both Layyah & Jamshoro. These youth have been equipped with soft and technical skills on job readiness, micro-business, and farming.
  • 228 young people (out of which 125 women) became employed or self-employed. Over the course of the project, we saw an increase in young women’s employment.

I wanted to start my own business, but I did not know how to register it as a legal entity. With the help of Mera Maan Pvt. Ltd. (implementing partner), I managed to register my company oDoCode and opened a business bank account. I started marketing for my company and soon I got a response from some software houses in Lahore. I managed to sign agreements with them as their consultant. I also signed agreements with a few companies based in the U.S, and I am now getting regular work from them. I registered my company on various platforms, and it has become a Top-Rated seller on UpWork, Fiverr & PeoplePerHour where I served dozens of clients. Two persons were working for me at first – after I joined the EYW training program, my employees increased to 10, both full-time and part-time.                              - Shahab, entrepreneur


After a rigorous selection process, the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) in Karachi was chosen to facilitate the BDS training sessions. IBA further entrusted Mera Maan Pvt. Ltd. to implement this project in Layyah after the phasing out of the EYW program.


  1. The process began with a mapping study to identify number of SMEs, their sectors and relevant value chains.
  2. A value chain analysis was conducted to identify opportunities for youth, especially young girls; technical and financial requirements, standards and certifications, needed skills in the workforce, and more.
  3. Selection criteria were developed for the evaluation of assistance applications received from SMEs. The criteria were: market credibility, revenue turnover, number of employees, sales volume, interest in growth and expansion plans. In order to utilize programme resources optimally, SMEs with higher job creation and revenue growth potentials were targeted. Women-led and youth-friendly SMEs were prioritized.
  4. Together with local universities and government officials, EYW partners identified 34 potential SMEs in Jamshoro, Kotri and Hyderabad.


Lessons learned

  • Locating thriving businesses that have the capacity to hire new employees can be a challenge in rural areas.
  • Engaging young women economically in the region is a major challenge. Cultural norms are not very favourable towards economic engagement of young women, and SMEs are usually not set up in a manner that accommodates young women.
  • More inclusive participatory mapping is needed, carefully co-exploring with the community to see what opportunities exist, what services are needed, and how efforts can be best tailored that ensure dignity of the community. Efforts should be made to identify potential SMEs that see a mutual benefit by participating in the programme.
  • Regular guidance and mentorship is needed. “Teaching a community how to fish” is not enough – constant mentorship is needed in terms of guiding the SME towards greater gains, and facilitating partnerships with other SMEs to encourage expansions.


Sustainability and scaling

In terms of scaling, EYW partner IBA has shortlisted 10 SMEs in Jamshoro and Layyah and are presently expanding this to include an additional 5 SMEs in each district. These 30 SMEs can potentially yield positive results in terms of growth and employment opportunities for local youth. By adding  additional SMEs in both districts, we expect that approximately 300 jobs to be created.  Furthermore, IBA is planning to conduct Entrepreneurship Development Training for 15 SMEs in Jamshoro. They will offer additional support to businesses through one-on-one mentoring and financial assistance.


To learn more about the Entrepreneurship modules of the EYW project Click Here