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A Young Entrepreneur Cooks Up Change for Pakistan


Business training provided by IFC client Bank Alfalah was critical to the success of Mohammed Hussain’s restaurants. © Anam Abbas/IFC

Mohammed Qamber Hussain wants to change his country, one restaurant at a time.

At age 17, the young Pakistani man has already established two pioneering restaurants in his hometown of Karachi. He became an entrepreneur at such a young age because he’s hungry for change—and his recipe for breaking down social barriers calls for clean, affordable tea restaurants that are also comfortable for women.

“Growing up, I saw a vacuum,” he says. “There were rows and rows of elite restaurants with exorbitant prices and the dhaba, a cheap tea spot but also famously unhygienic and not safe for women.”

A fairly-priced dining option open to all, he believed, would offer the restaurant experience to a wider range of social classes and turn his city into a “brighter, happier place.”

Hussain got a loan from his father to set up his first restaurant, but his lack of business knowledge was a continuing obstacle. That’s when IFC client Bank Alfalah stepped in, providing Hussain with training on business planning, accounting, human resources, marketing and sales, and other areas of management critical to the success of small businesses.

With that expertise within his reach, Hussain created a new version of the traditional South Asian roadside restaurant, the dhaba, which offers street food and tea. His restaurant, Chottu Chai Wala, serves traditional dhaba food in a clean environment that’s also more female-friendly than its counterparts. It was an instant hit.

 

A Recipe for Change

Hussain is already dreaming of bigger things. In just one year since the first restaurant opened, he’s launched a second restaurant, and plans to franchise his own chain. “I love tea,” he says, “and want to give it the same prestige that Starbucks gives to coffee.”

Bank Alfalah gave Hussain access to the knowledge he needed to achieve his first set of goals. As part of these services, ongoing guidance from a mentor at Bank Alfalah helped ease his way forward as a first-time entrepreneur. Although he easily remembers the days he was confused about cash flows and balance sheets, now he can prepare his weekly income statements himself.

Bringing these kinds of new economic possibilities to entrepreneurs in high-priority countries was part of IFC’s goal when we invested $67 million in Bank Alfalah two years ago. As one of Pakistan’s largest banks, it was well positioned to help expand access to finance for smaller businesses, spur economic growth, and encourage job creation.

As part of the partnership, IFC provided Bank Alfalah with a comprehensive advisory package to implement its banking program targeted at small and medium enterprises (SMEs). These businesses account for about 90 percent of private enterprises in Pakistan’s formal industrial sectors and employ over 70 percent of the country’s labor force. During the last few years, IFC has ramped up its investments and advisory services work to boost the development of Pakistan’s private sector.  Our current committed portfolio is more than $1.3 billion.

 

Easing the Way for Emerging Markets

IFC’s efforts to increase access of SMEs to financial services in developing countries include the provision of funding for equity, loans, and mezzanine finance to financial intermediaries focusing on SME financing. We also aim to build capacity of financial intermediaries and raise awareness on best SME banking practices. On the advisory side, IFC supports banks’ SME operations in areas such as strategy, market segmentation, product development, risk management, and IT facilities.

We engage with SMEs at such a granular level because we believe that close attention to these businesses is critical for the development of emerging markets. They play a major role in creating jobs and generating livelihoods for low-income people, and fostering economic growth and social stability.

For Hussain, expanding the business is not just about a love of tea anymore—it’s a path to cultural transformation. At his restaurants, “I put up a projector and screen cricket matches and play local music videos,” he says. “You see people of all social classes coming here, on motorbikes and on BMWs. There are ministers and celebrities and just regular people. This is exactly what Karachi needed.”

To learn more about IFC’s advisory services, visit www.ifc.org/advisory.

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Published in March 2017