Roshaneh Zafar

Kashf Foundation
Year founded: 

The Kashf Foundation is Pakistan’s first specialized microfinance institution, pioneering new products and providing door-to-door microfinance services to the urban poor, especially women.

Focus: Financial Inclusion, Microfinance, Women
Geographic Area of Impact: Pakistan
Model: Social Business
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 293,622 (2011)
Annual Budget: US$ 15,282,757 (2011)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 89% (2011)
Recognition: Schwab Fellow of the World Economic Forum

Poverty is an endemic issue in Pakistan, with an average per capita income below US$ 1,000 and 34% of the population living in poverty. Inspired by the success of the Grameen Bank, the Kashf Foundation (miracle or revelation in Urdu) works to alleviate poverty in Pakistan by providing quality, cost-effective microfinance services to low-income households, especially women. This enhances their economic role and decision-making capacity.

Kashf Foundation began its operations in 1996, and during the past 17 years successfully demonstrated its business case for investing in low-income women in Pakistan, through 1.8 million cumulative loans. Today, as a result of its success almost 50% of the clientele in the microfinance sector is female, while in terms of access Kashf Foundation is the third largest MFI with a fully female client base.

Innovation and Activities
Since 2008 Pakistan’s economy has been shadowing the global economic meltdown, and populations at the bottom of the pyramid face many challenges, including increasing inflation, rising energy and commodity prices and general economic retardation. To help clients deal with this, Kashf Foundation ensures that clients have continued access to financial services despite the instability in the macro and micro economy. This has been done through focusing credit for productive purposes, reducing loan overlap, assessing debt capacity of clients prior to disbursements, and adjusting credit methodology to increase loan productivity.

Kashf Foundation follows a micro-finance plus approach, i.e. offering a suite of complementary financial and non-financial services to its client base. Upon the application for a loan with Kashf, its business development officers undertake a mandatory one-on-one Basic Financial Literacy session with all applicants. Next, the client undergoes a loan screening process strongly focused upon ensuring the loans are used for productive purposes, including an appraisal of the client’s business. The major loan product is the productive loan (up to US$ 570) for expanding and building economic opportunities. Additionally, Kashf Foundation provides its clients with the following services: Systemized Financial Education training, Gender Training, Social Sensitization through community theatre performances, and Business Incubation services. These services are free and clients can opt into any of these programmes.

The Entrepreneur
Roshaneh Zafar comes from an established Lahore family of intellectuals. She received her BS in Finance and BA in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania, and an MA in International Development Economics from Yale University. She worked as a WID/Community Participation Specialist at UNDP and the World Bank before founding the Kashf Foundation in 1996. She is a founding member of the Pakistan Microfinance Network, a member of several NGOs including Women’s World Banking and the UN Advisory Group on Inclusive Financial Services, and the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Gender Gap. In 2005, she received the Tamgha e Imtiaz from the president of Pakistan, one of Pakistan’s highest civilian awards, and the Vital Voices Economic Empowerment Award in 2010. Zafar also received the Global Leadership Award for Economic Empowerment by Vital Voices in March 2010.