Public Policy Alumna Works to Provide Safe Transportation for Women in Pakistan
Posted November 17, 2021
Hira Batool Rizvi, MS Public Policy 2015, was recently named to the Meaningful Business 100 (MB100) list, which honors leaders working to achieve the United Nations’ Global Goals. Rizvi was named to this list of entrepreneurs, CEOs, and business leaders because of her work as co-founder and CEO of SheKab, a carpool and rideshare service for women in Pakistan without reliable access to transportation.
Rizvi recently sat down with us to talk about her path to entrepreneurship and what she sees as the importance of her work.
What do you do?
I work primarily as the CEO and the product manager of a startup that I founded about four years back called SheKab, which digitizes the carpool services in Pakistan. It’s a web-based platform that clusters and connects registered users with drivers who are part of our fleet. We provide women door-to-door carpool services that are highly safe and four times more affordable than anything else on the market.
What inspired you to found SheKab?
In my second year at Georgia Tech, I participated in a hackathon focused on Pakistan, and it reminded me of a problem I’d seen in Pakistan: transportation. Public transportation is absolutely nonexistent for women in Pakistan, so many women leave the workforce or their education because they can’t get there. I thought that, perhaps, we needed a more culturally, religiously acceptable version of the rideshare system in the U.S. We already had community-based carpool arrangements in Pakistan, where an uncle or a person with a car would be willing to drive a bunch of women around from point A to point B. After being at Georgia Tech, I thought, why not digitize that?
MB100 winners are honored because of how their work ties into the UN Global Goals. How do you see SheKab as fulfilling them?
The first thing that I’m passionate about is equality and equity, and I feel like one of the best ways to empower women is through their mobility. When women are mobile, they’ll have many more avenues to realize their true potential. The second thing I’m passionate about is climate change. We’re cutting down the number of cars on the road by using a carpool system and hopefully making the world a little greener. Finally, the third thing that we’re doing is creating decent work. Our drivers, both men and women, know that if they work with us for one hour a day, they will be able to take home about $300 extra each month. It’s decent, easy work that leads to economic growth.
Besides being named to the MB100 list, what are you proudest of from your work with SheKab?
I’m proud of how SheKab has become a brand that women in this country can trust, and I hope we can take that across the country and then scale globally. On a personal level, I was in the middle of an accelerator program for entrepreneurs when I delivered my first child, and I joined back in to finish the program in time. Becoming a mother and being able to balance all of these things so soon, I felt like a changed person. I feel that I’ve become much more resilient and focused than I was before.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced since graduating?
After receiving my master’s from Georgia Tech, I flew back to Pakistan with the hopes of launching SheKab. A month in, I realized I'd need a job to take care of the expenses. However, I also knew I would need to be a full-time entrepreneur if I was serious about the idea. I had to make the call — to choose between a high-paying corporate career or an uncertain path to fulfilling my passion. I soon quit my job, against my father's advice, and jumped into building a startup. I did know that working for someone was so much easier than working for yourself, especially when that meant making money to be able to sustain the business and your employees, but I took up the challenge. I feel like I would have been missing out on the adventure and the successes had I not gone this route.
What are your tips for students who want to take a policy education and leverage it into solving real-world problems?
I got my undergraduate degree in electrical engineering in Pakistan and my master’s in public policy so I could study science and technology policy. I feel like the best part about getting a degree in the U.S. is getting to design it, so play around with your degree and customize it. My liberal arts classes really humanized the technical things that I learned in STEM. Another thing to do is to gather together a team of friends to work on an idea that you care about. It's really all about observing the problems that you are passionate about and what you want to work on, and then working on them.
Can students or other alumni contact you if they’re interested in working in a similar field?
Absolutely. They can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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School of Public Policy | Sam Nunn School of International Affairs