Entrepreneurs like Fiza Farhan have tinted a positive image of Pakistan through hard work and recognition. A former CEO of Buksh Foundation, Fiza Farhan is a Global Strategic Development Adviser who is a recipient of several prestigious accolades. I spoke to her about energy crisis in Pakistan, the way forward for a brighter country and her contributions in the recent Global Female Leaders Summit in Germany. In 2015, Forbes listed you as one of the youngest 30 under 30 social entrepreneurs. Reflecting back, what was your initial reaction? Do you think you received widespread recognition because of Forbes? Well, to be honest I was completely overwhelmed and surprised when I was listed in Forbes as one of the youngest social entrepreneurs for the first time. I wasn’t expecting such recognition at all. Later, as the news sunk in, I realised how it generated a positive sentiment across the country for a young Pakistani woman to make her fellow citizens proud. I was blessed with the kind of journey that had brought me to where I was at that point. However, with that came the spark and the ambition to achieve more, work harder and strive for higher goals. Before the Forbes recognition, I had won numerous awards and acclamations in Pakistan and globally, but I would certainly say that Forbes was a defining moment for me. The entrepreneurs says both consistency and commitment are crucial in making any dream possible and enabling the realisation of a goal that we must set for ourselves You recently attended the Global Female Leaders Summit in Germany. What was it about and what was your input as an entrepreneur? I just returned from Berlin where I spoke at the Global Female Leaders Summit. It was an excellent gathering of female executives from around the world excelling in various traditional and unconventional sectors including technology, energy transition, smart cities, renewable energy, political discourse, sustainable tourism and so on. Representing Pakistan, I spoke on topics including ‘Energy Solutions & the Future of Mobility in a Smart and Connect World’ and ‘Can Innovation Reverse the Effects of Climate Change?’ My comments were on energy transition for Pakistan to better utilise renewable energy, as our country has an energy deficit of 4,000 MW, which will rise up to 7,000 MW along with a 47 per cent off-grid population. Pakistan’s solar potential alone is estimated 2.9 million MW. We really need to raise awareness about rising energy crisis and fuel prices coupled with the subsidized financing schemes that are available. How are you preparing to make Pakistan a better place through your strategic models? I am working on two key aspects for Pakistan; one is women economic empowerment and the other is renewable energy and access to energy, which are both critical for the country’s development. My work stretches between advocacy and action as I feel that one is incomplete without the other. With my advocacy on national and international levels, I am able to influence political will and global policy making frameworks that are required for setting the stage for any development agenda. However, advocacy without on-ground projects and real action seem to be distant from the actual world. Therefore, I continue to advise on projects that aim to create tangible, meaningful and sustainable partnerships amongst different stakeholders to achieve women economic empowerment and scale of renewable energy. The strategic models I am working on with multiple partners, span across demographics. For instance, we are working on projects across the tier from corporate leadership, to formal work force in the private sector, the SME’s and women owned enterprises and rural women working in agriculture or cottage industry in the villages. Similarly, for energy transition, we are working on scaling up MW’s of large-scale solar plants with industries and commercial giants. We are equally focused on enhancing access to energy through solar mini-grids in villages that have never seen rays of light. There is already an energy deficit in Pakistan. With nearly 5-7 hours of load shedding across the country, an average Pakistani suffers tremendously. Do you plan to facilitate this problem? Absolutely! The energy crisis in Pakistan is a lasting reality, and it is about time that the private sector takes up the role of transitioning energy rather than waiting on the Government to resolve the problem. The answer for Pakistan’s energy deficit lies in renewable energy and I have repeatedly proposed this solution on many international forums and panel discussions. Pakistan is blessed with abundant sunshine across the terrain with an overall potential of around 2.9 Million MW of energy – the deficit being 4,000 MW. With subsidized financing schemes offered by commercial banks and the Government’s facilitation with incentives like net-metering, solar energy has become cheaper than most conventional alternatives used by households, commercial entities and industries. Renewable energy, particularly solar for its extensive presence across the country in Pakistan, is not only the right thing to do but a smart way forward, with a 20-30% deduction in over all energy expenses and options of going green with no upfront cost. It is a no brainer for me! Tell me a little about your national and international achievements. I am blessed to have received a number of national and international achievements at a young age. I personally feel humbled to be one of the youngest advisors to the UN Secretary General. I was invited to their first high-level panel on Women Economic Empowerment amidst global development leadership. I was also the Chairperson to Chief Minister Punjab’s Task Force on Women Empowerment and a member of the National Steering Committee on Climate Change. Do you think you are shunning stereotypes of a typecast female in Pakistan? Absolutely – I am not just shunning stereotypes but also bringing to surface the realities of Pakistan. The women of our country are not as backward, underprivileged or ‘bechari’ as they are largely portrayed to be. For me, women economic empowerment is again not only a social cause but an economic and commercial case. For the world to progress and for us to achieve the $26 trillion of missing global GDP, it is mandatory that we believe in inclusive growth and progress for all, which essentially means to empower both our men and women together! Pakistan has a significant number of role models in sports, politics, media, fashion, commerce, entrepreneurship and even Information Technology. I am working with multiple stakeholders to create the requisite eco-system required to facilitate a revolution of women empowerment at large and enable inclusive progress for Pakistan. Is it difficult representing Pakistan internationally given the kind of image we have sadly portrayed of ourselves? I wouldn’t say that it is difficult but it is certainly rewarding and makes you feel accomplished when you represent the ground realities of Pakistan and its positive and progressive face to the world. When you witness mindsets and preconceived notions change in front of you and a strong image that you portray of Pakistani women, the talent of Pakistan comes to life in front of a live audience. There are times when people come up to me in awe of what they hear and see about Pakistan, and what they would like to believe in with my portrayal and representation. During such moments, I not only take out time to answer all their queries but also invite them to visit Pakistan themselves. Many visitors have had a 180-degree shift in their perspectives after experiencing first hand the true warmth, love, culture, cuisine and positive feel of Pakistan! What are your interests other than business? While business and working towards the goals I have set for myself are my personal interests too, I would say my aim in life is to travel and to explore the world. I find traveling the most profound source of learning and opening up to the world. It is about expanding our horizons of thought, inculcating a creative mindset, and at times, identifying our true purpose and identity in life, which many of us need to explore. What essentials are required to become a leading entrepreneur? For me, the essential ingredients are belief and confidence in yourself and your vision to achieve in life. It is followed by a desire to go through any obstacle, to cross as many speed breakers but to persevere with determination and consistency in a single direction of your goals. Lastly, the ability to learn from your environment, your team and continuously evolving personally and professionally towards a best version of yourself is the right way to go. In your view, what is key to a successful business? There are many, but I would say not giving up is the best thing one can do. Both consistency and commitment are crucial in making any dream possible and enabling the realisation of a goal that we must set for ourselves. Published in Daily Times, June 15th 2018.