United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Small and Medium Enterprises activity project is helping to improve the financial and operational performance of competitive Pakistani SMEs in economic sectors such as information communication and technology, hospitality, logistics, light engineering, minerals, textiles, and agri-business and processing, including targeted support to women-led businesses. USAID has launched a Challenge Fund and is providing grant and business development services support through this project. The Challenge fund provides growth and innovation grants to start-ups and existing businesses. Under the project USAID provided a grant to Mr. Imran Soleh, a resident of Lahore. Mr. Soleh, after acquiring a grant from USAID improved his business and started making cheese of international quality. Through the grant Mr. Soleh set up his company “Farmer Cheese Making Company” has started producing quality cheese in Pakistan that is comparable to international quality cheese standards. As per Mr. Soleh “the business training provided by USAID is valuable to him more than the grant as it enabled me to run my business. Mr. Soleh started cheese-making in his kitchen in 2009, but he did not know there would come a day, when he would have such an established business. He says that USAID made him eligible to produce pure and export quality organic cheese. “I am in the position now to deliver 2-3 tons of cheese to the market,”. Mr. Soleh procured cheese making machines, chillers and mobile cold storage through the USAID grant that allows him to provide fifty varieties of cheese in the market. He says that in addition to growth in my business the grant enabled him to create job opportunities for others. Majority of grants provided by USAID are for youth and start-up. One such grant was given to Closet which is a business started by three young women in 2018. Laiba Amir, owner of Closet says that the inimitability of her business is that it provides opportunity to masses for acquiring wedding and party dresses on rent instead of purchasing them. It is a business of its own kind with a unique idea to facilitate middle and lower middle classes to wear branded dresses without buying them. They just have to pay minimal rent and return them back after the certain time period. “The grant provided by USAID gave them the ability not only to start a successful business but to provide jobs to at least nine people”, Laiba said. Islamabad based software company “Techlets” has also been provided a grant by USAID, which not only helped a business start up but provided jobs to many individuals. Owner of the software house Mr. Ahsan Tahir said that Techlets provides technological assistance to brands and other businesses to grow their business. It enables businesses to not only lessen their marketing expenditures but also enables their businesses to expand their outreach using digital solutions. Mr. Ahsan says that our software allows us to gauge public opinion about any sector that allows businesses to develop their future strategy. The software also allows businesses to make/ offer the right products to the right consumers on a timely basis. The USAID grant also allowed Techlets to create job opportunities for five semi-skilled workers. Another such business is Schola Nova, an unconventional educational institution in Islamabad, run by a Ms. Rubina Shaheen. Schola Nova has been working since 1998 and was also supported by USAID through the business development services under SMEA. The support included participation in Lyft Pakistanis in 2019, digital media marketing and management over nine months. Rubina said “The support provided by USAID not only helped me to generate more revenue but enabled my business to grow,”. She added that due to the support, she was able to overcome the challenges faced during Covid and she was able to manage online education during the pandemic. Payments through mobile phone applications have become much easier now, such a fund transferring procedure is called QR payments. The system is becoming popular in Pakistan and a large number of consumers have started trusting the QR payments process. USAID provided business development support through certification to one such business “Digital Commerce and Payments (DCP)”. Owner of DCP, Mr.Farhan Saleem says that with the certification of USAID, he has been able to offer digital payments facility to his customers. In Pakistan, there are more than 30 million people using digital payment systems which are also linked with their bank accounts. USAID is providing these grants under the challenge fund on quarterly basis and the business development support is provided on a rolling basis throughout the year”.