KARACHI: “I am a father of four daughters, Fusion 4 is a fusion of those four daughters.” Mr. Ilyas Vohra humbly introduced himself. He and his daughters, Samra Adil, Mahnoor Ilyas, Alizeh, and Alishba Ilyas have put together a platform by the name of Emerge, a women-centric space in Karachi.
“I did my research and found out, that about 48.8% of our population is women, a segment that is highly neglected, not utilized for their skills nor integrated into our workforce, but shunned at home for being women owing to our cultural practices. The country now depends on the other half – men. But not even 50% of our men are working. 10% are older, 10% are children. Many have other reasons to not work. Safe to say, that about 30% of these men aren’t helping the economy either,” he revealed.
After he put forward a saddening state of affairs with his stats and revealed that only 1% of the entire population of our women are entrepreneurs. The reason behind this is because they aren’t allowed to, let alone encouraged or supported. This creates a vacuum of skills, resources, and efficiency.
His daughter, Mahnoor Ilyas, co-founder of the venture, mirrored her father’s perspective when she said, “We carried out a thorough study and found out that women have been consistently launching new businesses at nearly twice the rate as men and not just around the world but in Pakistan as well thus we recognized the importance of this segment’s need. Many women-led businesses require the need for mentioning and collaboration from other like-minded women whom they can identify with and this was the main reason why Emerge came into existence. Also, women do require an environment that is not only welcoming but safe where they can network and grow.”
She went on to describe how a women-centric space is the need of the hour in the current climate. “If you look at the recent news of sexual harassment in many industries and at different levels, a space dedicated to women by women is essential in our country. It is rare because people haven’t realized the importance of it and maybe because working women in Pakistan were still less in number but since the concept has changed entirely in today’s time and there are more women working and launching their own businesses, I feel there is a need.”
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CEO of Emerge, Vohra highlighted the fact that not many countries in the world incorporate women-centric working space for women. “When you have freedom in the work you do, your efficiency increases.” He described how the world is becoming more conscious of women’s bodily autonomy and something needs to be done to reduce workplace harassment that women would otherwise be prone to.
The space in all its glory
Upon entrance, you are greeted by a security guard and a receptionist. For most women in Karachi, security is a priority, and Emerge thoroughly merges security with good design. CCTV cameras further add to this sense of security.
“Interior wise, its more spacious. Keeping in mind the networking aspect, we have designed a lounge area where women can conduct meetup/networking sessions. Also, we have designed a pop-up area where women-owned businesses can stock their products, making it available for our members and anyone who would wish to purchase. I would say it’s more feminine.” says the co-founder.
The first thing that comes to one’s mind going to a women-centric space such as Emerge is whether the place facilitates its visitors properly. A thorough amalgamation of utility and design, Emerge provides its customers with pop-up spaces for their business, charging slots at every work station, a clean bathroom, a well-stocked kitchen, and much more.
The comfort Emerge aims to provide
“Women have their own distinct way of doing things. Too often we do not pay attention to it,” said Mr. Vohra. “They like to feel comfortable like anyone else to be more efficient. We provide them with that here. They can recline, put aside their dupatta, and sit freely as they work in an all-women setting.
The lounge, which is on the second floor is also equipped with a projector for presentations, not unlike the meeting room on the first floor. While the second floor is only for women, the first floor at Emerge allows women members to invite men for meeting purposes, ensuring a safe and comfortable setting for business meetings. The building has an elevator installed too.
Some of our favorite features of the lounge are the customized cushions that provide a heavy dose of motivation.
The premises also has a break room where people can just come and have a steaming cup of chai or coffee freshly prepared in a well-supplied kitchen.
Creating a safer world for women
“People want instant returns of their investment. They want to start generating profits as soon as they can when they put resources into a business model. My resources are my daughters. I wanted to design a business model where they can grow, expand, and manage.” Mr. Vohra explained.
Emerge not only provides its customers with pop-up art spaces for their businesses but also plans on using the rooftop for a restaurant for better finances. “During Covid times, people feel safer in open spaces, so we plan on opening perhaps a coffee shop up here.” The view from the rooftop is majestic, to say the least. It shows a bird’s eye-view of DHA.
The way forward is not just integration anymore. A number of workspaces have achieved that. It is accommodation. While integration simply allows women to work, accommodating them will make all the difference. Safer spaces like Emerge and women-centric hubs for female-entrepreneurs are not only important for the country, or for working women. It is important for the community. It will help build networking, as well as strong female friendships for women of the country who have been led to themselves rely on men more.
Ilyas Vohra is a man with a vision. As he provides women with a platform curated by his and his daughters’ hard work, it is nothing short of the possibilities and revolutions that lie ahead. The foundation has just been laid.
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