Sindhi Village Girl Umaima Mendhro Launches San Francisco Tech Startup

Vida, a  San Francisco technology startup co-founded by Umaimah Mendhro from Akri village in Sindh, Pakistan, has received $1.3 million funding from Google Ventures, Universal Music Group and others, according to Tech Crunch.

The startup bills itself as "socially responsible" with the objective of using technology to provide a way for designers, artists and other creatives  anywhere in the world to make a viable living through their work.

Vida CEO Umaima Mendhro joins a growing list of successful Pakistani-American women that includes Shama Zehra in finance, Shaan Kandawalla in technology, Shazia Sikandar in the Arts and Fatima Ali in fine cuisine.

“I am from a very small town in Pakistan and was home-schooled much of my life because we didn’t have proper schools around. I taught myself how to cut, sketch, sew, stitch, block print, screen print, oil paint, and more,” she told Tech Crunch. “Yet I couldn’t get myself to pursue art as a profession because I feared I wouldn’t be able to make a living with it,” Mendhro said. “With a love for fashion and design, I was also acutely aware of the hundreds of millions of people employed in textile and garment production, who could never get out of a cycle of poverty.”

Vida brings together painters, photographers, graphic designers, sculptors, 3D artists, architects, and textile and print designers from around the world who participate in the platform at no cost, then receive a 10% revenue share on products sold. Additionally, VIDA often works with its textile mills, printers, and cut and sew factories, removing the middleman costs from the equation. Vida uses "Direct to Fabric Digital Printing Technology" for its offerings.

Currently, VIDA designers include: Elle Magazine's 'Up and Coming Fashion Designer from Sweden, Emma Lundgren,' Vogue.com's top 10 fashion graduates to watch, Cigdem Keskin from Turkey, and Tokyo based 'Top Hat Designer of the Year,' Honoyo Imai. Manufacturing partners include: Karachi based fashion label and manufacturing houses, Sania Maskatiya and FNKAsia.

Umaimah has a bachelor's degree from Cornell University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. Here's what she says about herself in her intro on HBS website: "I want to live a life that compels people who do not seem to share a common thread to see if, at a raw human level, we really are that different. A life that gives people reason to reason for themselves... to pause and question the comfortable assumptions. To form and inform beliefs. And never give up common sense for common opinion."

Here's a CNN story on Smartphone apps success in Pakistan:

http://dai.ly/x14vmjt


Pakistan Smartphone App Success by dm_51ea373e71f84


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Comments

Riaz Haq said…
Popinjay dreams of making poverty a thing of the past for Pakistani women

As a student fortunate enough to be studying in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – and so geographically separated from these realities – the story deeply impacted her. Even though she managed to land a six-figure engineering job after graduation, Saba couldn’t get the story out of her mind.

“In addition, I had always carried within me a deep love for the beautiful craft techniques I saw in Pakistan, where I grew up, as well as in my travels around the world – India, Bhutan, Ethiopia, and Sri Lanka,” she recounts. “I felt that this talent was stunted due to a lack of opportunities and connections to larger markets.”

So in 2011 – when America was still recovering from the effects of a terrible recession – Saba decided to return to her homeland and try to make a difference. She unwittingly stumbled upon her life’s mission in the process.

“I started a pilot in Pakistan to provide young women access to basic education and livelihoods. As it started gaining traction in the local community, I realized that it lit my fire like nothing had before,” she says. “Quitting my job after that was a no-brainer.”

The pilot program – which evolved into a full-fledged non-profit organization called BLISS – involved after-school classes in which girls learnt embroidery and needlework. Their embroidered fabric would then be sent to local producers to be finished into high-quality handbags, which were sold in boutiques. The proceeds would be used to fund the girls’ education, as well as recruit other students.

Their handiwork soon became extremely popular with customers not just locally, but from all over the world. In an article on Medium, Saba recalls an encouraging note from a customer from Canada:

I’ve never loved a thing as much as I love my BLISS bag. You make bags that change the world! People ask about it because it is so unusual, so lovely; it is embroidered art. When I tell them the story of families lifted economically, the bag becomes so much more beautiful.
In addition, the handbags were featured in several national and international media platforms, and even in fashion shows. On the surface, it seemed like a success, but there was a deeper issue that had Saba worrying behind closed doors – how the team was going to go about “scaling up our model after the initial proof of concept.” At that time, the BLISS team had a grand total of two people, with just 40 artisan women under its wings.
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A massive overhaul of both business model and mindsets was what came next as BLISS was re-branded into the for-profit Popinjay, and came online in late 2013. The name is a Middle English word that means parrot.

“We chose a parrot because it is an animal that is associated with a voice,” Saba explains. “Our parrot stands for the voice of good fashion, the voice of the artisan women whose skills and stories we spread, and the voice of the consumer who wants to create positive impact with their purchase.” https://www.techinasia.com/popinjay-make-poverty-history-pakistani-women/

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