After surviving a car crash that left her hospital-bound and unable to walk for months, Saira Siddique embarked on a mission: making health care accessible to Pakistanis. The 45-year-old left her high-profile job in government health to pitch her app linking doctors and patients by video to investors.
Months later, with Covid-19 hurting businesses across Pakistan, Siddique’s firm, MedIQ, burst on to the scene as the country’s first “virtual hospital”.
“[The pandemic] really gave a boost to my company,” said Siddique.
With face-to-face doctors’ appointments restricted due to contagion risks, Siddique’s company, connecting patients across Pakistan with doctors and pharmacies, was suddenly in demand.
Siddique is one of a growing number of women in Pakistan who are defying conservative gender norms by jumping into the health tech industry.
“Running a startup business is like riding a bull,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from the capital Islamabad. “You never know which way or how hard it is going to buck.”
Siddique’s company raised $1.8 million in an early stage of financing recently after receiving mentoring in the World Bank-backed WeRaise programme, which helps women-led ventures in Pakistan raise capital.
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