From rural Pakistan to Silicone Valley: A tale of fighting poverty

LAHORE: The story of Umaimah Mendhro, the founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of VIDA, an e-commerce company that connects designers, producers, and consumers, is one of dedication, passion and hard work. Her story needs to be shared to empower other women to know what is possible in life.

Umaimah was born in a rural village in Pakistan and lived in exile in Saudi Arabia and United Kingdom (UK) with her family before moving back to the country. Her parents, who were doctors, were the first to go to college in their families. Umaimah recalls her family as forward thinking and socially and politically active.

It was this forward-thinking environment that Umaimah thinks helped her in achieving her dreams.

Umaimah earned a BSc from Cornell University in Human Development with coursework in Computer Science, and eventually earned an MBA from Harvard Business School, where she was a Baker Scholar. During her studies, she started to think seriously about her business aspirations and began her path by working at major tech companies like Microsoft as the Director of Product, where she led the division’s efforts around incubation on Xbox Kinect, reports a private news outlet.

Over the years she has worked for several start-ups and most sought out companies. However, she got the idea of VIDA during a visit to Pakistan. She wanted to bring designers and creators closer by eliminating the middleman.

It bothered her to see how the system where all the money went to those at the top meant cycles of poverty continued and didn’t think that was fair. That became the crux of what VIDA would offer the market, while also being a tool to empower workers to make more money without it having to be a charity, as such, reports a private news outlet.

“VIDA makes the whole eco-system more efficient as there are no huge markups, the factory workers earn more, and it becomes a sustainable model,” she said.

Umaimah pitched her idea to investors at Google Ventures and secured funding for the project.

She founded an organisation called Dreamfly which is a global initiative connecting communities in conflict around common causes with presence across four countries touching over 5,000 lives. Dreamfly kickstarts seed initiatives that are 100 per cent financially sustainable within one year, the news outlet reported.

Umaimah aims to break the cycle of poverty. She realises that not everyone is born with the same opportunities in life and people like her, who have such opportunities, should play their part in making a difference in the world.  She has recently introduced literacy programmes for the workers working in VIDA factories which she thinks will open more opportunities for them in the future.


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