Globally recognized startup founder and activist Tanzila Khan shares her top tips for entrepreneurs
Last June, Pakistani entrepreneur and Telenor alumnus Tanzila Khan shared the stage with King Charles III and Amal Clooney, becoming the first ever recipient of the Amal Clooney Women’s Empowerment Award. We spoke with her to get five tips on being a successful entrepreneur and maintaining unwavering optimism in the face of adversity.
As part of Telenor Asia’s 25th Anniversary, our Game Changer interviews celebrate women and men in Asia that Telenor has supported in their quests to harness the power of connectivity for the benefit of their communities.
Tanzila Khan is recognized for her activism for women and disabled persons’ rights—but also for founding a game-changing startup in Pakistan, GirlyThings.pk. The platform gives access to women’s health products and information in a country where these are hard to come by. It allows fast, anonymous delivery of authentic products while also educating communities to reduce stigma. And thanks to Tanzila’s global profile, GirlyThings.pk is now looking to spread beyond Pakistan.
In addition to Girlythings.pk, Tanzila is a popular content creator. Through short films and social posts, she sheds light on the joys and tribulations of being a woman with a disability both in Pakistan and during her travels abroad. Moreover, she is an alumnus of Telenor Pakistan’s Open Mind program, an initiative to improve access to employment for persons with disabilities.
Here are her five tips for aspiring entrepreneurs:
Let Pain Inspire You
“I only look at pain as an experience. Sometimes, I’m traveling and there are no facilities for disabled persons—even in Europe! But I don’t want to be a loser. I want to be a winner. So I take painful situations and ask myself, ‘What could we do differently? How can we learn from this?’ That’s how we grow as individuals and as a society. And that’s how I got the idea for GirlyThings.pk.”
Everyone Can Be Your Ally
“I advocate for difficult topics, and I often encounter strong bias on both sides of every argument. In fact, when I say that I find great support from men, that can be a very controversial statement for some of my stakeholders. But I don’t want to shut the door on any opportunities. You never know who might become your next investor.”
Get Value, Add Value
“My time is precious, and I want to make an impact in my lifetime. So now I’m much more careful to calculate the impact of what I commit to. But this goes both ways. I also make sure I’m always adding value to the people I meet and work with. Sob stories might get people’s attention. But it’s the promise of value that will get you their energy.”
Believe in Your Ideas
“I know most people say your hard work matters more than your ideas. But don’t underestimate the power of ideas. You need lots of ideas. You need to believe in your ideas. And then the work will follow. Work is just the methodology to get your ideas realized.”
Businesses Can Do Good
“I first worked with Telenor Pakistan as part of their Open Mind program. It taught me that brands aren’t always just about making a profit. They are also open to doing good things. Even in a large organization, if the right person hears your story, you can change the world.”
You can follow Tanzila Khan on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.