The idea of Kashf was gestated when our Founder and President Roshaneh Zafar met Professor Muhammad Yunus of the Grameen Bank in a chance meeting in 1993; thereafter ensued a ‘development dialogue’ between the two which led to the birth of Kashf as an action research programme in 1996.
The initial two years were spent in understanding the market and the needs of clients in peri-urban and urban settings. The importance of standardized products, systems and policies, the simplification of procedures and reporting requirements, along with the significance of focusing on client satisfaction and developing clear cut financial performance indicators was highlighted.
The action research phase was followed by a more focused approach to manage growth in the years 1999 – 2001. The main aspect of this phase was to make the branch structure more lean and efficient; an aspect which was critical for ensuring the long term viability of the programme, along with setting up a cashflow model which would ensure the sustainability of a branch within a set time period. By early 2001 Kashf had a network of five branches in Lahore and a client base of 5,088 customers located in 214 centers. PPAF, DFID and the Agha Khan Foundation provided core funding.
In the years 2001-2004 the main strategy was to enhance outreach and deepen product offerings through cost effective and sustainable Kashf branches. Growing with quality was emphasized, adequate controls were established and the collection system was revamped. Kashf followed a lateral growth path by entering new markets and managing dispersed units. In other words, Kashf managed growth by widening outreach and deepening access by pioneering new products like micro-insurance. By end 2004, Kashf was providing financial services to over 68,000 clients through a network of 30 branches.
Today, true to its meaning, Kashf is an organization that has become the means of a ‘miracle’ or a ‘revelation’ for its clients. Clients have overcome their destitution by discovering that poverty is assailable through determination and enterprise and that dependence on hand outs and charity is not the only option for sustaining their livelihood. As of April 2007 we have 94 branches, 182,000 clients and operate in 12 different districts in two provinces of Pakistan.
We are proud that poor women in Pakistan have proven many nay sayers wrong – they have shown over Kashf’s past years, that an MFI targeting women from low-income communities can be sustainable and can access funding from commercial sources.