EP 65 – Sibtain Jiwani – Founder, SmartChoice – Why Can That Not Happen In Pakistan?


Michael Waitze worked in Global Finance for more than 20 years, employed by firms like Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, primarily in Tokyo.  Michael lived and worked in Tokyo from February 1990 until December 2011.  Michael always maintained a particular focus on how technology could be used to make businesses more efficient and to drive P/L growth. Michael is a leader in the digital media space, building one of the biggest and fastest-growing podcast listener bases in the region.  His AsiaTechPodcast.com show has listeners in more than 170 countries and his company, Michael Waitze Media produces some of Asia’s most popular podcasts.

Jiwani Sibtain is the founder and CEO of Smartchoice.pk. He earned a multi-disciplinary degree of business information technology from Manchester Metropolitan University. He returned to Pakistan in 2008 and started working for a B2B fintech company in their business growth locally and internationally.

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In this episode, Michael Waitze talks to Sibtain Jiwani, the founder and CEO of Smartchoice.pk. The startup is Pakistan’s leading insurance aggregator helping individuals and businesses compare and buy insurance plans instantly online. The aggregator started in 2014 and has since partnered with 10+ insurance companies offering motor, travel, health and life insurance products.

Studying in the UK, Sibtain was impressed by the convenient online services available and the seamless processes that made life easier for consumers. He aimed to bring this experience back to Pakistan but had to wait until broadband internet connectivity reached sufficient coverage. As soon as that occurred, Sibtain benefitted from the large number of freelance developers that are based in Pakistan to build Smartchoice.pk. 

Sibtain talks about the insurance and InsurTech landscape in Pakistan which has one of the lowest insurance penetration in Asia. Being an Islamic country, some view traditional insurance products as not in line with Islam law. But only 2 out of 35 insurers are takaful-only providers, an alternative concept where members contribute money into a pool based on sharia or Islamic religious law.

Michael and Sibtain also talk about the investment and startup landscape in Pakistan. Smartchoice.pk has raised some money locally but also from investors coming from Oman as well as Pakistani ex-pats living abroad looking to invest in businesses back in their home country. Apart from the capital raising, the startup is receiving support from the Pakistani insurance regulator, the Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), which has even started a sandbox to test new insurance concepts and products. The sandbox is not only used by startups but also by local insurers. One has just launched COVID-19 protection within 2 weeks.

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Episode 86