Photograph by Asim Hafeez for Bloomberg Businessweek

Pakistan's Community Savings

  1. Ballot Committees
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    Ballot Committees

    Millions of Pakistanis save billions of rupees in informal, interest-free savings circles called ballot committees, run by housewives, students, office workers, shopkeepers, even high-society ladies. Each member of a group of trusted friends or relatives contributes the same sum daily or monthly to a pool for a predetermined length of time, usually one year. Through a ballot, each participant is allotted a number indicating his or her turn. Every month, one participant gets the pool total. Everyone on the committee keeps contributing until each member gets a pot of cash.

    Pictured, Farzana Khatoon, 52, a mother of two sons and three daughters, with kitchen appliances, dishes, gold jewelry, and other items she bought for her daughter's wedding. She received 50,000 rupees ($512) in a ballot committee, which she used to buy the household goods that are traditionally parents’ gifts for a daughter's wedding.

    Photograph by Asim Hafeez for Bloomberg Businessweek
  2. Phone Funds
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    Phone Funds

    Nasir Rao, 45, a driver, used his savings to buy a Nokia phone.

    Photograph by Asim Hafeez for Bloomberg Businessweek
  3. Household Budget
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    Household Budget

    Tahira Bibi, 34, a mother of three sons and two daughters, bought a washing machine and microwave oven with the 20,000 rupees she received through her savings circle. She also used some of the money for her children’s school fees.

    Photograph by Asim Hafeez for Bloomberg Businessweek
  4. Computer Cash
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    Computer Cash

    Muhammad Sajid, 28, who works at an advertising agency, bought a laptop with community savings.

    Photograph by Asim Hafeez for Bloomberg Businessweek
  5. Business Capital
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    Business Capital

    Rao Khayyam Shabbir, 32, owner of a fashion outlet, at his shop in Karachi. He received 5 million rupees in a ballot committee, and used 3.2 million rupees for investment in his business.

    Photograph by Asim Hafeez for Bloomberg Businessweek
  6. Car Financing
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    Car Financing

    Ali, 33, a shop owner, with the car he bought when he got his turn in a ballot committee.

    Photograph by Asim Hafeez for Bloomberg Businessweek