Pakistan's Community Savings
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Ballot Committees

Photograph by Asim Hafeez for Bloomberg Businessweek

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.