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Overcoming challenges facing women entrepreneurship in India

Women entrepreneurship is one of the largest possibilities and opportunities that India has to offer.

By Atul Raja

Enterprises led by women grew to 20% from 14% in the last decade. And in the next few years, we will have 150 million students entering the workforce, out of which half are women. There have been numerous women icons like Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Ritu Kumar, Priya Paul, Ekta Kapoor who have set the bar high and there is an increasing lot of young women entrepreneurs who are now in nationwide limelight for their achievements. Take Sanjana Patel of La Folie or Bhavna Juneja who leads Infinity and Feel M Powered, for instance. But these success stories of women entrepreneurship in India are few and far between, as compared to their male counterparts. And there are several reasons for this.

1. Lack of awareness: Most of you must have watched the film English Vinglish. There is a very powerful scene where the protagonist, Sashi, played by the late Sridevi whose speciality is her homemade ‘laddoos’ learns that she is an Entrepreneur. And that makes her feel so empowered! Like Sashi, many women in India don’t even know that they are potential entrepreneurs and that they have immense power to contribute to the economy.

2. Lack of exposure and inspiration: When it comes to growing their business, women don’t have sufficient role models they can learn and get inspired from, and there is a gap in mentorship and networking to learn and replicate best practices. Of the women-owned enterprises, only 17% hire employees; the rest are single owned businesses. Also, around 10-30% of the reported women entrepreneurships are not run by women but are disguised as women-owned businesses.

3. Cultural inhibitors: Centuries of bias and conditioning have led to families being unsupportive of women entrepreneurs. Cultural practices like maternal parenting also restrict women to move away beyond motherhood and household duties making it difficult for them to invest their time and energies in building their business.

4. Financial constraints / Limited access to funds: In the case of woman entrepreneurs in India, the inability to provide tangible security to financial institutions to be able to secure loans is especially predominant. Also, the general perception still considers women as low-risk takers, and therefore, venture capital is difficult to obtain.

5. Lack of women in a diverse workforce: Urban entrepreneurs and full-fledged businesses in major cities face challenges around equal opportunity in finance, finding women as co-founders or navigating complex administrative processes as a fall out of the lack of inclusion.

6. Safety concerns: Lack of mobility due to safety concerns also hinders women entrepreneurs from meeting suppliers, travelling long distance or at night alone etc, making them work at lower than optimal efficiency.

Overcoming these challenges requires a series of socio-economic changes. As a country, we must start developing effective solutions that bridge the existing gaps and build key themes that will help the women entrepreneurship grow exponentially.

– Policy changes across rural and urban areas to build a framework that will accelerate women entrepreneurship. Currently, of all women owned businesses, only 14% are businesses across urban and rural that employ other people.

– Closing the gender gap through a more responsive financial sector. Also, build educative and simplified processes for the demographic that has not been exposed to knowledge. Financial literacy also needs urgent redressal.

– Increase in networking and mentoring platforms for women. This should include celebrating more women entrepreneurs and having formal and informal networks for women to learn and grow.

– Encourage more woman investors as they will, in turn, encourage more woman entrepreneurs due to a better understanding of the challenges.

– Use of technology to overcome the traditional barriers that woman face in terms of learning, networking, and access to finance.

India is full of opportunities, and the time has come where there is no holding back on the rise of woman entrepreneurship. The statistic that out of the 63 million MSMEs in India, only 6% are led by women entrepreneurs will not make any progressive individual proud. We cannot fritter away the vast talent pool of women, and it is high time we made a systematic effort to tap into and harness the untapped and massive potential of woman entrepreneurs who are a most precious resource for the country.

Source: ET HRWorld

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