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Unlocking the potential of women entrepreneurs in India

While women constitute almost half of the Indian population, their share in the labour force participation is only around a third, and even lower than that in entrepreneurship. Despite improvements in social parameters, India’s growth has not ensured the economic inclusion and development of women. The country’s entrepreneurial growth story has left behind a key demographic: women. India’s women as economic resources, therefore, remain largely untapped.

Significant Economic Impact

Lower participation by women in entrepreneurship can have a significant negative impact on the economic growth of India. Therefore, the economic case for promoting women entrepreneurs in India is unquestioned. Measures to narrow the gender gap could bring about a 6.8% increase in GDP, according to a recent study. Therefore, as a country, we need to cover more ground for women to break conventional barriers and succeed in a predominantly male-dominated entrepreneurial ecosystem. A better gender mix within the entrepreneurial ecosystem could see a surge in innovation, technological advancement and creativity in the Indian economy.

Entrepreneurship By Choice

Out of the 63 million MSMEs in India, only 6 percent are led by women entrepreneurs. Most of these women have become entrepreneurs out of sheer necessity and have not been driven toward entrepreneurship by choice or opportunity. There is, therefore, a huge opportunity to empower women to choose entrepreneurship as a career choice and move from a mindset of being job seekers to job creators. Once women start becoming job creators, they will create a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem and provide inspiration for other women to follow.

Structural and Cultural Support

While Indian women are ambitious, growing exponentially and contributing significantly to the economy has been a challenge for them, owing to several structural, cultural and societal barriers that exist in India – subconscious biases, unfavourable working conditions, minimal financial support, societal norms, and the gender pay gap.

Given my personal entrepreneurial journey, I also believe that family support is critical for women entrepreneurs. Whether it is financial support, building her confidence, helping her network, the family must come forth to help and not challenge the woman that’s set out on the entrepreneurial journey. Amongst all the women entrepreneurs I have met, there was one recurring theme in their stories: the scepticism they encountered from family members, who felt that entrepreneurialism was too ‘risky’ a pursuit for women. Appreciation and encouragement from family and friends about the entrepreneurial journey the woman is on builds tremendous confidence.

A Strong Support Framework

Since women entrepreneurs face different kinds of challenges in their entrepreneurial journey, they also require a different kind of support system. While government policies and schemes, successful women entrepreneurs, corporates through their CSR initiatives, NGO’s and financial institutions are supporting this cause, there is still much work to be done.

We need to create a network where all these bodies work jointly to create a nurturing ecosystem that motivates and supports women entrepreneurs while providing them with the much-needed training in literacy for an entrepreneur, understanding competence and competitiveness, mentoring and other necessary resources, to make a quantum leap.

Equally important is making technology accessible, simple and mobile-friendly to enable women entrepreneurs in embracing a digital mindset while giving them access to social media and e-commerce channels.

While today, women nanopreneurs and solopreneurs have the mindset to grow, they are often averse to taking risks. There is, therefore, a strong need for women entrepreneurs to be equipped with digital and financial literacy and that the ecosystem must come together to address this gap. Women entrepreneurs also need financial education that can enable them to draw parallels between their household needs and that of the business. All women entrepreneurs have aspirations about a certain standard of living, and when they are able to establish a connection between how the business can become a key enabler here, it will go on a long way in encouraging them to grow their business, and, in turn, this interconnection will help to build their confidence levels. The entrepreneurial journey will be key to empowering women and their families.

Celebrating the Successes

Since the creation of an ecosystem and support for women entrepreneurs in India has been in the works for a few years now, there has been an increasing number of women entrepreneurs that have created a mark for themselves in India and globally. These women entrepreneurs have shown resilience and capability to navigate through the challenges they have faced. A majority of these women-owned businesses, however continue to be in the unorganized sector and revolve around the agricultural sector in rural India, where growth opportunities are often limited.

We must remember and celebrate the few women entrepreneurs that are at the helm at some of India’s largest business corporations across different industry segments. The resilience, determination and innovative mindset of these trailblazing women is inspiring – further proof that where ready-made jobs are scarce, enabling women to unlock their own entrepreneurial potential can generate boundless rewards. We must work towards unlocking the potential of many more women in the country which can take India to an irreversible growth trajectory.

As rightly said by Michelle Obama “No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens.”

Source: The Times of India