“No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contribution of half of its citizens” – Michelle Obama
Women entrepreneurs, who are spoken about widely, are far and few. We have heard the same names for over decades, whether it is Kiran Mazumdar Shaw of Biocon or the Reddy sisters of Apollo.
However, India is at a pivotal stage of the dawn of women entrepreneurship. Women entrepreneurs are accelerating in India – today we have 13.5–15.7 million women-owned enterprises, constituting 20 percent of total enterprises, increase from 14 percent in 2013-14.
According to a report from McKinsey, India could add $770 billion to its GDP by 2025 simply by giving equal opportunities to women. Yet, the current contribution of women to GDP remains at 18 percent, compared to 40 percent in China.
Traditionally, women’s contribution in the primary sector is higher than the secondary and tertiary sectors. Contribution is high in agriculture, and the tea industry apparently employs the highest number of women.
However, as women entrepreneurship accelerates, women are contributing across various sectors. If we look at the new age women entrepreneurs created in the last two decades, we see that women are driving innovation in fashion, retail, personal care, education, women and child-focused products and services. They are leveraging their strength of customer understanding these spaces and building new-age businesses.
Ritu Kumar has been a pioneer in the fashion industry and has changed the face of fashion in India by promoting sustainable fashion, Indian colors, design, and fabric, bringing in fusion wear and is known to craft the revival of the textile industry. From starting the concept of boutiques in India to reinventing Indian textiles, her designs are regarded as wearable art and contemporary.
Falguni Nayar, Co-founder of Nykaa, an online beauty store, is busting the myth about ecommerce and beauty retail not having potential in India. Nykaa is a pioneer in the inventory-led e-commerce ecosystem. The company now has its own inventory spaces across key locations in India.
The more recent mompreneur, Ghazal Alagh, saw the gap in mom and baby care products in India and has built Mamaearth, a Rs 500 crore personal care brand in a short time, by focusing on safe, sustainable and reliable products. Her understanding of the need as a mother really helped her curate the right products for customers.
Women have also been creating waves in financial services, healthcare, and technology businesses, especially where there is an impact angel. Hardika Shah has built a micro-lending business that is focused on supporting and growing small businesses. Sairee Chahal is the force behind Sheroes, which started as a platform for getting women back to work but is now expanding to build a social e-commerce online platform. Meena Ganesh, a serial entrepreneur, has built an all-encompassing home healthcare business, Portea.
While we see women in all sectors, in some, they have a natural edge and have been able to redefine the paths in these spaces by building successful businesses.
While the journey of women entrepreneurship is accelerating, there is still some way to go and certain tactical interventions to support the existing and potential women entrepreneurs can really help:
Mentorship: While women-focused accelerators/incubators are emerging, mentorship is still lacking. A formal mentorship program through schools/colleges, corporates, networking platforms and govt-led efforts can go a long way.
Network: Right network helps significantly to adapt to changing needs and markets. Public and private organisations should create opportunities for women to build their networks.
Skill training: Skilling in India is overall lacking, and thus, specific programs to skill women in emerging sectors can provide them with a good beginning.
Financing: Finance is a key hurdle to take things off ground. Women find it extremely difficult to get funding and thus it is important to design options targeted at women and spread awareness about it.
Role models: It is imperative to celebrate successes to encourage other women to enter the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Overall, the stage is set for women to expand their wings – over the next decade, we will see lots of more women in digital businesses in traditional sectors where they have an edge.