A driving force for the Indian economy and job creation
By Atul Raja
The fact that women entrepreneurs in India are a precious economic resource that is yet to be harnessed to its fullest potential is now being corroborated by many prestigious studies. A recent report from Bain & Company and Google found that women entrepreneurs have the potential to create 170 million jobs in India. And that translates to more than a fourth of the total jobs required for the working population by 2030.
Almost a decade ago, the Economic Census showed that women entrepreneurs made up 14 per cent of the total 58.5 million entrepreneurs in the country, which is close to 8 million. Today that number has grown to an estimated 130 million.
How did this huge opportunity emerge?
Over the last few decades, women in India have been challenging all odds and have proved to be global role models in the world of entrepreneurship. There are stellar examples like Dr Suman Sahai – the founder of the Gene Campaign, an NGO that focuses on community rights, intellectual property rights, and regulations for the farmer community. Or for instance, Madhuri Mathur’s interesting story of how her need for better appliances in her kitchen birthed the household brand – Sumeet Mixie. And of course, no list on entrepreneurship is complete without taking the name of Kiran Mazumdar Shaw – the chairperson of Biocon who single-handedly redefined woman entrepreneurship in India.
Despite challenges like the pandemic and historical barriers around women starting up like bias, lack of professional knowledge, lack of mentors and formal networks, women-led entrepreneurship is going nowhere, and I have the conviction that it will move forward from strength to strength. The following factors are paving the path for women to startup and contribute significantly to the Indian economy.
- The perception of women in entrepreneurship is changing. As more women are moving away from the traditional areas like cottage industries and teaching to unconventional ventures in sports, construction, technology etc. Take, for instance, Akriti Katri’s Venus Detectives, a pan-India women-led investigative service. Numerous other examples include Neha Lekhi, founder of Baggit or Shubra Chadda of Chumbak
- Access to education is playing a role in tackling stereotypes and prejudices and facilitating upskilling/reskilling through various vernacular and international courses and workshops. Institutions like Ela Bhatt’s association have come up that are providing resources and education to self-employed women
- The easy to use technology infrastructure aids in getting the business up and running quickly. Smartphones and social media are aiding the surge in entrepreneurial ventures. 63% of women-led ventures now use social media for promotion and engagement with their customers
- There is a list, that is getting longer, of small business loans and micro-financing avenues that are exclusively for women, to promote entrepreneurship
There are four key areas where women entrepreneurship can drive transformational gains for our country:
- Economic Impact: If we as a country, accelerate our efforts towards closing the gender gap, and create a levelling field for men and women, India could gain up to 6.8% growth in our GDP, says a report by the International Monetary Fund.
- Social Impact: The rise of women entrepreneurship has also led to women exploring more of the STEM-related fields of education, creating a more aware and knowledgeable society, that aids development for the whole country.
- Individual Impact: Entrepreneurs own financial decisions like loans, taxes, long term financial planning and investments. Over and above, contributing to the economy, they are also forming a strong financial foundation for the family.
- Environmental Impact: Women bring in a different mindset to building products and services. They are able to focus on important themes like inclusion, sustainability, empathy and influence innovation tremendously.
A McKinsey study finds that equal work opportunities have the potential of adding 18% to India’s GDP by 2025. Currently, women contribute 22% of India’s GDP against the 45% worldwide average. Women entrepreneurship is a compelling factor to drive economic growth. While entrepreneurship ventures bring about their own challenges, a favourable environment will make this space very lucrative and extremely significant to the growth of the nation.
Atul Raja is Executive Vice President, Global Marketing at Wadhwani Foundation