Women entrepreneurship: Five things Narendra Modi government should do to get them going

Women’s entrepreneurship in India has again come to the top of the radar thanks to the ongoing Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) being held at Hyderabad. Talking about entrepreneurship, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in Indian mythology, woman is an incarnation of Shakti – the Goddess of power. “We believe women empowerment is crucial to our development,” Modi said.

Yet, the statistics are far from encouraging. According to the Sixth Economic Census, out of the 58.5 million entrepreneurs, only 8.05 million are women entrepreneurs. Women constitute only 13.76 percent of the total entrepreneurs in the country. Women entrepreneurs owned establishments provide employment to 13.45 million people.  Out of the total women entrepreneurs, 34.3 percent or 2.76 million women work in the agriculture sector and 5.29 million or 65.7 percent of the total entrepreneurs work in non-agricultural sectors.

Contrast this with what Ivanka Trump, daughter and advisor to US President Donald Trump, said about women entrepreneurship in the US at the GES, Hyderabad. “Today, more than 11 million women in the US own businesses. Many woman become entrepreneurs out of necessity. Fueling the growth of women-led-business is not only good for the society but also the economy," she said.

So what ails women entrepreneurship in the country? Only around 10 percent of entrepreneurial ventures are kickstarted by women in the country, says Deepa Mani, associate professor, Information Systems group and Research Fellow, Indian School of Business (ISB), adding that this is a reflection of women participation in entrepreneurship in the country.

 Women entrepreneurship: Five things Narendra Modi government should do to get them going

File image of Narendra Modi. API

At Firspost, we spoke with women entrepreneurs who have chosen the entrepreneurial path. They said that entrepreneurship is not gender-specific but also pointed the issues affecting women entrepreneurs in particular.

The one issue that came on top was the difficulty to get capital to get started and expand businesses.

Access to capital: The biggest issue is access to capital, emphasised Sairee Chahal, Founder, CEO, Sheroes – an online career destination for women. Many women in the country do not inherit property, for instance. “The decision-making around capital is thus denied to so many women. If government made access to capital easier for women, it would go a long way in helping women entrepreneurs, many of whom axe their entrepreneurial dreams because getting capital is an issue for many,” she says.

Falguni Nayar, Co-Founder, Nykaa -- an online beauty products platform, says that women should ‘demand the required resources’ to realise their dreams. So be it government or the family, women need to stand up for themselves.

Provide mentoring: Women need mentors. It is not easy for a woman to start up a venture as there is no previous case of the same in the family, says Diane Bacchus Quddus, co-founder and CEO, Ahhaa -- a company in the wellness space. The government should support women entrepreneurs with mentorship so that they know governmental support is available for guidance. There is also a need for seminars that are focused on women entrepreneurs, she says.


Would entrepreneurs include small and medium enterprises, too, asks Richa Kar, CEO-Founder,  Zivame - an online lingerie retailer. She says that there is a significant presence of women in the small and medium (SME) sector who have undertaken various business initiatives which started out as an outlet to make extra money or as a hobby. However, these enterprises could scale provided they had access to mentorship. “The government should proactively consider providing mentors to women entrepreneurs,” she says.

The mentoring ecosystem is very weak in India, and that is the same for men and women, says Sherry Anand of People Strong. "This is more so for women entrepreneurs," she says. "The Private Equity space is largely dominated by men and there are various cultural constraints that prohibit women from approaching them," she adds.

If you go to Silicon Valley.. they are not very great in nos. That they are 10 and we are at 1 . Their nos are not v encouraging. But they have put some ecosystem around it.

Within the corporate culture, women should be given more opportunities to take independent decisions. It is important to create an environment where women can aspire for higher goals, say experts.


One window for licences: Though registrations and many processes have been made online, there is still a need to maintain documents, which is cumbersome, says Anagha Karkhanis, Director, Cocoon Fertility, a chain of IVF clinics. “Many doctors do not want to start their own centers simply because paperwork is tremendous. There is too much of paperwork and this is time-consuming. There are too many licences to start a business for which one has to go to various government bodies. For instance, if a clinic requires fire certificate, the founders need to go to the fire department and similarly for each certificate,” she said.

Emphasise on learning: Beyond beti padhao, beti bachao campaign, the government should be proactive to make education in all aspects of business accessible to women across the country. There are not enough opportunities for women across the country to learn about businesses or make the ones they run viable. Entrepreneurship appeals to individuals who are willing to take risks and a large section of women fight shy of taking risks, say experts. Hence, “Make learning accessible to all,” says Deepa Mani of ISB. “The government needs to find out how many women have bank accounts, are digitally literate, have access to internet. This should be measured not in a 10 year-period like the Census, but on an ongoing basis,” she said.

Safety issues: Many basics like ROC (Registrar of Companies)  processes, reliable internet connectivity at high speeds were issues a few years ago. The government has simplified many of these. “But what about safety of women in public transport systems,” asks Suchi Mukherjee, CEO, LimeRoad – an online retailing firm. Agreeing with Mukherjee, Chahal of Sheroes says that as women entrepreneurs, women need to go out at all times and also make decisions about travel at short notice. “There are societal pressures when women go out late evening in some parts of the country or take public transport as the number of cases of assault on women and violence in public transport is increasing. The government needs to ensure safety of women and also quick redressal of cases that are filed,” says Mukherjee.

It is important to transform the environment in which women operate in the country so that it is easy for them to travel and also take risks. “How can that be possible if the family and societal pressures in many parts of the country is restrictive,” says Deepa Mani of ISB.


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Updated Date: Dec 04, 2017 17:26:58 IST