It’s a well-known fact that Indian women have traditionally chosen to build a family over building a career. While attitudes in both homes and workplaces are changing slowly, some statistics highlight just how long a way we still have to go.
The Indian workforce is over 500 million strong, approximately 44% of the total population of the country, and the differential among the number of males and females in this workforce is significant*. While 68% of the Indian workers are males only 32% are females, and surprisingly enough these percentages remain unchanged from the 2001 census to the 2011 census.
To put these numbers in perspective I compared them to the American workforce – which comprises of approximately 47% female workers and 53% male workers**. So the Supermom is not a myth after all!!
What further surprised me was that the 2011 Indian census data suggested that the majority of female workers are from rural areas, which could be because they are employed in activities like cultivation and agricultural labour. So the real question is what are all the educated urban Indian women doing?
While there are a number of cultural and social reasons why urban Indian women choose not to work despite going to university, I will not dwell on those factors today. What I want to discuss is a few simple and easy ways urban Indian women can build successful careers.
Is there a sustainable solution?
This might sound like a cliché, but what’ll really make a difference is generating employment choices which give women flexibility to manage families. When it comes to the traditional workplace; company sponsored crèches, contractual employment and flexible working hours go a long way. But what will have a long term impact is increasing opportunities for women to work from home.
I’m talking about independent small businesses as an alternate career choice for women. I’m talking about success stories of moms-turned-millionaire-businesswomen, like Alicia Shaffer. There are some inspiring examples, from our own backyard, of housewives running businesses like JustMonkeying and eSvasa.
Small businesses often start as one person’s idea, but can be the backbone of any economy. As Indian women embrace the idea of starting their own businesses from home, the country as a whole will reap the benefits of female entrepreneurship.
Why small businesses are the solution?
Small businesses will generate employment at the lowest level in the country by providing employment opportunities to people who might not possess the skill-set to be hired by a big corporation. They will contribute to the local community, develop personal relationships with the local consumers and cater to their needs.
Such businesses will flourish in any environment by taking on activities that big corporates are not good at. Usually small businesses execute complex organizational activities in much simpler ways. They find gaps in the market by using local customer information and redesign processes to suit their markets. Above all, these businesses thrive because typically they don’t require a huge capital investment, have low overheads and are able to make a profit on much lower revenues.
Here is an exciting story of two girls who started their business over a cup of coffee, followed it up by working from home and have now converted it into a successful e-commerce venture Decography.
Why it is right for Indian women?
Women are also natural entrepreneurs because they are better at taking calculated risks and are hence more adaptable in adverse business environments. Indian women are ordinarily not the bread-winners in the family and hence can drive a business towards more sustainable and steady profits, as they are more likely to take a long term view and be less over-confident.
And most importantly, for a stay-at-home mom a small business can provide the perfect outlet for creativity combined with a commercial prospect. The modus operandi here is not the conventional 9 to 5, there are no established procedures to follow, no chain of command and above all, you have the space to develop new ideas. Whether you want to start a small florist shop out of the garage, sell handmade jewellery in pop-up shows, bake innovative cakes for your locality or provide specialist financial advice for a few personal clients – the world is your oyster!
How can women execute and start-up easily?
The other proven trajectory of successful business women from across the Atlantic is – go online. Digitally enabled small businesses are not only more competitive, but are also likely to grow faster. The ability to sell through aggregators who have already made the investment in the online platform and have huge marketing budgets bring to the consumers to your doorstep, has only added to the charm of building a home business with minimal capital outlay. You have access to a large pool of consumers with a click of a button and this fact is the single most important factor enabling stay-at-home business-women.
Here are some motivating examples of small businesses who have achieved tremendous growth by selling their products online though aggregators.
In the UK and USA small business contribute significantly to both employment and GDP, and women are at the forefront of this revolution promoting homemade and indigenous commodities, by fostering local creative businesses. If we want urban women to be the Supermoms of India’s future this is the revolution we need to follow and promote.
* As per the latest Indian census conducted in 2011
**As per the latest US census conducted in 2012
Guest Author, Sonal Gupta is an MBA from Manchester Business School, UK and is currently working in Dubai as a Financial Services Consultant. She is also the Co-Founder of Eazelly – A Collective for all things Hand-made, Heart-made and Thoughtfully Sourced. Follow her on @SonalGupta9