Decoding Budget 2020: Women entrepreneurs share FM’s optimism on job creation, nutrition, and lowering mortality rate

FM Nirmala Sitharaman's Budget received many favourable reactions from women entrepreneurs. Here are a few.
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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman made history last year when she became India’s first full-time woman Finance Minister to present the Budget.

This year, with her second Budget, Sitharaman focused on three themes.

She explained, “One: Aspirational India in which all sections of the society seek better standards of living, with access to health, education, and better jobs. Two: Economic development for all, indicated in the Prime Minister’s exhortation of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas. This would entail reforms across swathes of the economy. Simultaneously, it would mean yielding more space for the private sector. Together, they would ensure higher productivity and greater efficiency. And three: ours shall be a Caring Society that is both humane and compassionate.”

Women constituted an important part of the Finance Minister’s Budget speech this year as she announced that women self-help groups (SHGs) in villages, the daanyalakshmis (seed distributors), will be ably supported by the government’s Mudra schemes and Nabard. She also highlighted the success of the government’s Beti Bachao, Beti Padao campaign and allocated a total of Rs 28,600 crore for women-specific schemes for the financial year 2020-21.

The FM’s speech, especially on the announcements related to women, received favourable reactions from many startup founders. Here are a few of the responses.

Increasing women’s participation

Currently, 24 percent of the workforce at MSMEs are women, the total employee count being 11 crore. Being the second-largest sectoral employer in the country, the potential for job creation in this sector is large. The Budget proposal to extend MSME restructuring scheme by one year, allow invoice financing to MSMEs, and provide subordinate debt to entrepreneurs are welcome steps.

This will enable the MSMEs, who are bearing the brunt of reduced liquidity in the market, to grow and create more employment opportunities. This, in turn, will substantially contribute towards increasing women’s workforce participation rate in the country.

Dr Saundarya Rajesh, social entrepreneur and founder president, AVTAR Group 

More nutrition security

Realising the fact that women's empowerment is key to social development and economic progress, Budget 2020 rolled out key women-centric initiatives and policy measures.

An allocation of Rs 35,600 crore for nutrition-related programmes in FY21 will ensure nutrition security and increased intake of nutritious diet for pregnant and lactating women. The Budget also focused on laying guidelines for lowering maternal mortality rates in the country.

Reiterating the government’s commitment to ensure sustained access for the girl child to quality education, the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao initiative has resulted in higher gross enrolment of girls in schools than boys. The allocation of Rs 28,600 crore in FY21 for women-linked programmes holds the potential to increase women participation across the social and economic spectrum. Moreover, the initiative to introduce the Investment Clearance Cell is a welcoming move that will assist the women entrepreneurs receiving investments in their companies. The provisioning of 100 percent tax deductions on profits for eligible startups for three consecutive years and abolition of DDT will encourage entrepreneurs to pursue their business setup and expansion dreams. The move also holds the potential to benefit budding women entrepreneurs in the country.

Archana Khosla Burman, Founder Partner, Vertices Partners

Encouraging women’s education

According to a recent report by World Bank, despite making up 48 percent of the Indian population, women have not benefited equally from its economic growth. Sixty-five percent of women are literate compared to 80 percent of men.

Budget 2019-2020 did not have much to offer to the Indian women. But this year, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has allotted Rs 28,600 crore for women-centric programmes, which will be deployed for schemes like Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Mahila E-Haat, Working Women Hostel, Mahila Police Volunteer, NIRBHAYA, SWADHAR Greh, and other such schemes. This will encourage women to come out, educate themselves, and become independent, increasing women workforce in the country.

Sadiya Khan, Founder, Akund Communications

Education, health, and nutrition go hand-in-hand

We are happy to see the progress under Beti Bachao Beti Padhao at both the elementary and higher secondary levels. The fact that the nutritional status of more than 10 crore households has been recorded by anganwadi workers is remarkable, and the Rs 35,600 crore proposed for nutrition-related programmes is a necessary development.

“A systematic and standardised framework will be essential for its effective implementation. Further, the Rs 28,600 crore allocation for women-linked programmes is of particular importance in terms of reducing maternal mortality rates, and we welcome this proposal wholeheartedly. We have always believed that education, health and nutrition go hand-in-hand in facilitating a better life for the underserved sections of society, especially for children. With the slew of reforms put forth by the government in this context, we are hopeful for a number of large-scale changes at the grassroots level. We look forward to the positive impact they will have on the social sector, and are happy to be playing a part in these efforts. We sincerely hope that children without parental supervision will benefit from the budget allocations.”

Nivedita DasGupta, India Country Head, Miracle Foundation India   

Of good intent 

“It’s a Budget of good intent with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman vowing to boost incomes and purchasing power to revive growth. The government’s ‘Make in India’ thrust has begun to yield dividend. Investment clearance cell for end-to-end entrepreneurial facilitation and steps to increase employability of the youth is a welcome move. We are encouraged by the government’s focus on the digital revolution. It is also heartening to see the FM address issues of gender parity with the allocation of Rs 28,600 crore for programmes specifically aimed at women.”

Ruby Sinha, Founder, sheatwork.com

Will help in women’s empowerment

“The government has taken yet another important step to empower women across age groups and income levels. The increase on insurance cover for bank depositors raised from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh, women self-help groups availing Mudra and NABARD assistance in agriculture, Poshan Abhiyaan aiming to raise the nutritional levels of women, focus on Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao will help empower women in the country. Overall, the allocation of Rs 28,600 crore will immensely help in empowering women. Imparting education among women and improving literacy level is of primary importance in the country. Women can only avail all the schemes and government benefits when they are informed enough about the same and educated enough to implement them in their personal lives.”

Sakshee Katiyal, CEO of Home&Soul

Promotion of the girl child

“Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has fittingly identified the rising demand for teachers, nurses, paramedical staff, and caregivers abroad and the pressing need for skilling programmes for professionals in these domains. The stellar success of Beti Bachao Beti Padhao is evident from the fact that gross enrolment of girls is 94.32 percent in elementary levels, 81.32 percent in secondary level, and 59.7 percent in higher secondary level as compared to boys. We are looking forward to further promotion of girl child education as the program continues to gain scale."  

Divya Jain, Founder & CEO, Safeducate

(Edited by Megha Reddy)