“I want every little girl who’s been told she’s bossy to be told again she has leadership skills.” —Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook
Global leaders like Sheryl Sandberg, Indra Nooyi, who led one of the largest beverage companies, Arianna Huffington, the chief editor of one of the most widely-read dailies and Oprah Winfrey, popular talk show host, have inspired women globally to follow their passion and believe in themselves to take the less trodden paths.
Back home, there are established women entrepreneurs like Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and the Reddy sisters, who run successful healthcare businesses. Also, there is an emerging breed of new-age women entrepreneurs like Radhika Agarwal, who leads an ecommerce platform and Upasana Taku known for promoting India’s first payment startup.
Women entrepreneurs are growing in India – today we have 13.5-15.7 million women-owned enterprises, representing 20% of total enterprises, an increase from 14% a decade back. However, the labour force participation rate (LFPW) is one of the lowest in India, compared to other emerging countries like Brazil which is at 61% and Indonesia at 54%, while developed countries like UK and US which are at 73% and 67% respectively. Further, unemployment is higher in women by 2-3x across different cohorts.
Also, women are likely to be impacted more from the tech and AI revolution as there are a higher percentage of women in operational and data-centric jobs that will be first to get mechanised. This is in spite of research that given equal opportunities, women businesses perform at par with men-led enterprises.
How women entrepreneurship can make a difference
1. Enable women to play a key role in economic development rather than a peripheral part
Women entrepreneurs can play an important role to drive economic growth by starting new businesses and contributing to the improvement in various key goals such as per capita income, innovation, the standard of living and community development.
2. Accelerate job creation
Accelerating women entrepreneurship from the current 20% to 30% can create over 30 million women-owned enterprises by 2030. This can lead to large scale job creation in India, of 150-170 million jobs, which is more than 25% of the new jobs required for the entire working-age population, from now until 2030.
3. Social independence and more women in the ecosystem
Encouraging women entrepreneurship can lead to disproportionate social outcomes through more conscious family planning choices, increased focus on childcare, education and health for self and family. Further, women in power can contribute towards getting more women into the workforce and thus help to drive gender diversity.
4. Drive innovation which is focused on women, child and mother care
Women entrepreneurs have a better understanding of the need gaps related to women, mother and childcare. They are able to build innovation-driven businesses in these fields that create better products and improve access.
Until a few years back, there were few Indian companies in mother and child care products. Women had to buy expensive imported products or compromise on quality. Now there are several women-led Indian brands that have been able to earn the trust and loyalty of customers.
Some of the other businesses born out of this deep need gap understanding include natural beauty products platforms, early years education ecosystem, female hygiene products, curated online shops for hand-picked products and handmade traditional products online aggregators which promote women-made products.
Effective interventions that can aid women entrepreneurship
There is significant untapped potential in the country for driving women entrepreneurship. The benefits of creating this parallel entrepreneur ecosystem are multi-fold. Currently, there are some interventions and efforts at different levels, which if implemented and supplemented effectively, can go a long way.
This is a very crucial aspect of shaping women entrepreneurs and can go a long way in fulfilling the dream of seeing more women in business. There are several incubators and accelerators which are focusing on mentoring women entrepreneurs. Also, government agencies like Niti and UNDP have programs to support women entrepreneurs and provide access to networks, advisors, etc.
There are some women networking platforms which are trying to create opportunities for women by providing them a platform to showcase their skills and products, network with other women and exchange ideas as well as find advisors and mentors.
Policy interventions are crucial drivers of any change
Currently, there are few policies that support women entrepreneurship. Preferential loans (lower interest rate, collateral-free) are provided to PSUs banks for women business in the MSME space. Various schemes such as reimbursement of promotional event expenses, innovation allowance, allocation of certain percentage of seats in government-sponsored incubators, etc.
We need to build on these and create significant interventions which provide easier access to skilling and finance from banks and other financial institutions, as well as tax incentives.
Women entrepreneurship is no longer a ‘nice to have’ phenomenon, but a crucial pedestal for India to meet its target of job creation and economic development. Also, it creates a balance of the corporate ecosystem, which is indispensable in the long run. More power to us!
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)