Building futures: unveiling the landscape of women's entrepreneurship in India

Celebrating Women's Entrepreneurship Day 2023 is the right time to reflect on the remarkable journey of women entrepreneurs, who, through entrepreneurship, take a pivotal role in the economic sphere.

Building futures: unveiling the landscape of women's entrepreneurship in India

Sunday November 19, 2023,

4 min Read

Aditi Bhutia Madan, an Indian businesswoman, started her entrepreneurial journey inspired by the memories of her grandmother's delectable momos. While her culinary skills were indisputable, the road to growth posed a significant challenge —accessing formal financing.

For years, Madan grappled with the burden of loan sharks. It was a relentless struggle until she found her way to the Women StartUp Programme (WSP) at NSRCEL. With newfound skills and knowledge, Madan successfully secured vital investments, enabling her company to enhance its production capabilities and infrastructure, transforming her passion into a thriving business.

In India's vibrant entrepreneurial landscape, women shine as forces of innovation and resilience. Industries embracing entrepreneurship witness accelerated growth and job creation. With equal access, women-owned enterprises match the economic impact of those led by men.

Celebrating Women's Entrepreneurship Day 2023 is the right time to reflect on the remarkable journey of women entrepreneurs, who, through entrepreneurship, take a pivotal role in the economic sphere. About 59% of women believe working for themselves reduces their dependence on a spouse or family, while 46% view it as a means to break through the glass ceiling.

Women entrepreneurs are pioneering new markets and fulfilling untapped customer needs through innovative businesses by impacting income, employment, and capital formation while indirectly benefiting household-level resource allocation. Supporting women entrepreneurs not only improves their livelihood & creates jobs but also brings in innovative & affordable solutions.

One such inspiring duo is of Mansi Mehta and Niyati Mehta driving the success of CancerMitr, poised to be the nation's largest cancer community.

With an extensive network of trusted partners and specialists, they have helped & supported over 20,000 patients through their cancer journey and saved over Rs 200 Cr on end-to-end treatment. Wilma Rodrigues has created impact in the sustainability sector through her initiative Saahas Zero Waste.

The company provides end-to-end waste management solutions for residential communities, MNCs, tech parks, and institutions. Recognised by the UN and WEF, the company, led by Wilma, has significantly reduced reject waste from 60% to just 6% for some of its clients.

The Ministry of MSME fosters women's entrepreneurship through schemes like Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE), providing an 85% guarantee coverage and a 10% reduction in the annual guarantee fee. 'herSTART,' inaugurated by President Droupadi Murmu in October 2022, offers a monthly allowance of Rs 20,000 for women-led startups for up to one year, further encouraging financial inclusion and entrepreneurship.

The Mudra Scheme offers women loans from Rs 50,000 to Rs 10 lakh, Stree Shakti Yojana provides a 0.05% interest concession for women entrepreneurs with over half the capital share, Dena Shakti Scheme offers loans up to Rs 20 lakh with a 0.25% interest concession, including microcredit up to Rs 50,000. Udyogini Scheme, by the Women Development Corporation, supports women entrepreneurs in various sectors with financial assistance at 4% p.a.

Despite such schemes, India currently ranks 57 out of 65 nations, in the Mastercard Index on Women Entrepreneurship (MIWE). It ranks 70th among 77 countries on the Female Entrepreneurship Index. With 63 million MSMEs in India, only 20% are women-owned, employing 22 to 27 million people. Estimates suggest that by accelerating women's entrepreneurship, India could create more than 30 million women-owned enterprises, potentially creating 150 to 170 million jobs.

Women entrepreneurs encounter obstacles, including limited access to finance, networks, and training opportunities, along with societal and cultural barriers like gender stereotypes and discrimination, constraining their ability to initiate and expand their businesses.

Many small Indian enterprises are either self-financed or financed with family support – both of which are more difficult for women entrepreneurs. In a Bain & Company and Google survey, 43% of women said their families and spouses did not support their businesses. Much of the financing gap stems from widespread gender discrimination and persistent conservative thinking about women’s role in the country of 1.3 billion people. 

Despite receiving less investment, female-led startups demonstrated better performance, generating 10% more cumulative revenue over five years and being more efficient in turning investment into revenue compared to male-founded startups. However, a 2022 survey revealed that a significant percentage of women entrepreneurs faced challenges in accessing essential financial services, with 60% experiencing difficulties and 85% struggling to obtain loan services from nationalised banks.

Reducing the gender gap in capital access and representation holds substantial economic and societal benefits. Addressing the credit disparity for Women-Led Enterprises in emerging markets could potentially increase annual incomes by 12% on average by 2030. States like Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka have actively promoted women's entrepreneurship.

A nationwide effort to empower women entrepreneurs in all states could, by 2030, significantly boost direct and indirect employment, showcasing the transformative potential of women entrepreneurship. This Women's Entrepreneurship Day 2023 let's support women entrepreneurs and foster inclusivity and prosperity in India.

Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan