By Agnelo Rajesh Athaide, Serial & Social Entrepreneur, Real Estate Developer, Educationist, Angel Investor & Motivational Speaker
While women entrepreneurs have been around for many decades now, their roles and presence in sectors is slowly expanding. From conventional sectors like food processing, agro-products, handicrafts and textiles, women entrepreneurs are now venturing across sectors like real estate development , ITES, BFSI, Pharmaceuticals, hospitality, and tourism etc.
India has been hailed as one of the fastest growing start-up ecosystem in the world, with 11% of adult population being directly engaged in early stage entrepreneurship.
The share of women entrepreneurs in the modern start-up ecosystem is also steadily rising. According to Sixth Economic Census released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, women constitute around 14% of the total entrepreneurship i.e. 8.05 million out of the total 58.5 million entrepreneurs in India.
Further, the share of women in the non-agriculture sector constitutes about 65% of all women entrepreneurs, amounting to 5.29 million women. However, the average employment in women-owned enterprises remains at a meagre 1.67%.
Some key challenges faced by them include:
• Talent: The likelihood of finding women with the required training and experience to run and scale a business
• Culture: The prevalence of relevant mentors, networks, and role models
• Technology: Female entrepreneurs’ global connectivity via the internet and social media
• Capital: The frequency and value of funding received by woman-led businesses
• Market: Whether a female entrepreneur operates in a market that has sufficient size such that scale can be achieved
Despite these challenges, multiple government policies – from taxation to loans and funding requirements, and rise of professional networking platforms, has helped create a supportive ecosystem. Changing trends in the corporate, social and higher education sector are further enabling women to take a leap and realise their entrepreneurial potential. These include:
Increasing focus on diversity at workplace has ensured that more women have access to opportunity in the corporate world. Even as the 21st century corporate world moves to expand into a global marketplace, women with deserving credentials are able to work not only at local or national landscape but are also able to access international work cultures, allowing them an equal opportunity to learn and enhance their expertise in the sector of choice. This, in turn, has empowered them with adequate international exposure and domain expertise when they decide to stat off on their entrepreneurial journey.
With expansion of corporate opportunities, more women are exploring STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) related fields of education, previously considered a male domain. Apart from STEM, there has also been a steady rise in women taking up specialised management education across sectors like logistics and supply chain, finance, international business, textiles etc., further contributing to an empowered set of women entrepreneurs.
With access to corporate opportunity and education, more women, especially the millennial generation, is experiencing a financial independence like never before. While women in India had always been active earning members and contributors to the family income, the new generation of ‘working’ women are not only earning equal salaries or more than their men, and contribute or even run the household, but also make their own purchase and investment decisions, planning long term savings and have complete control of their earnings. This is a crucial enabling factor when starting out as an entrepreneur.
Access to mentorship
With an international exposure and a more supportive work environment, women have better access to professional mentors who can guide and nurture their professional expertise. Further, with enhanced social, financial and knowledge support, more women entrepreneurs are empowered to seek and connect with peers and fellow entrepreneurs at trade and networking platforms, offering them the opportunity to learn and address challenges in a more informed and guided manner. From Women only networking and trade groups to dynamic international platforms for business and networking, women entrepreneurs are not only gaining access to expert mentors and solution providers, but are also building a strong collaborative network, beyond gender biases and sectors.
From shared responsibilities at home and supportive maternity policies at work, more women are now empowered to pursue their professional goals and ambitions. Apart from a more relaxed social fabric, there has also been a transformation in the gender defined roles and expectations, making it more dynamic and individualistic. Further, this empowerment has given a voice and opportunity for women entrepreneurs to work in areas related to welfare of other women. The number of start-up’s addressing issues ranging from women’s health and maternity to women hygiene and mental health, are areas that are now being addressed, thanks to new age women entrepreneurs.
Even as more women entrepreneurs are rising and making their presence felt, thanks to the above factors, there is still a long way to go from being a mere 14% to a full 50% of Indian start-up and entrepreneurship ecosystem. From technology to finance, and from art to retail, women as start-up owners are expanding their presence, making the most of every opportunity. As a country with the largest population of youth and one of the fastest-growing entrepreneurial ecosystems, women are strongly set to mark their ground and drive the growth, in perfect partnership with their male counterparts.