The Changing Face of India's Entrepreneurial Landscape: Women at the Forefront
Women entrepreneurs are accelerating India's progress towards becoming a $5-trillion economy. Their increasing participation is a crucial factor that is expanding household incomes, contributing towards the achievement of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG5 on gender equality, and reducing poverty. India has set eight priority areas upon assuming its G20 presidency, with a focus on promoting women-led development and public digital infrastructure. Of these priorities, the topmost goal for achieving growth and equality is the promotion of women's entrepreneurship.
The past few years have in fact, seen a considerable surge in the number of women venturing into and succeeding as entrepreneurs in India, thereby, influencing the social and economic demographics of the country. Reports suggest that today, over 20 per cent of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in India are owned by women, accounting for 23.3 per cent of the total labor force. It is interesting is to see that approximately 50 per cent of India’s start-up ecosystem is currently empowered by women.
This rising female force participation has led to job creation and helped thousands of families by pulling them out of poverty. Women—who have always been well known for their leaderships skills but were previously bounded by patriarchal values and gender norms that restricted them to work—are today breaking barriers and successfully dominating new age industries such as electronic manufacturing, where more than 50 per cent of employees are women.
In addition, in the agricultural sector—a predominantly male dominated domain—the percentage of employed women is higher than that of men. Given that India’s female literacy rate has now grown by 68 per cent, rising from 9 per cent at the time of independence to 77 per cent at present, there remains little apprehension about the bright prospects of women and their progression within the country.
In addition to the increasing rates of female literacy, there are several other factors contributing to the steady growth of women entrepreneurship in the country, providing it a trajectory that could render India a hub for women entrepreneurs in the next five years. These factors include:
Expanding Network of Digital Credit:
Women entrepreneurs in India have faced a major obstacle in the form of limited financial resources and difficulty in accessing capital. Traditional lenders have been hesitant to lend to women due to factors such as limited economic security, lack of asset ownership, and social barriers. These lenders have often demanded collateral as a guarantee, along with other strict conditions, making it challenging for women to obtain credit.
However, the rise of digital lending platforms in recent years has made it much easier for women to access business loans with minimal waiting time. One such platform is Mahila Money, a financial services platform that provides micro loans to women entrepreneurs to support their business setup, growth, and employment opportunities. This platform focuses on supporting women entrepreneurship and female literacy.
Digital Selling and E-Commerce:
The traditional process of physical selling, which often involved door-to-door sales or the need to rent or purchase a shop, posed a challenge for many Indian women who had familial commitments, domestic duties, and limited funding. However, the emergence of the e-commerce trend and digital selling platforms such as Amazon and Flipkart has brought about a significant change. Women can now sell their products from the comfort of their homes, reaching customers across India and even globally, while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Recognizing the crucial role of women's participation in achieving sustainable economic development, gender equality, and poverty alleviation, the Indian government has introduced several initiatives to support women entrepreneurs. These initiatives aim to provide an inclusive and supportive policy framework, equal access to finance, and expand mentorship and network channels. Overall, these efforts create opportunities for women entrepreneurs to operate and grow their businesses. Nari Shakti (woman power) is one such initiative that seeks to provide soft loans to women at a cheaper rate than what is available in the market, thereby, encouraging women to realise their entrepreneurial aspirations. Another example is the Women’s Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP), which serves as a unified portal and a one-stop shop for all things related to female entrepreneurship in India.
The entrepreneurial landscape of India has clearly been undergoing a change, constantly highlighting the potential as well as the determination of women residing within the country. Data emerging from the ground in suggests that in the coming decades India is set to witness another wave of transformation with women dominating the workforce as well as shaping the future of the countrym where over 30 million more women-owned business are expected to provide 150-170 million jobs by 2030. One would therefore not be wrong in saying that India’s economic future—today—looks brighter than ever.
The blog has been authored by Akanksha Khullar.