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“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”– Helen Keller

Women’s achievements in this time and age are exceptional with many of them making ground-breaking accomplishments in every sphere of life, particularly when it comes to entrepreneurship. And like elsewhere in the world, even in India, women-led businesses have been providing a great impetus to the economy. This was re-affirmed by the Union Minister for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, Shri Narayan Rane who during the Shakti National Conference 2023 stated that, “women entrepreneurs in India play a significant role in advancing the economic growth of the country and women owned business are now growing significantly.”

According to a report by Bain & Company, nearly 20% of enterprises in India are owned by women. While the country is steering towards transforming it’s economic and social development status through women-owned businesses, several women dynamos have ascended to fame with their stellar entrepreneurship skills. Image consulting, e-commerce, science, entertainment, are just a few industries where Indian women entrepreneurs have been smashing glass ceilings.

The history of courageous female entrepreneurs in India in fact, started quite early with Kalpana Saroj. Known as India’s first female entrepreneur and the original “Slumdog Millionaire.” Kalpana bought the distressed assets of Kamani Tubes Company and steered the company back to profitability back in 2001.

Aditi Gupta, an alumnus of National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, started a website called Menstrupedia in 2012, which provides user-friendly information about menstruation, hygiene and puberty through comic books and relatable media. Menstrupedia’s resources have benefitted around 13 million girls and women across the world. Aditi was listed in Forbes India Under 30 and was named as one of BBC’s 100 most influential women for bringing a change in society through her innovative work in menstrual education. 

Shaikh Razia, a Chhattisgarh based microbiologist, transformed the way people look at Mahua flowers that are usually associated with the making of alcohol and is widely consumed by tribal people. Focusing on its nutritional value, Razia started Bastar foods, a business which engaged local tribal women to manufacture ladoos and other various healthy snacks from the flower. 

Ela Bhatt, popularly known as the ‘gentle revolutionary’, is the founder of the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), which is a trade union of self-employed women textile workers. She has worked remarkably at the grassroot level to uplift and empower Indian women. 
And while, these are just some examples, there are many other remarkable success stories of female entrepreneurs in India with government playing an increasing role in their empowerment. Over the past few years, government schemes have in fact, significantly helped small women entrepreneurs by providing them subsidized and accessible capital, connecting them with potential buyers, providing skill and market development assistance, capacity building, providing financial literacy, and access to easy micro-credit facilities. 
For instance, ‘Mission Shakti’, which is an integrated women empowerment programme launched by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2021-22. It is as an umbrella Scheme for the empowerment of women through institutional and convergence mechanism that seeks to realize the government’s vision for ‘women-led development’ and make them economically empowered by promoting skill development, capacity building, financial literacy, access to micro-credit etc. 

Similarly, the "SAMARTH" scheme of the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises provides women an opportunity to be self-reliant and independent by undertaking self-employment opportunities. The objective of the scheme is to provide 7500 women candidates from rural and sub- urban areas during the FY 2022-23 with Skill development and market development assistance.  

Mudra Loan launched by the government offers financial support to women entrepreneurs who are working towards starting their own beauty parlour, tuition centre, stitching shop, etc. There are three categories under which a Mudra loan application can be applied— Shishu, Kishor and Tarun. 

The Annapurna Yojana is yet another government scheme for women, which offers loans of up to Rs. 50,000 to women entrepreneurs in food catering businesses. The loan amount can be utilized towards purchasing utensils, mixer cum grinder, hot case, tiffin boxes, working table, etc. as working capital. 

Udyogini Scheme launched by Women Development Corporation under the Government of India, promotes women's entrepreneurship among poor women by providing them financial support. This scheme majorly provides assistant to illiterate women living in rural and backward areas of the country. 

Undoubtedly, women entrepreneurship is an essential source not only for the economic growth of a country but can also act a powerful tool to break off the shackles that existed owing to the extremely pervasive gender inequalities, especially when it comes to their workforce participation. And given that India’s trajectory has increasingly been shifting from women’s development to women-led development, there is a lot that the above-mentioned schemes can do in terms of identifying uncultivated talents, provide necessary training and facilitate inclusive participation in industries, which can further contribute towards growing industrial and national productivity.  

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