India has historically been a patriarchal society with lower participation by women in economy. As per a National Sample Survey Organisation survey, presently only 14% of the establishments in India are run by women entrepreneurs. The records also discovered that the majority of these women-run companies are small-scale and roughly 79% of them are self-financed. This suggests that irrespective of the innumerable initiatives taken by women to venture beyond their domestic walls and scale the entrepreneurial world, there seem to be hurdles preventing them from realizing their full potential.

Why women entrepreneurship calls for a different viewpoint!

Over the past few decades, women have chalked up tremendous success, fabricating their mark throughout various walks of life and serving in the highest profiles of public services. They are crossing the boundary across different fields to avail equal prospects like men, while also challenging the stereotypes and misperceptions about their capabilities. Not surprising, when we speak about the radical changes taking place in India’s entrepreneurial landscape, some of the most notable progressions have been in the area of women entrepreneurship – companioned with their fair share of challenges and constraints.

In India today, more and more women from the grassroots onwards are progressively beginning to achieve financial independence, earning a livelihood to support their family over and above managing their households.

Entrepreneurship is a robust weapon that can empower women financially and also give them the capability to impact the lives of people within their communities, particularly other women. Female-led entrepreneurial businesses play the role of employment creators for a large number of women, especially in rural and semi-rural areas, thus gradually tipping the scales towards a more balanced and equal society. Women as producers and job creators contribute not only towards their household income but also to the overall economy. Hence, the greater this contribution, the faster the country’s economic growth.

Microfinance as an enabling tool for women entrepreneurs

Be it in metros, big cities or within the rural geographies of India, women are proving their entrepreneurial acumen by successfully running businesses, be it retailing, salons, manufacturing food products, handicrafts, dairy and livestock etc. What sets them apart from their male peers is their capability to demonstrate high degree of commitment and dedication to their business as well as well as financial discipline and emotional maturity and thus leveraging available resources to their maximum potential.

One illustration of this is how, with access to the internet and smartphone, women entrepreneurs are considerably leveraging social media as a promotional vehicle instead of relying on conventional ways, thus marketing their businesses and products to a wider followership. Another enabling framework is the advent of self-help groups has aided participating women get access to information, tools and support that fuels their entrepreneurial spirit.

Women, with their knowledge, expertise, and creativity, are as capable of constructing successful businesses as any male entrepreneur. However, having access to capital – a basic and important requisite to starting up any business venture – remains a challenge for female entrepreneurs, particularly those residing in rural and semi-urban areas. The barriers to availing credit from formal lending channels are significant, and therefore limiting their growth potential. In such a scenario, Small Finance Banks and Microfinance Institutions help fulfil the demand of these women entrepreneurs for affordable and convenient credit with the benefit of formal credit and greater inclusion in the financial mainstream.

The microfinance sector has contributed significantly towards making Indian women more visible in the entrepreneurial landscape, aiding their ability to become producers and job creators.

All of this plays a quintessential role in encouraging more women to look towards entrepreneurship and self-employment as a means of earning a livelihood and set an example for other women in the society to follow.

The road ahead

Women are increasingly proving their worth in a male-dominated realm like entrepreneurship, helming new enterprises, undertaking risks, and innovating, and being effective leaders. Yet there is a lot that needs to be done to make the entrepreneurial terrain more conducive for women. An essential requirement to promote women entrepreneurship is the creation of a strong support system at work as well as at home. Also, a networking and knowledge-sharing ecosystem of female entrepreneurs can help in developing and nurturing entrepreneurial skills in women who want to become self-reliant and create their own means of employment.

Simultaneously, support from the government and financial institutions in the form of more inclusive programs and policies can help in barring the gender-based roadblocks, therefore creating a smoother path for women to start their entrepreneurial journeys. Self-help Groups help channelize their entrepreneurial zeal into meaningful vocation, enabling access to credit, training and supply chain to access raw material as well as market their produce. Formal financial services providers such as Small Finance Banks are aiding in this journey.

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