The Brilliant Women Entrepreneurs of India: The Roles They Play & the Challenges They Face

Even as India continues its rapid economic growth, women in the country struggle against discrimination and inequality.

Role of Women Social Entrepreneurs
A British Council study on the social enterprise landscape in India revealed that in comparision to male-led social enterprises, female-led social enterprises tend to focus on improving the lives of women and on education and literacy. They were also more likely than male-led social enterprises to address the needs of children and persons with disabilities. Many women led social enterprises work on empowering women and solving women specific issues.
If you can create change too, join the Transforming India Initiative’s (TII) Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship Programme. Applications close 31st of August.
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Women Entrepreneurs in India
Women Entrepreneurs can not only contribute to the GDP, but can also play a key role in addressing societal challenges. However, the number of women entrepreneurs in India remains relatively low.

In India, a large percentage of women enterprises are micro enterprises that women undertake as a forced economic activity. These micro enterprises can be classified into farm and off-farm enterprises. They rarely achieve scale and serve only to barely sustain the women entrepreneurs and their families.
In rural India, traditionally, a lot of women primary producers can be classified as entrepreneurs. For instance, a dairy farmer who supplies milk to a nearby dairy or household is an entrepreneur. But family responsibilities, traditional social norms and the established patriarchal structure mean that these women entrepreneurs have limited exposure to the outside world. This restricts their mobility and makes them dependent on intermediaries to reach the market or achieve scale.
In many situations, the solutions are available and the main hindrance is the entrepreneur’s lack of knowledge and inability to access the solution. For instance, the StandUp India scheme, launched by the Govt. of India, aims to facilitate bank loans of Rs.10 lakh-Rs.1 crore to at least one Scheduled Caste (SC) or Scheduled Tribe (ST) and one-woman beneficiary per bank branch for setting up a greenfield enterprise in trading, services or manufacturing sector. But many women entrepreneurs, and even more so rural women entrepreneurs, are not able to access schemes like this, due to lack of awareness.
Challenges for Women Entrepreneurs
Across the world, the main deterrent to women entrepreneurship is the lack of confidence and skills and difficulty in accessing entrepreneurial knowledge. In India, there are four key reasons for women not choosing to become entrepreneurs:
If you can create change too, join the Transforming India Initiative’s (TII) Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship Programme. Applications close 31st of August.

Entrepreneurial Mindset: Many women prefer to get into salaried jobs, preferring the steady working hours, income and perks like health insurance and paid leaves. Entrepreneurship is still perceived as a riskier option, requiring longer work hours and lacking a fixed income every month. Most women entrepreneurs though attest that this is not true. They cite flexible working hours and being in control of their schedules as a key reason for becoming entrepreneurs.
Difficulty Accessing Resources:  Women have difficulty accessing funds and other resources due to several reasons: laws regulating the private sphere specifically regarding marriage, inheritance and land can hinder women’s access to assets that can be used as collateral to secure a loan; lack of awareness of schemes that are available to specifically support them; few platforms that specifically support women entrepreneurs.
Lack of Practical Experience: Apart from a few high profile female founders, women do not see too many entrepreneurs in their lives that they can look up to and learn from. Women entrepreneurs often know from experience how challenging it is to start up and establish an enterprise. So when women can reach out to and work with women entrepreneurs, they are more likely to start up.
Mentoring & Network
A mentor can play a key role in helping a women to make the decision to start up. However, unless women accidentally come across a mentor in the course of their work, there are very few structured mentorship programmes available to help them find a mentor who will guide them on their entrepreneurial journey.

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