Promoting Women in Business: A Game Changer for the Indian Economy

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Dr Neelam Gupta

Rising trends in women-led businesses reflect the evolving entrepreneurial landscape in India. Women are breaking barriers, embracing innovation, and creating successful ventures in diverse sectors, contributing to economic growth and social progress. Increasing the participation of women in entrepreneurship has the potential to boost the Indian economy significantly. The World Bank estimates that if India’s female labour force participation rate were to match men, the country’s GDP could increase by 27 per cent. Women-led businesses can contribute significantly to this economic growth through job creation, increased productivity, and innovation. As more women enter entrepreneurship, they create job opportunities for themselves and others, having a multiplier effect on the economy, reducing unemployment rates and providing income-generating opportunities to individuals and families. According to a report by Bain & Company and Google, women entrepreneurs in India are expected to create 150-170 million jobs by 2030. 

Women-led businesses contribute to inclusive development by bridging gender gaps, promoting gender equality and fostering a more inclusive and equitable society. Successful women entrepreneurs serve as role models and inspire other women to overcome social barriers and pursue their entrepreneurial aspirations, thus creating a positive cycle and increasing the number of women participating in business ventures.

Women entrepreneurs bring diverse perspectives, ideas, and innovative solutions to the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Encouraging and supporting women-led businesses can result in the development of new and innovative products, services, and business models, furthering the growth and competitiveness of the Indian economy. Women entrepreneurs are also identifying specific needs and preferences of women consumers and creating businesses that cater to them, for example, beauty and wellness, maternity and childcare, fashion, personal care, and fitness. By understanding and addressing the unique requirements of women, these businesses are gaining popularity and success.

There is a growing recognition of the potential and talent of women entrepreneurs in India, leading to increased access to funding and investment. Venture capital firms, angel investors, and government initiatives are now concentrating on supporting women-led businesses through grants, loans, and mentorship programmes. This improved access to funding is helping women entrepreneurs scale their ventures. Women-led networking platforms and communities are also on the rise in India. These platforms provide a supportive ecosystem for women entrepreneurs to connect, collaborate, and share resources. They offer mentorship, training programmes, funding opportunities, and a space to exchange knowledge and experiences.

Women often prioritise social impact alongside financial goals. They address critical societal challenges, such as healthcare, education, poverty alleviation, environmental sustainability, and women’s empowerment. By tackling these issues, women in business contribute to the overall social well-being and inclusive development of communities. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the innovation and adoption of remote work and flexible work models, and women entrepreneurs are leveraging technology to build businesses that allow for remote work, freelance opportunities, and flexible schedules. These work models provide them with a greater work-life balance and the ability to manage personal and professional responsibilities effectively.

Women-led businesses also have the potential to enhance India’s global competitiveness. By harnessing their skills, capabilities, and entrepreneurial potential, India can tap into a vast talent pool and foster a more diverse and inclusive business environment. This diversity strengthens the competitiveness of Indian industries and positions them well in the global market.

There is a growing recognition of the potential and talent of women entrepreneurs in India, leading to increased access to funding and investment. Venture capital firms, angel investors, and government initiatives are now concentrating on supporting women-led businesses through grants, loans, and mentorship programmes. This improved access to funding is helping women entrepreneurs scale their ventures. Women-led networking platforms and communities are also on the rise in India. These platforms provide a supportive ecosystem for women entrepreneurs to connect, collaborate, and share resources. They offer mentorship, training programmes, funding opportunities, and a space to exchange knowledge and experiences. Such initiatives are helping women overcome challenges and grow their businesses.

The growing presence and impact of women entrepreneurs in India have amply demonstrated their immense potential to drive economic growth, create employment, and bring about positive societal change. Yet there are challenges and barriers that women-led businesses continue to face, including access to capital, networking opportunities, policy support and access to markets. Unlocking the potential of women entrepreneurs in India requires concerted efforts from various stakeholders, including the government, private sector, educational institutions, and society.

Here are some key strategies to unlock the potential of women entrepreneurs:

Access to Finance: Ensuring equitable access to finance is crucial for women entrepreneurs. Financial institutions should provide easier access to capital, loans, and investment for women-led businesses through dedicated funds, women-focused financial schemes, and simplified loan application processes. Encouraging venture capital firms and angel investors to support these is also essential.

Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Education: Providing skill development programmes and entrepreneurship education targeted at women can enhance their entrepreneurial capabilities. Government initiatives, educational institutions, and NGOs can collaborate to offer training, mentorship, and networking opportunities. These programmes should cover business management, financial literacy, marketing, and networking skills.

Supportive Policy Environment: Governments can create policies and regulatory frameworks that support women’s entrepreneurship by ensuring gender equality in business regulations, providing incentives for women-led businesses, and setting up dedicated entrepreneurship support cells to guide and assist women entrepreneurs. The government can also consider tax incentives and subsidies for women entrepreneurs.

Access to Networks and Mentors: Building strong networks and mentorship programmes are vital for women entrepreneurs. Establishing platforms and forums facilitating networking, mentorship, and knowledge sharing can help women entrepreneurs access valuable guidance and support. Collaborations between successful women entrepreneurs and aspiring women entrepreneurs can foster a culture of mentorship and empowerment.

Collaboration between government, private sector, NGOs, and educational institutions is crucial for unlocking the potential of women entrepreneurs. By working together, these stakeholders can create an ecosystem that nurtures women’s entrepreneurship, facilitates resource sharing, and promotes collaboration among different actors.

Encouraging Entrepreneurial Culture: Creating a supportive and inclusive entrepreneurial culture is essential and can be achieved by promoting entrepreneurship as a viable career option for women through awareness campaigns, role models, and success stories. Challenging societal norms and biases that discourage women from pursuing entrepreneurship is crucial. Encouraging men to support and champion women entrepreneurs is equally vital.

Access to Markets and Supply Chains: Women entrepreneurs should have fair access to markets, supply chains, and procurement opportunities. Government procurement policies can prioritise procurement from women-led businesses. Encouraging large corporations to include women-owned businesses in their supply chains can create economic opportunities for women entrepreneurs.

Technology and Digital Enablement: Embracing technology and digital platforms can open new avenues for women entrepreneurs. Providing access to digital infrastructure, eCommerce platforms, and online marketing tools can help women entrepreneurs reach a broader customer base and expand their businesses. Promoting digital literacy and technological skills among women is essential.

Addressing Work-Life Balance: Balancing work and personal responsibilities is a challenge faced by many women entrepreneurs. Supporting policies such as flexible work arrangements, affordable childcare facilities, and parental leave can help women entrepreneurs manage their professional and personal commitments effectively.

Collaboration and Partnerships: Collaboration between government, private sector, NGOs, and educational institutions is crucial for unlocking the potential of women entrepreneurs. By working together, these stakeholders can create an ecosystem that nurtures women’s entrepreneurship, facilitates resource sharing, and promotes collaboration among different actors.

By implementing these strategies and creating an enabling environment, India can unlock the full potential of women entrepreneurs. Empowering women economically through entrepreneurship will contribute to inclusive growth, gender equality, and overall socio-economic development.

Dr. Neelam Gupta is the Founder President & CEO of AROH Foundation.