Women are the new drivers of economic growth and Women-driven business and their owners are viewed as a potential source of economic and social development. Large numbers of women are setting up and running their businesses. While majority of women who explore entrepreneurship, are driven by necessity, others are motivated by opportunity, and finally some are inspired by a combination of necessity and opportunity.
Studies show that women invest up to 90 percent of their incomes back into their families, and provide better nutrition, health care and education to their children. Since women tend to invest up to 90 percent of their earnings on their families and self, economic empowerment of women is a step towards poverty alleviation at multiple levels.
Hence, there is a real and present need to nurture Women entrepreneurship for achieving inclusive economic growth.
India generates nearly 14 percent of the global talent pool, among which 5.5 million women join India’s workforce each year, all overwhelmingly driven to succeed [Aguirre, 2012]. Although the knowledge economy has created enormous opportunities, women are challenged from reaching their full potential by a combination of cultural restrictions, gender discrimination, and lack of resources [Shukla et. al, 2016].
Due to legislative barriers and socio-cultural restrictions in developing nations, women gravitate towards less productive sectors that are characterized by low pay, long hours, and other informal working arrangements. Specific sectors that rely heavily on women workers include agribusiness, tourism, and textiles. Women tend to be under-represented in industry and extractive sectors, and other highly remunerative activities.
Absence of market linkages, lack of access to capital, financial services and training opportunities are some of the major constraints faced by women entrepreneurs’. Companies run by women are usually smaller than those operated by men in terms of number of employees, asset value, and turnover, besides being less profitable and productive. In developing countries, the probability of women being approved for loans is less than men and at higher interest rates while women in developed nations enjoy higher probability of getting loans with lesser collateral.
Nonetheless, there is an imperative need to develop Women entrepreneurship on the margins of society to achieve inclusive economic growth [Shukla et. al, 2016].
Internet economy in India is expected to contribute $200 billion to the nation’s GDP (nearly 5 percent of total GDP) by 2020 [Bajpai et. al, 2015]. The number of internet users are expected to reach 500 million by June 2018; 300 million urban users and 186 million rural users in December 2017, registering a 9.66 percent growth in urban and 14.11 percent in rural India, over same period last year [Internet and Mobile Association of India, 2018]. In 2015-16, online purchasing in rural India doubled from 4 to 8 percent with convenience and discounts emerging as key drivers for online commerce [Jain et. al, 2014].
Demographic characteristics of Internet users in 2018 India include; 54 percent users who will be 25 years and older with higher discretionary income and likely to transact more online. Half of Internet user base will reside in smaller towns and villages, thereby opening opportunities for marketers and service providers to ensure wider product availability through e-commerce. Today, women control 44 percent of household spending in India and will represent nearly 33 percent of Internet user base by 2018 [Bajpai et. al, 2015].
Wholesale/ retail trade accounts for about 60 percent of female entrepreneurial activity among factor-driven economies with highest participation among of 25-34 and 35-44 years age groups of women [Shukla et. al, 2016].
WOMEN AND INTERNET
An estimated 143 million Internet users or approximately 30 percent of Total Internet users in India are WOMEN and the ratio of male to female Internet users in Rural India is 64:36 [Internet and Mobile Association of India, 2018]. Influence of Internet on rural consumers in purchases of mobile devices, PCs and laptops is at par with urban users, but lag in consumer durable, auto, apparel and entertainment [Jain et. al, 2014]. Expanding reach, more affordable access and improved awareness are main propellers of this online growth. Emerging rural Internet users will leapfrog PC/ laptops platforms and use mobile devices to access Internet. Vernacular content is set to increase by more than 60 percent to mirror broadening consumption patterns in print and television media [Bajpai et. al, 2015].
Presently, diffusion of Internet is highest in Kerala (37%), Himachal Pradesh (28%), Punjab (28%) followed by Tamil Nadu, Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir [Jain et. al, 2014].
WOMEN AND FINANCE
Access to capital and credit has been one of the biggest hurdles for women entrepreneurs. In 2015, Union Government launched the The Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana (PMMY), a scheme for providing loans up to Rs. 10 lakh (around US$15,000) to the non-corporate, non-farm small/micro enterprises. Under PMMY, all banks and Non-Banking Finance Companies (NBFCs)/Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs) - are required to lend to non-farm sector income generating activities below Rs.10 lakh. These loans are classified as MUDRA loans under PMMY.
In 2016-17, 78,250 [approx. 11 billion USD] Crores were disbursed to nearly 3 crore [30 million] women account holders under the Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana [Standup Mitra, 2016]. Women have higher loan repayment track record with 30-50 lower rates of non-performance loans in Women-owned businesses. Banks, therefore have greater potential for cross sales as women are likely to access 2 or 3 more products, in comparison to men.
Women bear great responsibility in any household to care for children, elderly and ensure clean, nutritious food for all, three times a day. Unpaid, women devote more than 1 to 3 hours a day to housework when compared to men and 2 to 10 times the amount of time a day, to care for children and elderly. Unlike men who get to travel and meet peers for networking, women are constrained with household responsibilities and unable to explore new business connections and or opportunities. Further, women experience most stress, when they are in their 30-40s' and busy starting families and raising children. Nonetheless, gender specific financial products and services, designed with the motivations, attitudes and approaches of Women to business are NEEDED [International Finance Corporation, 2014].
Government of India's expenditure for 2017-18 on Gender Specific programs totaled 1,17,221 Crores [USD 16.75 billion]; 30,190 Crores [USD 4.31 billion] on 100 percent women specific programs and 87,031 Crores [USD 12.73 billion] on 30 percent women specific programs [Ministry of Finance, GoI, 2018].
The “Third Billion” Female Economy represents a vast pool of untapped entrepreneurial energy and underutilized producers and consumers. Banks and financial institutions with innovative business models and market strategy stand to access and gain from these new emerging markets.
Engaging women as producers, consumers and entrepreneurs is therefore key to reducing poverty and driving broader economic growth. Banks, Village Level Entrepreneurs (VLE) at Common Service Centers (CSC), NGOs and Women Self Help Groups (WSHG) can aggregate women artisans and micro-entrepreneurs, register as "Seller" on Government e-Marketplace (GeM) and offer generic products to various government departments, institutions and PSUs. More importantly, GeM platform will align women entrepreneurs and professionals in rural hinterlands with hyper-local economic opportunities in Government institutions. Startup Womaniya neatly aligns with Prime Minister’s Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Nari Shakti 4 New India, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and empowered Women-led development in India.
Startup Womaniya initiative at GeM addresses the Sustainable Development Goals SDG 5 Gender Equality which seeks to end all forms of discrimination against women and girls. Compelling research evidence reinforces, economic empowerment of women and girls as a multiplier effect in accelerating economic growth and sustainable development.
SDGs are global mission statements to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. These goals are interlinked and often the key to success with one SDG will involve tackling issues more commonly associated with another. Some other goals addressed include SDG 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth, SDG 10 – Reduced Inequalities, SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities and SDG 16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.
From Candlelight to SPOTLIGHT
There is an inherent need to build a repository of knowledge, resources, and guidance regarding entrepreneurship. Key stakeholders in the government, the private sector, and civil society should create a network across India, linking women in rural and urban centers. This cross-sector initiative should provide free business counseling to aspiring entrepreneurs, improve market linkages, help them tap into existing resources, and connect them with mentors. Women should be encouraged to attain leadership positions in sectors employing large numbers of women.
Connecting women entrepreneurs with Government departments, institutions and PSUs via Government e-Marketplace and facilitating seamless e-procurement of general use products and essential services in a hub-spoke network is POSSIBLE. As India’s continues to emerge as a global leader, removing the obstacles to women’s economic empowerment will exponentially increase its power, now and for tomorrow.
The author is indebted to Ms. S. Radha Chauhan, CEO Government e-Marketplace (GeM) and Ms. Geetanjli Agrawal, VP Communications and Training, GeM for their kind assistance and cooperation during the compilation of Project Startup Womaniya.
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