Rural Entrepreneurship Helping Women Realise Their Potential
We are in the next phase of the digital age. The platform that internet has provided for entrepreneurship to flourish is bridging the gap between urban and rural in the country. Today, the startup ecosystem is embracing rural entrepreneurship and giving way to newer technologies to reach the country’s hinterland.
Whether it is Google’s Internet Saathi programme that has reached out to 10 million women in one lakh villages or Axis Bank’s initiatives to provide micro finance loans to women in entrepreneurship, we are seeing a new batch of women entrepreneurs from across the country.
Talking about it at the Digital Women Awards, organized by SheThePeople.TV, Rajiv Anand of Axis Bank said, “Within the micro finance space, typically loan amounts are between Rs. 15,000 to Rs. 20,000 and all these loan acquirers are women. So somebody has a canteen or a tailoring shop and wants to expand. What we have been able to do is to use technology, Aadhaar, our own scorecards or civil scores in terms of being able to underwrite these women right up front.”
“But what has been truly amazing is the levels of confidence that women have about their businesses. They understand their start-ups. They understand cash flows and the fact that they need to pay on a monthly basis,”- Rajiv Anand, Axis Bank
“There is obviously quite an elaborate process of customer education as well before lending the loans. But what has been truly amazing is the levels of confidence that women have about their businesses. They understand their start-ups. They understand cash flows and the fact that they need to pay on a monthly basis. I have met many of these women and it is really a fascinating experience.”
Micro finances are truly crucial when it comes to empowering women. A business requires growth and growth comes when innovations in a business happen and in this scale does not matter. While this was about entrepreneurship, let’s now talk about the value digital adds to rural entrepreneurship. In this effect, Google’s Internet Saathi programme has succeeded in bringing women out from the nook and cranny of the country to learn and use internet. And therefore unravel the possibilities of economic growth through the digital space.
Sapna Chadha of Google talked about the effort and how it elevates women in the rural space. “A few years ago, some of us at Google were looking at the data on gender equality on the internet. And what we saw were actually some alarming figures. At that time, only one out of 10 Indians were women. And that was fundamentally very shocking to us.”
“Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and to make it universally accessible. And when it found out that women aren’t using the information at the same pace as men are, this was something we wanted to take action against and disrupt,” said Chadha.
“The reasons that hold women back from excelling is unaffordability, unawareness and relevance,” said Sapna Chadha, Head of Marketing for Google India and Southeast Asia
“A few years later, we have made progress but we still don’t think we are there. Today three in every 10 women are on the internet,” she added.
Chadha significantly called the gender inequality out and said that while the number of women users are growing and internet is opening up new avenues for them to become financially independent, we shouldn’t be too happy about the growth. “India has one of the worst gaps in the world and the reasons that hold women back from excelling is unaffordability, unawareness and relevance,” said the Head of Marketing for Google India and Southeast Asia.
She further pointed out how women speak about internet in rural India. “They say that the internet is not for me or my husband doesn’t allow me to use his smartphone.”
An Internet Saathi’s job essentially is to go out into the villages and teach the basics of internet to women. It has enabled women to start businesses, those women who hadn’t had access to the internet before.
Besides Google, social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are other platforms that have helped the growth of rural entrepreneurship. These are the spaces where women can market their products for free initially and build it up to pay for advertisements when their business grows. This is Startup 2.0 and it is only going to make it bigger and better for women around the country to become aware of their abilities and financially independent.
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