Statistics show that our country isn’t doing great in nurturing its Women Entrepreneurs, as India ranks as low as 52 out of the 57 participating countries in a recent survey.

As per the statistics by Ministry Of Statistics And Programme Implementation in July 2018, women constitute just 14% of the total entrepreneurship in the country. This means that only 8.05 million out of the total 58.5 million entrepreneurs in the country are women. The statistics themselves are enough to substantiate that the country isn’t doing great in nurturing its Women Entrepreneurs. This sorry state of Women Entrepreneurs is further corroborated by the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE) 2018, where India ranks at a low of 52 out of the 57 participating countries.

Some Takeaways…

  • As per the statistics by Ministry Of Statistics And Programme Implementation in July 2018, women constitute just 14% of the total entrepreneurship in the country.
  • The sorry state of Women Entrepreneurs is further corroborated by the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE) 2018, where India ranks at a low of 52 out of the 57 participating countries.
  • We should have incubators at the school level itself, to help create curiosity around entrepreneurship.
  • Till the ratio of funding for men and women is not 50:50, women founders should certainly have a separate pool of funds to be at par with their male counterparts.

As per the statistics by Ministry Of Statistics And Programme Implementation in July 2018, women constitute just 14% of the total entrepreneurship in the country. This means that only 8.05 million out of the total 58.5 million entrepreneurs in the country are women.

The 57 participating countries contributed 79% of the female labour force in the world. And out of them, India ranks at 52, ahead of countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Egypt and Bangladesh. Moreover, the Mastercard Index gauges women’s abilities to capitalise skills and opportunities granted through various supporting conditions, most important of them is the environment around them. So basically, the ranking directs us towards the lack of opportunities i.e., lack of access to financial services and the ever prevalent gender bias in the country. We asked women founders of major start-ups of the country about what propelled them to set-up what they are ruling today and many such queries. Here are their responses:

Initiation Of The Idea- How Did they Get The Idea To Start It?

Sairee Chahal, founder and CEO of SHEROES says, “Being a tech entrepreneur, I wanted to find a way to leverage technology to support women. Everywhere I went, I met women who were looking to grow and improve their lives, in some way or the other, and they were willing to invest in themselves via the right resources, information and conversations. Improving health, getting fit, growing their money, turning creative passions into a business, staying motivated — women had similar concerns, yet, collectively diverse. Many of the women I met felt that avenues, especially in tier-2 cities and beyond, were limited.”

Sakshi Talwar, Creative Director and Co-Founder — Rugs And Beyond, says,  “I had always dreamt of starting something of my own and was smitten by the entrepreneurship bug from an early start. After my MBA from the US, I was stuck in a 9am to 5pm cubicle while working with a finance company in New York till I realised that I’m not cut out for this rattle. I pursued a stint in Interior Design from Parsons, which was an experience in itself and taught me a lot about the industry. Combining my business degree with it, I wanted to start something where I could use my knowledge, skills and expertise. Rugs and Beyond came into existence in late 2014 and was a result of seeing a highly unorganised carpet market India accounts for more than 70% of the world market share where handmade carpets are exported worldwide. However, the local weavers and craftsmen who put in their heart and soul into the weaving of a rug are usually touted by the middlemen and are paid by a meagre salary. Rugs and Beyond empowers these weavers and is a platform between the craftsmen and the end user.”

Kusha Kalra, founder and CEO Happy Lives, says “I started Happy Lives in the year 2013 as a hobby to inspire people to be happy and live in the moment. It became a platform for my workshops and coaching programs. It has further helped me to expand my work and business and create my company for my current online business by the name of The Bespoke Designs.

Happy Lives started in the form of a Business page on Facebook followed by a website to connect women from all walks of life and share about their stories and be empowered. I have used this as a platform to engage all my participants and provide updates about my workshops.”

understanding finance

The Scene Behind Their Success —  Did  they Face Any Hindrance In Implementing their Idea?

“Actually no, since I was doing this through the internet and social media is pretty much easy and hassle free as far as starting something new is concerned. I used my Facebook biz page to spread the buzz around and would talk about it in my workshops that I would conduct,” adds Kusha Kalra.

“When we think of products for women, we usually think of clothes, bags and shoes, or platforms that promote women-focused content. Building a women-only mass platform where women could invest in themselves, was a new idea, and it took time for investors, users and partners to understand this. However, now this model is already creating an impact, and our platform is now available in Hindi, Marathi and Bangla, and we shall expand to other languages, soon,” says Sairee Chahal.

“I did face many hardships right from the nascent stage of conceptualising the website, dealing with vendors, hiring the right people and building a market strategy. I staunchly believe that before assigning any task, it is crucial to get the hang of the game rather than blindly following people. Keeping that in mind, I also enrolled myself for a six-month digital marketing course to understand the nuances of online marketing. I still recall that there were a lot of nay-sayers in the industry since this is a male-dominated industry and everyone thought I won’t survive and just here to kill time. But I am happy to report that Rugs and Beyond now ships its handmade rugs to customers worldwide,” says Sakshi Talwar.

In entrepreneurship — sometimes one comes across biased clients, consumers and investors. Sometimes, their own family may not support the woman. While such scenarios exist, the key for women is not to lose hope, and to keep working on their dream.

Unfortunately, Gender Bias is Still Prevalent Today. Do You Feel Start-Ups Are Gender Biased Too?

“We still very much live in a patriarchal society with many restrictions on girls. In entrepreneurship — sometimes you come across biased clients, consumers and investors. Sometimes, your family may not support you. While such scenarios exist, the key is not to lose hope, and keep working on your dream. With determination, anything is possible,” says Sairee Chahal.

“I still recall going in for one of my meetings with a potential investor around three years ago and the minute I entered, the first thing I was asked was, ‘Is any male member from your team joining you.’ I was certainly taken aback beyond belief at that time and I retorted by saying, ‘I am enough and can handle everything single-handedly.’  There is still some gender-bias in the Indian Start-up ecosystem, but I staunchly believe that it is not as bad as what it used to be a few years ago,” says Sakshi Talwar.

“I think it’s more of a mindset block. Once you decide you want to start your business, you just need to take action,” says Kusha Kalra.

Fortunately, with the advent of social media and the kind of exposure most girls have, a young woman in today’s day and age doesn’t need approval, is a go-getter, is ambitious and is confident.

Do You Think If Special Attention Is Paid To Women With Ideas From School Days Itself, It Will Help In Boosting Women’s Participation?

“Yes, definitely. I think we need more school projects that sow the seeds of entrepreneurship. Inviting women entrepreneurs to give talks and share their stories — these can be very inspiring for students, and seeing such role models, early on can open up the minds of students to life as an entrepreneur. We should have incubators at the school level itself, to help create curiosity around entrepreneurship. Encouraging it as a vocation early on will also create more jobs and opportunities. It will be 100% beneficial for all,” says Sairee Chahal.

“Absolutely. The foundation of any child-male or female is a very integral part of their growth. As far as girls are concerned, imbibing values, teaching them to be independent and confident certainly helps in the long run. Fortunately, with the advent of social media and the kind of exposure most girls have, a young woman in today’s day and age doesn’t need approval, is a go-getter, is ambitious and is confident,” says Sakshi Talwar.

“Yes, special attention is required to be given to women in school and colleges. There should be various programs and courses made available to help them become tech-savvy, and unleash their business acumen so that there can be a higher percentage of women who are ready to enter the start-up world with their business ideas,” says Kusha Kalra.

As in 2018, only 5.2% of $9.2 billion was allotted to the start-ups with women founder out of the total funding. So 98% of VC Funding goes to men. Do you think allocating a separate fund system for women start-ups might help them bloom?

Do you think allocating a separate fund system for women start-ups might help them bloom?

“I think it’s not enough to merely allot funding for women-led start-ups. We need to build our own ecosystem that is more relevant to women-led start-ups. While all entrepreneurs have similar struggles, when we did a survey within our communities, one of the findings is that women lacked support from families, and hence, we need more communities to be built around women-led start-ups, to create an additional layer of support,” says Sairee Chahal.

“I feel we first need to create awareness of the opportunities that are existing, we need to show the success achieved by women-led start-ups that will act as role models for both men and women. The percentage has increased from last year’s two percent allocation. So it is better to look at the brighter side of things and use success stories and role models to educate more women. Yes, of course, women do need separate allocation of funds and support so that even they can bloom in business. Let’s create an environment of equality and not as we see in the corporate world,” says Kusha Kalra.

“These figures are alarming. Having only 5.2% of 9.2 billion allotted to start-ups with women founder is shocking and this needs to change. I totally think that a separate fund for women founders is the need of the hour since these figures are real numbers and certainly not skewed. Till the ratio of funding for men and women is not 50:50, women founders should certainly have a separate pool of funds to be at par with their male counterparts,” says Sakshi Talwar.

It has been found that women VCs might help Indian Economy to grow at even a faster pace, i.e., it can grow anywhere between 15-60% till 2025. What are your views on this?

“Yes, as I mentioned above female role models will clear the way for more women-led start-ups to rise and get the financial backing without any gender bias,” says Kusha Kalra.

“One must understand that if there are more women in tech or business in general, the economy and the GDP of a country will also grow. All this is directly proportionate to the contribution of male and female founders. So yes, I totally agree that if there are more women VC’s, the Indian economy will certainly grow at a faster pace,” says Sakshi Talwar.

“The number of women venture capitalists is only going to increase, and their portfolios will also get more diverse. I believe this trend is good for the economy, and will impact our GDP in a positive way,” says Sairee Chahal.

Government Policies Encouraging Women To Go Ahead In Entrepreneurship

Skill Upgradation and Quality improvement and Mahila Coir Yojana

Aimed at providing self-employment to the rural women artisans in regions producing coir fibre, Mahila Coir Yojana is a women oriented scheme in the coir industry. The scheme is implemented under the Coir Vikas Yojana by the government. The conversion of coir fibre into yarn provides opportunity to rural women for large-scale employment and earning.

Stree Shakti Package For Women Entrepreneurs

This is a loan provided by the State Bank Of India (SBI). This is a unique scheme aimed at encouraging and supporting entrepreneurship among women by providing certain concession at loans and interest. According to SBI, the benefits of this scheme are;

  • The margin will be lowered by 5% as applicable to separate categories.
  • The interest rate will be lowered by 0.5% in case the loan exceeds Rs 2 lakh.
  • No security is required for loans up to Rs 5 lakh in case of tiny sector units.

Udyogini Scheme

This scheme was started by the Karnataka Government to assist women in becoming independent and self-reliant by accessing business opportunities and fixing a leg in the same. It does do by providing loans to all the women without any discrimination. An application from the corporate bank of the district can be taken and filed. Interest free loans are granted to 88 small-scale industries that include grocery, beauty, fish business etc.

Cent Kalyani Scheme

Started by Central Bank Of India, this scheme aims at encouraging women to set up their own start-ups. The purpose of this scheme is to meet capital and day to day expenditures of the women entrepreneurs. No third-party guarantee is required and the loan limit is 100 lakhs.

Read More: How online Communities Help Women Entrepreneurs

Anushika Srivastava is an Intern with SheThePeople.Tv

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