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Emergence of Women Entrepreneurs in

India :
Challenges and Opportunities
Prof. Veena Tripathi,
K.J. Somaiya Institute of Management & Research, Mumbai

Of the 1.3 billion people who live in absolute poverty around the globe, 70 percent
are women. For these women, poverty doesnt just mean scarcity and want. It
means rights denied, opportunities curtailed and voice silenced. Woman constitutes
the family, which leads to society and Nation. Social and economic development of
women is necessary for overall economic development of any society or a country.
Entrepreneurship is the state of mind which every woman has in her but has not
been capitalized in India in way in which it should be.

You can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its
Jawaharlal Nehru
Due to change in environment, now people are more comfortable to accept leading
role of women in our society, though there are some exceptions. Our increasing
dependency on service sector has created many entrepreneurial opportunities
especially for women where they can excel their skills with maintaining balance in
their life.
For women, entrepreneurship is a journey from poverty to prosperity, total
dependence to equality, agricultural labor to entrepreneurs in industry and in
service sectors and finally, as opportunity entrepreneurs. It has almost reached a
stage where it is more suitable a profession than getting employed in public /private
organizations which have their own limitations. Women Entrepreneurs are key
players in any developing country particularly in terms of their contribution to
economic development. In recent years, even among the developed countries like

USA and Canada, Women's role in terms of their share in small business has been
The women have achieved immense development in their state of mind. With
increase in dependency on service sector, many entrepreneurial opportunities
especially for women have been created where they can excel their skills with
maintaining balance in their life. Accordingly, during the last two decades,
increasing numbers of Indian women have entered the field of entrepreneurship and
also they are gradually changing the face of business of today, both literally and
figuratively. But still they have not capitalized their potential in India the way it
should be.
Entrepreneurship refers to the act of setting up a new business or reviving an
existing business so as to take advantages from new opportunities. Thus,
entrepreneurs shape the economy by creating new wealth and new jobs and by
inventing new products and services. It is in reality an attitude to create something
new and an activity which creates value in the entire social eco-system. It is the
psyche makeup of a person. It is a state of mind, which develops naturally, based on
his/ her surrounding and experiences, which makes him/ her think about life and
career in a given way.
Women in business are a recent phenomenon in India. By and large they had
confide themselves to petty business and tiny cottage industries. Women
entrepreneurs engaged in business due to push and pull factors. Which encourage
women to have an independent occupation and stands on their on legs. A sense
towards independent decision-making on their life and career is the motivational
factor behind this urge. Saddled with household chores and domestic
responsibilities women want to get independence .Under the influence of these
factors the women entrepreneurs choose a profession as a challenge and as an urge
to do some thing new. Such situation is described as pull factors. While in push
factors women engaged in business activities due to family compulsion and the
responsibility is thrust upon them.
Womens entrepreneurship has been recognized during the last decade as an
important untapped source of economic growth. Women entrepreneurs create new
jobs for themselves and others and by being different also provide society with
different solutions to management, organization and business problems as well as
to the exploitation of entrepreneurial opportunities. However, they still represent a
minority of all entrepreneurs. Thus there exists a market failure discriminating
against womens possibility to become entrepreneurs and their possibility to
become successful entrepreneurs. This market failure needs to be addressed by
policy makers so that the economic potential of this group can be fully utilized.
While without a doubt the economic impact of women is substantial, we still lack a
reliable picture describing in detail that specific impact.

Women Entrepreneurs in India:

Empowering women to be self-dependent by providing them access to all the
freedoms and opportunities, which they were denied in the past only because of
their being women. In a specific sense, women empowerment refers to enhancing
their position in the power structure of the society.
The educated women do not want to limit their lives in the four walls of the house.
They demand equal respect from their partners. However, Indian women have to go
a long way to achieve equal rights and position because traditions are deep rooted
in Indian society where the sociological set up has been a male dominated one.
Women are considered as weaker sex and always made to depend on men folk in
their family and outside, throughout their life. The Indian culture made them only
subordinates and executors of the decisions made by other male members, in the
basic family structure. While at least half the brainpower on earth belongs to
women, women remain perhaps the worlds most underutilized resource. Despite all
the social hurdles, India is brimming with the success stories of women.
India has emerged as the best place for women entrepreneurs to start business with
high level of optimism on various factors that are important to judge business
growth. Ability to learn quickly from her abilities, her persuasiveness, open style of
problem solving, willingness to take risks and chances, ability to motivate people,
knowing how to win and lose gracefully are the strengths of the Indian women
entrepreneurs. Women Entrepreneur in India expect 90 per cent growth in their
business over period of five years compared to 24 per cent and 50 per cent growth
in business expected by entrepreneur in the UK and the US respectively.
In terms of technology usage to promote their business, 74 per cent Indian women
entrepreneur said that their technology need is getting more complex compared to
45 per cent in the US and 51 per cent in the UK.
Around 90 per cent of women entrepreneurs in India said they are using technology
to support day-to-day operations. However, this trend was low in women
entrepreneur in the US and the UK at 80 per cent and 70 per cent respectively.
Women entrepreneurs in India needs an average of $ 9,376 in start-up capital for
business, compared to $ 8,060 required in the UK and $ 19,985 in the US, the study
said. Women entrepreneurs in India and the US find banks or credit unions as most
difficult source for obtaining funds.
Women Entrepreneurs may be defined as the women or a group of women who
initiate, organize and operate a business enterprise. The Government of India has
defined women entrepreneurs as an enterprise owned and controlled by women

having a minimum financial interest of 51 per cent of the capital and giving at least
51 per cent of the employment generated in the enterprise to women.
Despite all the social hurdles, Indian women stand tall from the rest of the crowd
and are applauded for their achievements in their respective field. The
transformation of social fabric of the Indian society, in terms of increased
educational status of women and varied aspirations for better living, necessitated a
change in the life style of Indian women. She has competed with man and
successfully stood up with him in every walk of life and business is no exception for
this. These women leaders are assertive, persuasive and willing to take risks. They
managed to survive and succeed in this cut throat competition with their hard work,
diligence and perseverance.
Historically, an entrepreneur has been a male dominated pursuit, but many of
todays most memorable and inspirational entrepreneurs are women. Several
women entrepreneurs are working hard to prove that, when it comes to starting and
sustaining a business, they are second to none. It is all about breaking tradition and
overcoming mindsets. Despite all social hurdles, many women have been successful
in their works.
Today, the countrys largest private sector bank ICICI is being headed by Chanda
Kochhar. Upcoming contender Axis Bank, which has the largest ATM network, is
being headed by Shikha Sharma. Naina Lal Kidwai heads HSBC India. Zia Mody is a
partner at AZB Partners, one of Indias prominent corporate law firms. Ekta Kapoor
heads Balaji Telefilms and has played a pivotal role in virtually changing the face of
Indian television in the last decade. One of Indias leading Biopharmaceutical
Company Biocon is headed by Kiran M Shaw. Apollo Hospitals is being headed by its
founder Pratap C Reddys four daughters with eldest, Preetha Reddy at the helm of
one of Indias and Asias largest healthcare groups. Such examples are now
becoming commonplace.
Self-employment represents one of the most important job opportunities for women.
This seems to be a correct conclusion independent of what country or type of
economy is observed. Self-employment represents an important job alternative for
many women and perhaps especially for women in developing economies.
A recent survey titled Women & Entrepreneurship in India 2012 Study by Womens
Web interviewed more than 100 women entrepreneurs in India and put together an
interesting set of statistics. Most of the respondents were owners of small to
medium sized businesses, a majority of which reported sub 10 lakh revenue.

Women entrepreneurs need to be lauded for their increased utilization of modern

technology, increased investments, finding a niche in the export market, creating a
sizable employment for others and setting the trend for other women entrepreneurs
in the organized sector. While women entrepreneurs have demonstrated their
potential, the fact remains that they are capable of contributing much more than
what they already are.

Obstacles by Women Entrepreneurs

A woman is an adult, innovative and dynamic person willing to organize, own and
run an enterprise especially commercial one, often at personal financial risk. Due to
orthodox and traditional socio-cultural environment women entrepreneurs face
various problems in the process of establishing, developing and running their
Womens journey mirrors the transformation of the nation from low to high-income
countries. The economic status of the women is now accepted as an indicator of a
stage of development and therefore it becomes imperative for the government to
frame policies enhancing the rights, roles and opportunities of women, for their
betterment in particular and society in general.
Women entrepreneurs play an important role in the entrepreneurial economy, both
in their ability to create jobs for themselves and to create jobs for others. Notwithstanding the remarkable changes
in the position of women in free India, there is still a great divergence between the

position and stark reality of deprivation and degradation. As the real drivers of
global economy, they need both psychological and practical support for starting up
their business.
Women in entrepreneurship has been largely neglected both in society in general
and in the social sciences. Not only have women lower participation rates in
entrepreneurship than men but they also generally choose to start and manage
firms in different industries than men tend to do. The industries (primarily retail,
education and other service industries) chosen by women are often perceived as
being less important to economic development and growth than high-technology
and manufacturing. Furthermore, mainstream research, policies and programmes
tend to be men streamed and too often do not take into account the specific
needs of women entrepreneurs and would-be women entrepreneurs. As a
consequence, equal opportunity between men and women from the perspective of
entrepreneurship is still not a reality.
Womens entrepreneurship is both about womens position in society and the role of
entrepreneurship in the same society. Women are faced with specific obstacles
(such as family responsibilities) that have to be overcome in order to give them
access to the same opportunities as men. Also, in some countries, women may
experience obstacles with respect to holding property and entering contracts.
Increased participation of women in the labor force is a prerequisite for improving
the position of women in society and self-employed women.
In practice most of the upcoming women entrepreneurs face problems that are of
different dimensions and magnitudes than that faced by their male counterparts.
These problems, generally, prevent these women entrepreneurs from realizing their
potential as entrepreneurs. The major hurdles that the women face during starting
and running a company generally come from financing and balancing of life. The
balancing of life is caused due to lack of family support for the women. The other
hindering external factors include gender discrimination, inaccessibility to
information, training opportunities, infrastructure etc. Some internal factors like risk
aversion by women, lack of confidence, lack of vision of strategic leader etc. can
also create obstacles for the women entrepreneurship development.
Most of the women entrepreneurs have begun to appreciate the importance of
Marketing management, that they have not adopted the modern marketing
techniques due to their limitations like small size of their enterprise, limited area of
the market of their products and the like. They face the problem at the time of
starting as well as during operation of their business enterprises, problem of getting
loan and subsidy, insistence of collateral security and margin money requirement,
time taken to process loan, tight repayment schedule, poor financial management
and maintenance of accounts.

Financing the enterprise is another problem faced by the women entrepreneurs.

Most of the entrepreneurs rely on family finance or at the maximum on partners and
Both central and State governments are implementing various assistance, schemes,
for the promotion of women entrepreneurship. But in practice the respondents face
many difficulties in obtaining government assistance due redtapism at various
levels, exploitative advisors, problems due to dishonest officials, complicated and
time consuming long procedures in getting the assistance etc.

Demand Side of Entrepreneurship




Supply Side of Entrepreneurship

All most all the women entrepreneurs irrespective of their education ,age, married
and the unmarried, caste, religion, type of organizations, ownership type,
experience, amount of capital investment , fixed assets find it very difficult to
arrange and get financial assistance as and when they want, hence have ranked the
problem of finance as first in order followed by the problem relating to sales,
competition from other sellers, purchase of raw materials, technical problems and
labor related problems.
The most formidable problem that women normally faced is the problem of
entrepreneurship among them is resistance, apathy, shyness, inhibitions,
conservatism, poor response-all governed by cultural traditional, value system and
social sanction.
There are umpteen problems faced by women at various stages beginning from
their initial commencement of enterprise, in running their enterprise. Their various
challenges are as follows:

Patriarchal Society: Entrepreneurship has been traditionally seen a male

preserve and idea of women taking up entrepreneurial activities
considered as a distant dream. Any deviation from the norm is frowned
and if possible, immediately curbed. Women also have to face role conflict
as soon as they initiate any entrepreneurial activity. It is an uphill task for
women to face such conflicts and cope with the twin role.
Absence of Entrepreneurial Aptitude: Many women take the training by
attending the Entrepreneurship Development Programmes without
entrepreneurial bent of mind. As per a study, involvement of women in
small scale sector as owners stands at mere 7 percent. Women who are
imparted training by various institutes must be verified on account of
aptitude through the tests, interviews etc.
Quality of EDPs: All women entrepreneurs are given the same training
through EDPs. Second-generation women entrepreneurs don't need such
training as they already have the previous exposure to business.
Marketing Problems: Women entrepreneurs continuously face the
problems in marketing their products. It is one of the core problems as this
area is mainly dominated by males and even women with adequate
experience fail to make a dent.
For marketing the products women entrepreneurs have to be at the mercy
of middlemen who pocket the chunk of profit. Although the middlemen
exploit the women entrepreneurs, the elimination of middlemen is
difficult, because it involves a lot of running about. Women entrepreneurs
also find it difficult to capture the market and make their products popular.
Financial Problems: Obtaining the support of bankers, managing the
working capital, lack of credit resources are the problems which still
remain in the males domain. Women are yet to make significant mark in
quantitative terms. Marketing and financial problems are such obstacles
where even training doesn't significantly help the women. Some problems
are structural in nature and beyond the control of entrepreneurs.
Family Conflicts: Women also face the conflict of performing of home role
as they are not available to spend enough time with their families. They
spend long hours in business and as a result, they find it difficult to meet
the demands of their family members and society as well. Their inability to
attend to domestic work, time for education of children, personal hobbies,
and entertainment adds to their conflicts.

Credit Facilities: Though women constitute about 50 per cent of

population, the percentage of small scale enterprise where women own 51
percent of share capital is less than 5 percent. Women are often denied
credit by bankers on the ground of lack of collateral security. Therefore,
women's access to risk capital is limited.
The complicated procedure of bank loans, the inordinate delay in
obtaining the loans and running about involved do deter many women
from venturing out. At the same time, a good deal of self- employment
programme has been promoted by the govt. and commercial banks.
Shortage of raw-materials: Women entrepreneurs encounter the problems
of shortage of raw-materials. The failure of many women co-operations in
1971 such as these engaged in basket making were mainly because of the
inadequate availability of forest-based raw materials.
Heavy Competition: Many of the women enterprises have imperfect
organizational set up. But they have to face severe competition from
organized industries.
High cost of production: High cost of production undermines the efficiency
and stands in the way of development and expansion of women's
enterprises, government assistance in the form of grant and subsidies to
some extent enables them to tide over the difficult situations. However, in
the long run, it would be necessary to increase efficiency and expand
productive capacity and thereby reduce cost to make their ultimate
survival possible, other than these, women entrepreneurs so face the
problems of labor, human resources, infrastructure, legal formalities,
overload of work, lack of family support, mistrust etc.
In today's scenario when India is turning out to be an economic power house, the
recent financial crisis which has affected countries has had its impact on the minds
of women as they have understood the need to earn more. At this juncture it is high
time to exploit the potential of Indian women. Womens socio-economic
empowerment is a key to achieving overall development of society.
Development of women has been a policy objective of the government since
independence. Until the 70s the concept of womens development was mainly
welfare oriented. In 1970s, there was a shift from welfare approach to development
approach that recognized the mutually reinforcing nature of the process of
development. The 80s adopted a multi-disciplinary approach with an emphasis on
three core areas of health, education and employment.

Women were given priorities in all the sectors including SSI sector. Government and
non government bodies have paid increasing attention to womens economic
contribution through self employment and industrial ventures. At present, the
Government of India has over 27 schemes for women operated by different
departments and ministries. The efforts of government and its different agencies
are ably supplemented by NGOs that are playing an equally important role in
facilitating women empowerment. Despite concerted efforts of governments and
NGOs there are certain gaps.
Efforts are being taken at the economy as brought promise of equality of
opportunity in all spheres to the Indian women and laws guaranteed equal rights of
participation in political process and equal opportunities and rights in education and
employment were enacted. A new talent pool of women entrepreneurs is forming
today, as more women opt to leave corporate world to chart their own destinies.
They are flourishing as designers, interior decorators, exporters, publishers,
garment manufacturers and still exploring new avenues of economic participation.
Resurgence of entrepreneurship is the need of the hour emphasizing on educating
women strata of population, spreading awareness and consciousness amongst
women to outshine in the enterprise field, making them realize their strengths, and
important position in the society and the great contribution they can make for their
industry as well as the entire economy. Women entrepreneurship must be molded
properly with entrepreneurial traits and skills to meet the changes in trends,
challenges global markets and also be competent enough to sustain and strive for
excellence in the entrepreneurial arena.
Women Entrepreneur is a person who accepts challenging role to meet her personal
needs and become economically independent. A strong desire to do something
positive is an inbuilt quality of entrepreneurial women, who is capable of
contributing values in both family and social life. With the advent of media, women
are aware of their own traits, rights and also the work situations. The challenges
and opportunities provided to the women of digital era are growing rapidly that the
job seekers are turning into job creators.
Thereafter, several other literatures were shown like.

In the paper Women Entrepreneurship in India Problem and Prospects,

Meenu Goyal and Jai Prakash, objective of study was to evaluate the factors
responsible for encouraging women to become entrepreneurs. The study is
based on secondary data which is collected from the published reports of RBI,
NABARD, Census Surveys, SSI Reports, newspapers, journals, websites, etc.
The paper also discusses the impact of assistance by the government on
womens entrepreneurship also the policies, programs, institutional network

and the involvement








Women Entrepreneruship in India : Opportunities and challenges, Gurendra Nath

Bhardwaj ,Swati Parashar , Dr. Babita Pandey ,Puspamita Sahu : An Empirical
study is intended to find out various motivating and de-motivating internal and
external factors of women entrepreneurship. It is an attempt to quantify some for
non parametric factors to give the sense of ranking these factors. It was
observed that the difference among various set of people of the crucial factors
which are concerned with the women entrepreneurial opportunities at large. The
study was based on secondary data and primary. The data has been collected
from the female PGDM students & faculty members only.

Problems of Women Entrepreneurs in Coimbatore , Dr.G. Jayammal, where the

research study has been conducted to study the problems of women
entrepreneurs with special reference to some selected units in Coimbatore
District of the state of Tamil Nadu . Objective of the study has been to understand
the socioeconomic back-ground of women entrepreneurs, and their problems in
running their enterprises efficiently and profitably.

Developing womens Entrepreneurship and E-Business in Green Cooperatives in

the Asian and Pacific Region , United Nations ESCAP : This guidebook was
developed by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
(ESCAP) in partnership with the Asia Pacific Womens Information Network Center
(APWINC) as part of one of many activities of the ESCAP project entitled
Establishment of Sustainable e-Business and Network for Green Cooperative
Enterprises for Women in Rural Communities, which was funded by the
Government of the Republic of Korea. This publication is a result of Phase I of the
ESCAP project Establishment of Sustainable EBusiness and Network for Green
Cooperative Enterprises for Women in Rural Communities in the Asian and Pacific
Region that was implied during the 2006.

An Empirical Investigation on the Expectation of women entrepreneurs in

Tirunelveli district of
Tamilnadu, S. Vargheese Antony Jesurajan and S. Varghees Prabhu : where
the objective of the
study was to analyze the expectations of women
entrepreneurs in Tirunelveli district. The data analysis was carried out with
the sample 300 women entrepreneurs

In their article, Female Executives and Entrepreneurs: Preliminary

Comparision, Sextan and Kent (1981), reported the results of a study
comparing the characteristics of women entrepreneurs and executives. The
results showed that women entrepreneurs were better educated. They

tended to place a slightly higher emphasis on their job than on their family.
The results further indicated that women entrepreneurs tended to be more
similar than dissimilar.

In his study, Small Business Opportunities for Women in Jamaica, Nelson

(1991,) revealed
that women were concentrated in businesses which
required the least capital outlay or an extension of household activities. The
study also revealed that women entrepreneurs were dependent on their
business to maintain their homes and support their families.
- In Women Entrepreneurship Development: Strengthening BDS Providers and
Improving the Market Access for Women Entrepreneurs, the organization
Womens Entrepreneurs Associations (IWAPI), Aceh Ka Bangkit, Bejreuh, and
CCDE close collaboration with the BRRs Economic Development Department
and the Provincial Department of Industry and Trade where the project proposal
was on International Labour Organization in ACEH programme, Indonesia. This
proposal to NZAID for an additional allocation of US$ 400,000 proposes to build
on the lessons learnt from phase 1 to:
Build the capacity of business development services providers (BDSPs) to
better service
women entrepreneurs
Directly improve access to markets (marketing) for Acehnese women

In the paper Empowerment of Indian Women: A Challenge of 21st Century ,

Dr. Dasarathi Bhuyan discusses about the Women Empowerment- still an
illusion of reality where the discussion was majorly focus on different issues
faced by women.

In the 2nd OECD conference of ministers for small and medium sized
enterprises in Istanbul discussion was done on Women Entrepreneurship:
Issues and Policies Promoting Entrepreneurship and Innovative SMEs in a
Global Economy : Towards a more responsible and inclusive Globalization. In
the discussion key policy recommendations was put to encourage women
entrepreneurs in the form of Risk and Reward framework for Women

Kaplan (1988) in her article, Women Entrepreneurs: Constructing a

Framework to Examine Venture Success and Failure, stated that women
entrepreneurs were more concerned with creating employment for
themselves rather than developing into entrepreneurs.


Xiaoping Tian and Barbara Bird (1989) in their research paper, Women
Entrepreneurs: The Satisfaction of Self-Employment, discussed the effect of
undertaking a venture on the women entrepreneurs life at work and outside
the work place. The study revealed that women entrepreneurs who were
unable to achieve satisfaction in other parts of their lives got more
satisfaction from work.

Steps taken by AWAKe : Association of Women Entrepreneurs of Karnataka :

Empowerment through Entrepreneurship shows a direction of women
empowerment movement in Karnataka.

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