Women Entrepreneurs - Opportunities and Challenges
Women entrepreneurship has been getting growing recognition over the past two decades across the world. Women entrepreneurs not only generate new jobs for themselves but also for others. They provide society with different solutions to management, organisation and business problems. Women owned businesses are playing a pivotal role in the upsurge of entrepreneurial activity in the United States. It is reported that the highest number of self employed women are in Sweden followed by England, France and USA. In general, women are attracted to retail trade, restaurants, hotels, education, insurance and manufacturing. In our country, women constitute only 5.2 per cent of the total self employed persons in India. Majority of them opted for agriculture, agro based industries, handicrafts, handlooms, cottage industries but in 2011 (2011 census) it has improved to 25 percent.
Women entrepreneurship is gaining importance in India in the wake of economic liberalisation and globalisation. The policy and institutional framework for nurturing entrepreneurial skills, imparting vocation education and training has widened the horizon for economic empowerment of the women. However, women constitute one third of the economic enterprise. There are scores of successful women entrepreneurs both in economic and social fields in India.
Thus, a stage has been already set for social take-off of women from a low development path to an accelerated pace in achieving higher level of self sustaining economic growth in the wake of new economic policy 1991.
According to Schumpeter’s concept, “Women who innovate, imitate or adopt a business activity are known as women entrepreneurs”.
Government of India based on women participation in equity and employment of business enterprise has defined women entrepreneurs as “An enterprise owned and controlled by a women having a minimum financial interest of 51% of the capital and giving at least 51% of the employment generated in the enterprise to women.”
Women entrepreneurs are bestowed with numerous business opportunities depending upon their area, choice of industry, capacity to invest, technical and non-technical skills etc.,
When a woman decides to become an entrepreneur she has extensive opportunities to tap into. The following are the opportunities unfolding in different spheres of commerce.
i. In the sphere of manufacturing women can start ventures like Agarbathi manufacturing, papad making, bedspread making, embroidery, export of handicrafts, apparel manufacturing, sweet stalls, manufacturing soft drinks, pickle making , manufacturing garments, handicrafts, printing press etc.
ii. In the sphere of service industries, women entrepreneurs may try their hand in ventures like catering service, computer centres, tutorial centres, Typewriting institutes, beauty parlours, dry cleaning, small restaurants, tailoring, crèche, florist shops, event management etc.,
iii. In the realm of trading ventures, women can enter the ventures like fancy stores, diagnostic centres, milk distribution, sweet stalls, drug stores, grocery stores, textile retailing, cool drinks parlour, coffee parlour, cell phone repairs, photo studios, photocopier firms, working women’s hostel etc.,
iv. Highly educated, experienced and broadly exposed women technocrats can start larger venture like running hospitals, coaching centres, diagnostic laboratories, manufacturing activities, suited to their field of specialisation, advertisement and media firms, call centres, hotels etc.,
All Banks in India provide financial support to the women Entrepreneur, in the form of micro small loans to buy Raw Materials and Equipments.
Women entrepreneurs are provided with the following non-financial support in the form of :
i. Putting in Policies, regulations and legal structures suitable to women entrepreneurs
ii. Financial counselling and training
iii. Business advisory service
iv. Handling legal barriers
v. Establishing Commercial linkages
vi. Client research
vii. Profitability and Efficiency analysis
viii. Offering and designing the products based on their needs
ix. Lower rate of interest
x. Collateral free loans
xi. Simplified processing system
xii. Flexible repayment system based on business nature
There are various associations like Self Help Groups (SHG), Federation of Indian Women Entrepreneurs (FIWE), Women’s India Trust (WIT), Small Industries Development organisation (SIDO), National Bank for AgricultureandRuralDevelopment(NABARD), Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), Association of Women Entrepreneurs of Karnataka (AWAKE), The International Centre for Entrepreneurship and Career Development, TiEStree Shakti (TSS), Tamilnadu Corporation for Development of Women Ltd. (TNCDW), Marketing Organisation of Women Enterprises (MOOWES), Women Entrepreneurs Promotion Association (WEPA), Women Entrepreneurs Association of Tamil Nadu (WEAT)andWeoW by Google are aggressively promoting women entrepreneurship in India.
Similarly, MSE cluster development programme bear a substantial portion of the project cost in respect of ventures owned and managed by women entrepreneurs. The percentage of guarantee given by Credit Guarantee Fund Scheme for Micro and Small Enterprises extend upto 80% for MSEs owned and operated by women.
Government both Union and Central have put in a number of schemes exclusively for promotion of women entrepreneurship namely:
i. Stand-Up India Scheme for Women Entrepreneurs
ii. Trade related Entrepreneruship Assistance and Development (TREAD) Scheme for Women
iii. Mahila Coir Yojana
iv. Mahila E-haat
v. Magalir Udavi Scheme
vi. Prime Minister’s RozgarYojana (PMRY)
vii. Development of Women and Children in Rural India (DWCRA)
viii. Mudra Yojana Scheme for Women
ix. Udyogini Scheme
Government of India has introduced National Skill Development Policy and National Skill Development Mission in 2009 in order to provide skill training, vocational education and entrepreneurship development to the emerging work force. This has been catalysing the emergence of women entrepreneurs in India. The following training schemes are being implemented for promoting self employment of women by Government of India.
1. Support for Training and Employment Programme of Women (STEP)
2. Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas (DWCRA)
3. Small Industry Service Institutes
4. State Financial Corporations
5. National Small Industries Corporations
6. District Industrial Centres
Consortium of Women Entrepreneurs of India (CWEI) was registered as a civil society in the year 1996 which is a non-profit organisation in New Delhi. It is accredited by Government of India. It is a member of National Board, Ministry of MSME and is working closely with Ministry of Rural Development in the Public Private Partnership to support below poverty line families in India. They are rendering the following functions:
i. They are acting as a springboard for enterprises started by the women.
ii. It is helping women achieve high economic empowerment.
iii. It is acting as a catalyst to improve the access of womenfolk to natural resources.
iv. It is providing technological support in the sphere of product design and development in the case of women owned enterprises.
v. It is providing quality control, marketing and technological supports to women owned enterprises.
vi. It is spreading knowledge to women entrepreneurs about various government schemes.
In sum, it can be stated that women consortium is an agency providing a comprehensive service of various types to women owned enterprises.
Though there is a tremendous growth in the women entrepreneurship in India, a number of research studies conducted in India have brought out the following problems and challenges encountered by women entrepreneurs during the course of their entrepreneurial journey.
1. Problem of Finance
The access of women to external sources of funds is limited as they do not generally own properties in their own name. Financial institutions too do not consider women in general creditworthy as they are sceptical of their entrepreneurial capabilities of women. They impose stringent condition which discourages women to avail themselves of loan assistance from banks. In this context, they are pushed to rely on their own savings and small loans from friends and relatives. Because of the limited funds, women entrepreneurs are not able to effectively and efficiently run and expand their business.
2. Limited Mobility
Indian women cannot afford to shed their household responsibilities towards their family even after they plunge into the venture started by them. This restricts the mobility of women entrepreneur significantly. The domestic responsibilities do not allow women entrepreneurs to freely move out of business enterprises in connection with business activities.
3. Lack of Education
Illiterate and semi -literate women entrepreneurs encounter a lot of challenges in their entrepreneurial journey with respect to maintaining accounts, understanding money matters, day-to-day operations of the company, marketing the products, applying technology etc., This reduces the efficiency of operating the business successfully.
4. Lack of Network Support
The successful operation of any venture irrespective of the size depends upon the network of support extended by various constituencies like family members, friends, relatives, acquaintances, neighbours, institutions and so on. Women entrepreneurs need much needed psychological support and wiser counselling especially during the time they actually encounter challenges. But it is reported that women entrepreneurs get very limited support in times of crisis from most of these constituencies.
5. Stiff Competition
Women entrepreneurs have to face acute competition for their goods from organised sector and from their male counterparts. Since they are not able to spend liberally due to financial constraints, they are not able to compete effectively and efficiently in the market.
Women are more prone to a variety of emotions. Being mother, women are vulnerable to many emotions. They tend to have sympathy and empathy for others. This trait does not allow women entrepreneurs to take objective decisions in many contexts during the course of running the entrepreneurial venture. Besides, the weak emotions do not allow them to tolerate failures and disappointments arising during the normal course of their entrepreneurial journey. This inherently tone downs the effectiveness of their functioning.
7. Lack of Information
Women entrepreneurs are reported not to be generally aware of subsidies and incentives available for them due to their poor literacy levels or due to their pre occupation with household responsibilities. This lack of knowledge or limited knowledge about subsidies prevents them from availing themselves of special concessions, benefits and incentives awarded by Government and other agencies.
8. Dependent culture
In India, women however educated and talented are groomed to be dependent on their parents, life partners and children during the various phases of their life cycle. They could not take decisions on their own in many contexts due to this dependency factor. They have to take permission from their support groups to engage in any purposeful and gainful activity. They are not treated as equals unlike women in western countries. This cultural barrier does not allow them to start and manage their ventures according to their free will and pleasure.