In 2018, a young entrepreneur from Jaipur registered a business selling beeswax candles. She worked with tribal women artisans from marginalized village communities across India to create safe, sustainable products. In just a few years, she has grown her business manifold and helped generate livelihood opportunities for over 800 women.
Meanwhile, another entrepreneur from Maharashtra was trying to make her mark. Coming from a community where women did not work, she convinced her husband to let her become a part of their family business. Today, she is at the helm, and her business of making statues has grown internationally. Taking this step changed her role in her own family, empowering other women in the community to seek financial independence.
Women entrepreneurs are a catalyst of change in Indian communities – becoming role models, creating opportunities, and uplifting the societies they operate in.
More than an economic growth story
Undoubtedly, women entrepreneurs are a vital part of India’s growth. According to a report by Google and Bain & Company, there are 13.5–15.7 million women-owned enterprises in India, representing 20% of all Indian enterprises. The World Economic Forum considers empowering women’s entrepreneurship as key to economic recovery. But women-owned businesses are more than just contributors to GDP. Women’s unique role in the community, the family structure and in child-rearing makes them critical agents of change. They contribute significantly to economic development and poverty reduction and empowerment of people and communities around them by changing social mindsets, breaking biases, and creating more collaborative and less discriminatory workplace cultures.
Today women entrepreneurs in India are shaping and changing the future of communities by:
- Improving standards of living Women entrepreneurs add to the income flowing into their households. They are also more likely to improve the economic welfare of the area they live in. By employing people from the community, they improve the social and economic parameters of their locality.
- Fostering inclusiveness and breaking biases – Women entrepreneurs are more likely to promote more meaningful social and cultural changes in gender norms than their male counterparts. They decrease restrictive barriers for others entering the field, form more collaborative and trustful partnerships, and inspire more long-lasting changes to make their industries more accessible and inclusive. Our data shows that 75% of employees in the women-led enterprises we support are women.
- Strengthening the future generations – Promoting entrepreneurship provides women with the resources to finance their children’s education and nutrition needs. A study showed that 65% of women entrepreneurs spend most of their income on food and 53% on children’s education, helping lay the foundation for better educated and healthier generations. A good example is in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, where women farmers who built watershed projects to build nutri-gardens ended up improving their families’ diets with fresh home-grown vegetables.
- Blazing a trail for other women – Contributing to the family’s finances gives women more autonomy in decision making, mobility, financial independence, a stronger voice in the household, and more empowerment about their reproductive health. In addition, by stepping outside the constraints of their communities, women entrepreneurs become role models for other women to take similar steps and gain financial freedom.
Investing in the future of India
Despite their potential to catalyze economic and social growth, women entrepreneurs in India are fighting an uphill battle. They struggle with social constructs, biases, and an ecosystem that is heavily skewed in favor of their male counterparts. There is an urgent need to invest in creating supportive ecosystems and to bring together allies who can together catalyze women’s entrepreneurship in India.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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