Entrepreneurship today has multitudinous opportunities, considering the boost that Indian startups have received from the Government and other private organisations. One of the major challenges that a budding entrepreneur faces despite having a brilliant idea is often the financial aspect of it. While successful entrepreneurs-turned-investors have played a significant role in bridging the gaps, there are certain domains that we often fail to address. For example, statistics have indicated the lack of investments in women-led businesses. However, this point fails to surface when most discussions are carried out.
As an investor in a new reality show with a leading media conglomerate of India, my intent was to aid entrepreneurs – especially women entrepreneurs – in their business journeys through mentorship and financial contribution. Remarkably, however, the apparent ratio between male and female-led businesses is quite shocking as you will read further.
India is a land that majorly constitutes a rural citizenry wherein most men are part of the labour force. Women, on the other hand, lead home-based businesses, apart from being part of the work-force and taking care of household chores as tradition has dictated since time immemorial. The research by Women in Informal Employment Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) suggests that a maximum number of rural women are home-based workers. Out of the 58.5 million Indian businesses, only 14% i.e., 8.05 million are led by women entrepreneurs, as the Sixth Economic Census conducted by National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) indicates. The real problems for women entrepreneurs to receive investments lie in the obvious lack of participation of women as business heads. Out of the 14%, women-led businesses, 79% of them are self-financed as per the NSSO research. This indicates that most women use personal savings or loans to start home-based, small-scale businesses owing to the lack of investor reach.
Perceived challenges are another speed-breaker for women entrepreneurial growth, which is strengthened further by a moral and sub-conscious stigma. A recent article that I was going through revealed that women entrepreneurs are first seen as women and then as entrepreneurs, much like how a layman would stereotype a woman driver on the basis of her gender. Regardless of education or high echelons, ministers and influential leaders are often caught making offensive remarks about how women should behave or what they should wear in society. Investors are found to be hesitant in women-led businesses also because there are perceived risks involved.
While women entrepreneurs are on the pathway to capture varied industries and audiences – as the investment by Ratan Tata in many women-led businesses including YourStory, among others has evidently suggested – the prospect of starting a large-scale business needs to seep into our DNA through planning initial investment and considering risks. This means that investors have to perforate all the real and perceived challenges as listed above to reach out to the rural women community to empower them.
Thus, the problem here is much larger than merely the fact that women should receive investments for their businesses. The argument extends much into the grass-root level wherein what we need to address is the issue of making our women more educated and aware about entrepreneurship. The effort needs to center on mentorship which will automatically provide ample encouragement for women into business. Once the visibility and reach factor for women is patched, recognition of talent will be a lot more eased. This avenue of awareness and information dissemination will then be a platform for women to exemplarily breakthrough their real and perceived challenges, setting a stage for other women leaders to shine.
If you look a little harder, India has an immense scope of development. Every problem has a hidden opportunity in it and the capability of becoming a business venture. By adopting a rationalised approach, knowledge will overthrow stereotypes in society, invigorating women to become great business leaders. Therefore, the key takeaway is that although investment is important for budding entrepreneurs in the country that is seeing a burst of talent in the recent past, the discourse here is much larger and needs an operation on the basic, grass-roots level.