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Empowering Women Entrepreneurship through Academics in India

Networking and mentorship are fundamental for business growth. However, women often encounter limited access to networks that can propel their ventures forward

Education Post29 November 2023 08:55

Empowering Women Entrepreneurship through Academics in India

The entrepreneurial landscape of India is undergoing a dynamic transformation with the surge of women entrepreneurs as a remarkable gift. No longer confined by conventional norms, women are carving out their places as successful entrepreneurs across diverse sectors, prompting a closer look at the role of academics in catalyzing this transformation.

Gone are the days when entrepreneurship was a male-dominated domain in India. Today, women entrepreneurs are standing at the forefront of innovation, driving change, and fostering economic growth. Recent reports indicate a substantial rise in the number of women-led startups, spanning areas from technology to sustainability. This shift reflects a broader societal evolution that recognizes and values the potential of women as business leaders.

Achievements and Contributions

The achievements of women entrepreneurs in India are no longer confined to the periphery. They are making ground-breaking strides in various sectors, challenging conventions, and establishing themselves as visionary leaders. From tech-driven solutions to socially conscious enterprises, women are showcasing their versatility and determination. What sets them apart is their ability to identify unique business opportunities and their commitment to making a meaningful impact on society. Womenled ventures often exhibit a strong sense of corporate social responsibility, contributing to civil society through job creation, community engagement, and sustainable practices.

As the narrative shifts towards recognizing the invaluable contributions of women entrepreneurs, it becomes essential to explore the avenues through which their potential can be maximized. One such avenue is academia, which holds the power to nurture their skills, provide strategic guidance, and create an ecosystem that fosters sustainable success. In the subsequent sections of this article, we will delve deeper into how academic institutions are playing a pivotal role in empowering women entrepreneurs, thereby strengthening the civil society fabric of India.

Women entrepreneurs in India encounter a multitude of obstacles that often impede their progress. These challenges, deeply rooted in societal norms, necessitate a comprehensive approach involving academia and civil society to address them effectively. In this exploration, we will delve into the multifaceted challenges faced by women entrepreneurs and how the combined efforts of educational institutions and civil society can pave the way for their success.

Societal stereotypes and gender biases persist as formidable barriers in the path of women entrepreneurs. Preconceived notions about women’s roles frequently give rise to skepticism regarding their entrepreneurial capabilities. Academia can play a pivotal role in challenging these biases by promoting inclusive education that encourages young minds to consider entrepreneurship as a viable option, regardless of gender.

Securing financial support remains a significant obstacle for women entrepreneurs. Deep-rooted gender biases impact their ability to access funding and investment opportunities. Academic institutions can bridge this gap by offering training in financial literacy and by helping women understand the intricacies of securing funding. Furthermore, civil society initiatives can establish avenues for women to access capital through microfinance programs and community-driven investment networks.

Networking and mentorship are fundamental for business growth. However, women often encounter limited access to networks that can propel their ventures forward. Academic institutions can introduce mentorship programs that connect aspiring women entrepreneurs with experienced industry leaders. Civil society organizations can further facilitate networking events that foster collaboration and learning.

The delicate balance between work and family responsibilities poses a significant challenge for women entrepreneurs. Academia can address this by incorporating work-life balance and time management discussions into their curriculum. Civil society can offer support through childcare services and flexible work arrangements.

Skill gaps and a lack of training opportunities hinder women’s entrepreneurship journeys. Academic institutions can design specialized courses tailored to the needs of women entrepreneurs, equipping them with practical skills and knowledge. Complementing this, civil society initiatives can offer vocational training and workshops on essential business skills.

By recognizing and addressing these challenges, academia and civil society can collaborate to create an environment where women entrepreneurs not only survive but thrive. In the upcoming segments of this series, we will delve deeper into the pivotal role that academia plays in shaping the entrepreneurs of tomorrow through inclusive education and mentorship programs. Stay tuned for further insights on how India’s civil society can amplify these efforts and advocate for gender equality in entrepreneurship.

Dr. Rajni Aggarwal, President of the Federation of Indian Women Entrepreneurs (FIWE) says, “In my perspective, the fusion of academia and women entrepreneurship in India holds immense promise. By integrating entrepreneurship education into academic curricula and creating supportive environments like exclusive industrial estates, we can empower women to realize their full potential. This synergy not only fosters economic growth but also creates a vibrant ecosystem where women are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to excel as entrepreneurs.”

“It’s a transformative approach that not only benefits individual women entrepreneurs but contributes significantly to India’s societal and economic development. Together, academia, civil society, and women entrepreneurs can embark on a journey of empowerment and inclusivity, rewriting the narrative of women in business,” she adds.

Usha Jha, President of the Bihar Mahila Udyog Sangh (BMUS) says, “In the context of women’s entrepreneurship in civil society through academics in India, I want to stress the importance of education and awareness. When women have knowledge and skills, they become strong leaders and contributors to society. We must focus on reaching rural areas where many talented women reside. By nurturing their abilities and providing opportunities, we uplift these women and strengthen the nation’s economy. The journey from classrooms to enterprises is transformative, promising a brighter future for women and the entire community. True empowerment comes from education, and every woman, regardless of her background, deserves the chance to shine.”

Collaboration of Academia and Civil Society

In the vibrant landscape of India’s entrepreneurial sector, a remarkable partnership has emerged as a potent catalyst for change – the fusion of academia and civil society. This dynamic alliance is on a mission to empower women entrepreneurs, recognizing their untapped potential and working tirelessly to provide the essential tools, knowledge, and support needed for their success.

The synergy between academia and civil society is nothing short of a game-changer in the quest to support women entrepreneurs. These two distinct realms bring their unique strengths to the table, resulting in a holistic approach that nurtures a thriving ecosystem for female business leaders. On one hand, academic institutions are at the forefront, offering specialized training, education, and skill development programs tailored to the specific needs of aspiring women entrepreneurs. This educational support equips them with the expertise required to navigate the intricate and often challenging world of business. Simultaneously, civil society organizations play a pivotal role in creating a supportive environment by building networks and advocating for policy changes that promote gender equality in entrepreneurship.

The success stories emerging from collaborative initiatives are a testament to the effectiveness of this approach. Within the hallowed halls of universities, incubation centers have been established, acting as fertile grounds for budding businesswomen. These centers provide a nurturing environment, granting access to invaluable resources, mentorship, and networking opportunities. Across a spectrum of industries, from technology-driven startups to sustainable ventures, these collaborative programs have played a pivotal role in shaping success stories that inspire and resonate.

However, one of the cornerstones of this academia-civil society collaboration is the emphasis on mentorship. This facet of the partnership is transformative, bringing established women entrepreneurs, academic experts, and industry leaders together to guide and mentor the next generation of businesswomen. Through this mentorship, aspiring entrepreneurs gain access to a wealth of experiences, insights, and practical advice, effectively bridging the gap between theory and practice. This not only instils confidence but also provides the real-world knowledge needed to navigate the complex landscape of entrepreneurship.

The impact of this collaborative mentorship cannot be overstated. Women who once hesitated to step into the entrepreneurial arena are now finding their footing with the guidance and support of their mentors. These mentors, often drawing from their own journeys, offer invaluable perspectives, strategies, and solutions that are deeply rooted in practicality. As a result, aspiring women entrepreneurs are better prepared to overcome obstacles, seize opportunities, and establish themselves as formidable forces in their respective industries.

This remarkable partnership between academia and civil society is far from a passing trend; it’s a sustainable and evolving model for change. As more women gain access to specialized education and mentorship opportunities, the ripple effects are profound. With every success story, the stereotype-defying achievements of women entrepreneurs are challenging conventional norms and reshaping societal perceptions. Furthermore, these empowered women are not only contributing to economic growth but also championing social causes and sustainability, reflecting a broader commitment to positive change.

Basically, the collaboration between academia and civil society stands as a beacon of hope and progress in the quest to empower women entrepreneurs in India. This synergistic approach, which leverages education, mentorship, and advocacy, is breaking down barriers and creating a landscape where women can thrive as entrepreneurial leaders. The transformative power of this partnership extends beyond individual success stories; it is rewriting the narrative of gender equality and inclusivity in the business world, inspiring a new generation of women to chase their entrepreneurial dreams and make a lasting impact on society.

Looking to the Future

As the collaborative efforts between academia and civil society continue to gain momentum, a promising vision for the future of women entrepreneurship in India emerges. This vision transcends mere business success, aiming to create a transformative shift in societal perceptions and economic landscapes.

Through targeted educational programs and initiatives, the collaboration between academia and civil society is poised to narrow the gender gap in entrepreneurship significantly. By providing equal access to education, mentorship, and resources, more women will be empowered to step into leadership roles, challenging traditional norms and contributing to a more diverse and inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The success of women entrepreneurs translates into tangible economic benefits for India. Increased women-led businesses stimulate job creation, boost innovation, and contribute to GDP growth. Moreover, these ventures often prioritize social impact, addressing pressing issues such as healthcare, education, and environmental sustainability. As women entrepreneurs thrive, so does the broader community.

The empowerment of women entrepreneurs is not confined to their individual ventures; it ripples across society. When women have equal opportunities to harness their potential, innovation flourishes. Diverse perspectives lead to fresh ideas, novel solutions, and breakthrough innovations. Thus, fostering women entrepreneurship becomes a catalyst for overall progress and development.

Recent data paints a compelling picture of the upward trajectory of women entrepreneurs in India. As per the National Sample Survey (NSS) 73rdRound report (July 2015 to June 2016), 19.5 percent of the total unincorporated nonagricultural proprietary enterprises were owned by women, employing 22 to 27 million people. As per the report titled “Decoding Government Support to Women Entrepreneurs in India’ on the NITI Aayog website women’s economic contribution in India accounts for 17% of the GDP. This growth is indicative of the changing landscape where women are increasingly venturing into business ownership, encouraged by greater access to resources and evolving societal norms.

There are no official reports on the global ranking of Women entrepreneurship. However, a private study “MasterCard Index of Women Entrepreneurs 2021” ranks India at 57th position out of a total of 65 countries. The Index uses 12 indicators to create three components: women’s advancement outcomes; knowledge assets, financial access and entrepreneurial supporting conditions for constructing the Index.

The Report of the Expert Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, published by the Reserve Bank of India in June 2019 has identified access to credit as one of the major challenges faced by MSMEs, including women owned MSMEs.

To encourage entrepreneurship among women, the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) implements various schemes. The Ministry implements Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP), which is a major credit-linked subsidy programme aimed at generating self-employment opportunities through establishment of micro-enterprises in the non-farm sector by helping traditional artisans and rural/urban unemployed youth. For beneficiaries belonging to special categories such as Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe/ OBC /minorities/women, ex-serviceman, physically handicapped, NER, Hill and Border areas, etc., higher subsidy is given.

The Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro, and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE),which was jointly set up by the Ministry of MSME, Government of India and Small Industries Development Bank of India to strengthen credit delivery system and to facilitate flow of credit to the MSE sector, create access to finance for unserved, under-served and underprivileged, making availability of finance from conventional lenders to new generation entrepreneurs, provides guarantee cover to collateral and/or third party guarantee free credit facilities extended by eligible Member Lending Institution [MLIs] to Micro and Small Enterprises. CGTMSE has increased the extent of guarantee coverage of credit to 85% for women entrepreneurs. As an additional concession to Women Entrepreneurs, CGTMSE has reduced the Annual Guarantee Fee by 10%.

The Ministry also implements several other schemes for the promotion and development of MSMEs, including women-owned MSMEs, namely, Micro and Small Enterprises Cluster Development Programme (MSE-CDP), Tool Rooms & Technology Centres, Scheme of Fund for Regeneration of Traditional Industries (SFURTI), Procurement and marketing Support Scheme, Entrepreneurship and Skill Development Programme (ESDP), etc. Contrary to some misconceptions, women-led ventures exhibit remarkable resilience and success. A study by the Indian School of Business found that startups founded or co-founded by women have a higher survival rate compared to those solely led by men. This defies stereotypes and underscores the potential for significant returns on investments in women’s entrepreneurial endeavors.

Academic institutions and civil society organizations have emerged as catalysts for women’s entrepreneurial growth. Initiatives like mentoring programs, business incubators, and skill development workshops have led to the rise of success stories. For instance, the ‘Women Entrepreneurship Platform’ launched by NITI Aayog has facilitated networking, funding, and capacity-building opportunities for women entrepreneurs, resulting in a tangible impact on their businesses.

Call to Action: Driving Continued Collaboration

  1. Encouraging Participation in Mentorship Programs Mentorship is a pivotal tool for women’s entrepreneurship. Encouraging experienced entrepreneurs, both men and women, to mentor aspiring women entrepreneurs can provide invaluable guidance, help navigate challenges, and nurture innovation.
  2. Advocating for Gender-Inclusive Policies Governments and industry bodies play a crucial role in creating an enabling environment. Advocacy for policies that support women’s entrepreneurship, such as equal access to financing, maternity benefits for self-employed women, and gender-sensitive regulations, can level the playing field.
  3. Supporting Initiatives Bridging the Gender Gap Collaboration between academic institutions, civil society, and the private sector is vital. Funding research, offering tailored educational programs, and establishing women-centric entrepreneurship centers can amplify the impact of these initiatives.

The synergy between academia, civil society, and aspiring women entrepreneurs is a recipe for transformative change. When women are provided with the necessary skills, resources, and support, they become agents of economic and social transformation. The path to women’s empowerment through entrepreneurship is one where innovation knows no gender boundaries. As more women break barriers and succeed, they inspire the next generation of trailblazers. The empowerment of women entrepreneurs goes beyond business profits. It’s about building more equitable societies, where women have an equal stake in shaping the future. India can secure a brighter, more inclusive tomorrow by fostering an environment that champions women’s entrepreneurship.

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