August 31, 2018 Yes Institute

An Ecosystem for women entrepreneurship

Author : Rana Kapoor, MD & CEO, YES Bank and Chairman, YES Global Institute

This article appeared in The Hindu Business Line, July 23, 2018

To foster inclusive growth, we must work towards ensuring that at least 25% of entrepreneurs are women by 2025

Today’s women have broken the glass ceiling and scaled new frontiers in business and industry, bringing fresh ideas into the commercial and tech landscape of India. These innovations are actively reshaping engineering, technology, design, handicrafts, weaving, shoe-making, agriculture, organic farming and other cultural and creative industries.

The recent World Economic Forum meeting at Davos adds to this notion of the new age women entrepreneur, putting out a call to bring up an equal number of women, in the labour force. This equalisation can enhance the Gross Domestic Product of a developing country like India by over 27 per cent.

As professional entrepreneurs, women are truly living their dreams. India has developed a vibrant entrepreneurial landscape aided by several progressive initiatives and measures instituted by the government. Today, with more than 20,000 start-ups, India has emerged as the second largest start-up ecosystem in the world and is expected to grow at 10-12 per cent year-on-year. It is heartening to see that India jumped 50 places in the overall ‘Ease of Doing Business’ rankings and this is just another reason to keep ploughing ahead full steam towards ensuring a groundswell for women leadership in the country.

With women comprising over 48 per cent of the country’s population, it is impossible to think of economic growth without women as the fundamental drivers of change. It is projected that by 2025, India’s GDP will get an additional boost of 16 per cent, by integrating women into the workforce. The theme of the 8th edition of Global Entrepreneurship Summit, ‘Women first, Prosperity for all’ highlighted that when women do better, countries do better. To achieve inclusive and equitable socio-economic growth, we must ensure that at least 25 per cent of entrepreneurs in the country are women by 2025.

According to the Sixth Economic Census by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), only 14 per cent businesses in India are run by women. It is estimated that over 90 per cent of finance requirement for women entrepreneurs is met through informal channels since they are unable to source formal, collateral free and transparent financing for their enterprises.

This is further validated by the MasterCard Index of Women Entrepreneurs 2018 (MIWE) which observed that cultural bias and a lack of access to financial services were amongst the major hindrances for women business owners in India. Therefore, there is an urgent need to create an enabling environment for women to pursue their entrepreneurial aspirations through progressive policies.

The Indian start-up landscape, with over eight million women entrepreneurs, is at an inflection point where an accelerated pro-women change is of vital importance. While for many women, pursuing entrepreneurship and establishing enterprise is a necessity, for others, the aim is to generate personal wealth and fulfil their aspirations.

Govt initiatives

Over the past few years, India has witnessed record growth in women entrepreneurship. The government initiatives including Stand-Up India, MUDRA, and NITI Aayog’s recent Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP) are steps in the right direction. It is highly encouraging that the initiatives such as the Start-up India Yatra has covered 12 villages in 4 months. Several women-led leadership and mentorship programs such as empoWer, SAHA Fund and Sonder Connect are also gaining traction in India.

We must focus on establishing necessary infrastructure, such as women-centric incubator and accelerator models, actualising mentorship initiatives, increasing investment opportunities, as well as redrafting educational policies and skilling initiatives, making them more contemporary and relevant. Access to new age alternate funding for women entrepreneurs such as women specific venture funds and crowd funding is important for encouraging their growth. Also, we need to encourage women to invest in other female-led companies to balance gender disparity, co-creating both mentorship and networking platforms. Lastly, with emerging technologies such as hashgraph, blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (A.I), deep learning and Internet of Things (IoT), it is of vital importance that the skillset of women be expanded to match the current market trends.

Each small step that we take today will bring us closer towards fulfilling the larger vision for India of our Agenda 25×25 — 25 per cent women entrepreneurs by 2025.

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