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Women Entrepreneurs In India: Emerging Issues & Challenges

The challenges and hurdles exist, but women seem determined to overcome them. It is no wonder that Indian women entrepreneurs are now boldly going where they have never gone before.

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Traditionally, the Indian woman was only a homemaker. And while there is absolutely nothing wrong in being one, the modern Indian woman is now proudly flaunting the many other facets of her personality. She is a powerhouse – fighting for her rights and making her mark in politics, business, science, sports, the arts and in society on the whole.

At the same time, like the rest of the world, India is experiencing the start-ups boom as well. All you need is a unique idea, the requisite know-how, a sound business plan, start-up finance and the willingness to work hard – and the fruition of one’s dreams is definite possibility.

In this golden age of globalization, digitalization and start-up booms, India is clearly seeing a revolution vis-à-vis women entrepreneurs. Today’s women entrepreneurs do not come only from the established business families or from the higher-income sections of the population, they come from all walks of life and from all parts of the country. 

Even rural and semi-urban entrepreneurs are taking giant leaps for womankind. A Kashmiri girl created ‘Dial Kashmir’ – an app that became the much-needed digital yellow pages in Kashmir. India’s first surfing club was started by a young woman, who followed her heart all the way out to the ocean. From promoting small cottage industry crafts to founding organic food companies and initiating new-age education modules – women across India are turning their dreams into reality with determination and diligence. 

Not only that, women are now breaking the glass ceiling consistently. From running sports media firms to construction companies and security and detective agencies – women are dabbling into fields that have traditionally been bastions of male domination. 

Being an entrepreneur, however, isn’t easy. Start-ups come with their own set of obstacles and issues. Women in particular have a bigger mountain to climb, far more challenges to overcome. 

First and foremost, women have to deal with the gender bias. India has been a patriarchal society in the past where the role of women was relegated largely to domestic duties. And although the status quo is changing rapidly, there is still a long way to go before we achieve gender equality in the truest sense of the word. Even today, women have to continuously fight male egos, sexism and misogyny to prove their calibre and competence. They have to fight the notion that women cannot achieve what men can whereas nothing can be farther from the truth. The power dynamics of the male ego vs. the female ambition are now at a juncture where the proverbial wall of chauvinism will have no option but to crumble.

Social barriers and norms also continue to come in the way of women with entrepreneurial ambitions, especially in rural and semi-urban areas. Even today, religion and caste get in the way of women when they step out to start a venture. Some are not even permitted to go out of the house and work. But things are changing for the better and the Indian woman is standing up for herself like never before. The writing is on the wall: Women will continue to forge ahead with their dreams; it is society that will have to change its outlook and give way.

Education is also an issue. Till recently, women, especially outside of the metros, did not have access to specialized training to hone their skills and abilities. But thanks to the internet, the world is shrinking by the day and nothing is out of reach or bounds anymore. 21st century education and skills can now easily be acquired online. 

Resources, technology and infrastructure have been the other insurmountable hurdles in the past. But in this liberating digital age, the spirits of micro-entrepreneurs are at an all-time high, as a variety of new-age platforms are helping innovative ideas become a reality. Resources and technology are now penetrating every nook and corner of the country. New products are discovering new markets without having the need for a middle-man. 

In the past, when women did show ambition or the drive to carve a niche for themselves, it got classified as a ‘hobby’ or as ‘part-time work’ to help the family income. For them to procure finance to kick-start their dream venture was extremely difficult even though studies and research have consistently shown that women are lesser-risk portfolios and tend to pay their loans back with more regularity than men. Thankfully, female-friendly government loan schemes and private microfinance for women are changing the scenario rapidly.

The Indian woman’s multi-tasking skills are truly incredible. Indian women have to juggle work-related stresses, targets, deadlines, competition and what not with the responsibilities of home, children and social obligations. A healthy work-life balance is one of the biggest challenges for women entrepreneurs; a challenge that they must overcome for the sake of their own happiness and peace of mind. Thankfully, modern men are beginning to contribute towards domestic duties in order to support their women as they chase their dreams.

All in all, the challenges and hurdles exist, but women seem determined to overcome them. It is no wonder that Indian women entrepreneurs are now boldly going where they have never gone before.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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Neerja Birla

Neerja Birla is the Founder and Chairperson of Mpower, an organisation that works towards tackling mental health issues among the youth. She is also the founder and chairperson of Aditya Birla Education Academy.

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