She is the winner of 2020 Top 100 Women Entrepreneurs by Ministry of MSME Government of India and 2019 and 2017 Asia Women Icon Award Singapore and in recent times, she has been honoured by Google and She The People. TV with the 2020 Digital Women Award in Leadership and Marketing.
The prosperity of a nation is not possible without the contribution of its people – which includes both men and women. Studies have suggested that through fixing the gender gap, the Indian economy may experience 6.8 per cent increase in its GDP. But, women’s lower participation in economic activities, especially as an entrepreneur has a huge cost to the economy in terms of financial, technological, and innovation loss.
Albeit unyielding growth in the country’s start-up landscape, there are only 5 per cent women startup founders in India. Recently, the Central Government has taken many remarkable initiatives to make the entrepreneurial culture of the country conducive for shepreneurs. Schemes such as Trade Related Entrepreneurship Assistance and Development (TREAD), Mahila Coir Yojana, Support to Training and Employment Programme for Women (STEP), and Swayam Siddha are noticeably benefitting women entrepreneurs across cities and states.
Reforms in the education system also cater to this purpose. The most fructifying features of the New Education Policy (NEP 2020) are priority to experiential learning and vocational studies at the school level. Now, activities like painting, gardening, pottery making, cooking, and tailoring that girls usually enjoy will be the part of the curriculum. This way, girls would have better opportunities to hone their skills and monetise them later. On the other hand, with the collaborative efforts of NITI Aayog and SIDBI, the Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP) has been unrolled for aspiring and existing women entrepreneurs.
Corporates are also making dedicated efforts to encourage gender diversity and unroll women entrepreneurship programmes under their CSR policies. While things are changing gradually, for more impactful developments in this area, start-up incubators must also work aggressively and effectively. Startup incubators could be the ideal platforms for small yet innovative businesses nurturing them through their expertise in planning, financial, technical, operational, and promotional matters.
“Albeit unyielding growth in the country’s start-up landscape, there are only 5 per cent women startup founders in India”
Women require no extra wherewithal to compete with their male counterparts in the business world. The market is indifferent to genders or muscles, but responsive to ideas. The challenges they often come across are due to the lack of accessibility to communities and institutions. Apart from the lack of credit support from family and friends, novice women entrepreneurs also lag behind in getting institutional support. However, by far the biggest hurdle in the entrepreneurial journey of Indian women is the perception of investors and venture capitalists, still sceptical about the managerial and leadership capabilities of women. That’s why even after raising funds, women entrepreneurs are frequently scrutinised by investors. This is where the incubators, with their guidance, support, and mentorship, can not only change the investors’ perception regarding women-led startups, but also help increase their tractions.
There are also many successful case studies to look at. Today, many incubators in India such as WE HUB, CWE, and Womennovator are dedicatedly serving budding shepreneurs through customised support system mechanisms. In these incubators, women entrepreneurs help their startups grow in a comprehensive and protected ecosystem. There they find easy access to investors, technology, trade networks, marketing gurus, and above all to the target markets. Incubators also guide them about availing various government schemes and projects. And, their enormous experience helps women entrepreneurs in hiring and managing talent.
The combined experience of successful business leaders at the incubation centres always helps enthusiastic shepreneurs, who do not have enough experience and exposure, in moulding their vision into sustainable ventures. Besides creating opportunities, incubators ward off risks to which women entrepreneurs are more vulnerable. Most of the incubators are well-equipped with R&D facilities and they have tie-ups with research institutes and engineering colleges. In the technologically-driven business landscape of today, the scientific and technical support of these institutes enables young businesses in developing innovative products and services. Subsequently, they acquire a competitive edge over other players in the industry.
Startup incubators for women entrepreneurs can be a game-changer in the long run, but their presence is deeply desired beyond metropolitan cities and business zones. For the larger and inclusive benefits, they must extend their outreach to rural India, too. Sectors like agriculture, food, textile, home furnishing, and even e-commerce can find a better growth trajectory once rural women start exploiting their entrepreneurial skills.
It is natural that the country cannot achieve many of its developmental and economic goals unless women play pivotal roles in business activities. Gender equality, parity, and holistic development are impossible if women are financially dependent on men. So, for women empowerment in actuality, they must be motivated to pull their socks up in the business world. As training and coaching are the prerequisites of flourishing business culture, incubators should go full throttle to ensure the change.