Women are born entrepreneurs. Dr APJ Abdul Kalam even thought that “empowering women is a prerequisite for creating a good nation, as successful women lead to a good society, and a good nation.” However, there have been many reasons contributing to the low number of women entrepreneurs. Though over the years, there has been a healthy trend of women picking up entrepreneurial responsibilities to explore startup opportunities, the number is not as significant as it should be. The reasons could range from societal pressure to lack of knowledge to family conflicts. Here are the five most common factors that are roadblocks in the way of women entrepreneurs:
- Access to financial resources: Women in India are still not financially dependent. They have to go through a lot to gain financial access. With patriarchy in practice, most of the assets are in the name of male family members, and women do not have freedom to get credit/ funds based on the collateral. Most of the time, they have to rely on their savings or jewellery.Remedy: They can reach out to their family and friends for some loan amount to bootstrap their startup. Alternatively, there are women-oriented funds that help women entrepreneurs. Government and many SME bank loans also help women entrepreneurs in their startup journey by providing funds without collaterals and at low interest rates. This indeed is a great step to get the women entrepreneurial movement going.
- Inadequate education and access to information: Education about enterprise, mentoring before kick-starting a venture, career guidance, marketing information, and working capital management, etc., are missing essentials and women find themselves lost despite having a fair idea of things. Many of them even start the execution, but a lack of experience pushes them out of the race in the middle of the journey.Remedy: Attending workshops and meet-ups for startups does help. One can also go through various government initiatives like NASSCOM, DIPP, NEN, etc., to understand the startup environment. Such networking events help you find the right people, enhance your knowledge, and give you a platform to discuss related queries.
- Family conflicts: In a country like India, where there are set stereotypes of men taking care of bringing in the money, while women look after the household, bringing a balance between business and home is a difficult choice for women. Their inability to attend to domestic work and allocate time to their kids, inevitably leads to conflicts. All successful women entrepreneurs had great spousal support from the time of initiation of business to running it successfully.Remedy: An open conversation within the family, to tell them about your dreams and why starting on your own is important for you, is the key. Try to handle their apprehensions with complete confidence and understand them in a more collaborative way.
- Lack of societal support: Women in India are usually stuck between traditions and their dreams. There are lot of family-related expectations of them, unlike men, which, when not fulfilled, put them in a tight spot. Our societal culture is still not conducive/supportive to working women, her primary task is perceived as taking care of the home. This often leads to loss of self-worth in many women, and they don’t get sufficient confidence to take the plunge.Remedy: During the entrepreneurial journey, one gets to hear multiple comments, especially from your immediate family members. Try to make them understand collaboratively. If nothing works, block the negative comments and carry on. This could be difficult in the early days, but have confidence in yourself and take it up.
- Difficulty in networking: Two men can discuss their business deals over a mug of beer, but it is difficult for women to nurture their professional relationships, as they are usually misunderstood by peers. When females try to network, many times, they are being looked upon as potential partners and a healthy professional partnership is lost. Shyness, lack of awareness, family approvals and safety concerns usually keep women away from reaching out to the right set of people who may have helped at running their venture successfully, and this hampers their growth.Remedy: Open conversation is key. Keep a clear line of demarcation between your professional and personal lives.
It is heartening to see the trend changing, with many successful women entrepreneurs making a dent in the erstwhile male-dominated ecosystem. Anisha Singh from mydala, Richa Kar from Zivame, Shradha Sharma from YourStory, Richa Singh from YourDOST are a few names that took the road less travelled and opted for the domain not so common. Efforts should be taken to encourage women from rural areas too, as they are entrepreneurs in their own unique way. A few of them are bread winners for their family already.
I strongly feel right communication within the family, combined with a great business idea, can surely get one to a sustainable venture.