Women entrepreneurs are a main focus of the government with a number of new initiatives and funding opportunities aimed at increasing women’s roles within national and global business environments.
According to a March 2017 report by the World Bank that analyzed the trends of female labor force participation (FLFP) in India, the number of women with employment dropped by 19.6 million between the years 2004-05 and 2011-12. Moreover, the report also showed that only 27% of Indian women are active participants in the country’s workforce.
The report’s findings ultimately suggest that a majority of the drop was seen in rural India, due to factors including educational attainment, socioeconomic status, and household composition. More importantly, however, is the conclusion that “with rising household income levels, women in rural India withdraw from paid labor and engage in status production at home.”
The report goes on to discuss the importance of creating new and attractive opportunities for women in India if the country is to maximize its economic growth potential. The authors write:
“Gains will not be realized unless social norms around women’s (and men’s) work also change, and/or unless rural labor markets offer forms of employment that are acceptable and attractive for women and their families. … Policies should center both on promoting the acceptability of female employment and investing in economic sectors in rural areas that are more attractive in terms of female employment.”
With this idea in mind, governments and institutions have begun taking strides in the direction of promoting women entrepreneurship in India.
Indian government’s more active role
In line with the World Bank’s report, India’s government think-tank, NITI Aayog, published its “Three Year Action Agenda” in April 2017 to help shape policy decisions through 2020 regarding the country’s disenfranchised populations, such as women.
Under a section about the social sector, the government agency shows its support for women, writing, “Over the next three years, the focus should be on promoting equal participation of women in the economy” — a goal that the country has already begun seeing coming to fruition.
In addition to the more active role that the Indian government has promised to take, the country has seen increased international support and interest as well, particularly from the United States.
The World Bank’s Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative
In July 2017 at the G20 leaders’ summit, the World Bank announced that it had created a one billion dollar initiative dedicated to advancing women’s entrepreneurship in developing countries such as India.
The Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) will use the funds to “improve access to capital, provide technical assistance, and invest in projects and programs that support women and women-led SMEs in World Bank Group client countries.”
Unlike other initiatives by the World Bank and similar institutions, the money earmarked for We-Fi will be dispersed not as grants or loans, but rather as equity investments.
The initiative was spearheaded in part by Ivanka Trump as an effort to spur opportunities for women across the globe. We-Fi has already raised over $325 million which it will use to officially launch its initiative next month.
Ivanka Trump’s role in the Global Entrepreneurship Summit
In attempt to advance the women empowerment agenda even further, Ivanka Trump met with India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj at the most recent General Assembly of the United Nations over the topic of women’s entrepreneurship, as highlighted in the tweet below.
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) September 18, 2017
The US First Lady will be representing the United States at the upcoming Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in India this November, where she will advocate on behalf of women entrepreneurs throughout the country.
TiE Global’s AIRSWEEE initiative
TiE Global’s All India Road Show on Women’s Economic Empowerment through Entrepreneurship (AIRSWEEE), a joint initiative by TiE Global and the US Department of State, was launched in September 2016 with the goal of empowering women across Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities in India.
In its first edition of the initiative, AIRSWEEE has already impacted 125 women entrepreneurs across 27 states in India. It has held five separate programs — one in each of the following five cities: Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu), Warangal (Andhra Pradesh), Jaipur (Rajasthan), Nagpur (Maharashtra) and Durgapur (West Bengal). In its second edition, the program hopes to target a larger group of 450 women.
Accelerator Group’s $25 million Achieving Women Entrepreneurs Fund
TiE Global also just held a two-day Women Entrepreneurs Conclave in New Delhi, where Seema Chaturvedi, Chairperson of Project AIRSWEEE, announced a new $25 million fund for women entrepreneurs in India. The fund, Achieving Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) Fund I, will come from the US-based investment advisory firm Accelerator Group, at which Chaturvedi is a managing director.
AWE is looking to close commitments for $10 million by March 2018, after which it would begin investing in projects led by women entrepreneurs across the industries of manufacturing, healthcare, education and food, and agriculture.
As the various initiatives suggest, there is a growing interest in providing women the support they need to launch successful businesses or find valuable employment within India. Currently, the labor force — particularly with regard to startups — is dominated by men, but change is already in progress.
If India is able to reverse the trend of low female participation in the labor force, the country will be able to achieve unprecedented economic growth and reaffirm its position as a powerful economy with untapped potential.
Together, the initiatives and efforts above indicate that India has created — and continues to cultivate — a fertile ground for women entrepreneurs that will lead to budding opportunities throughout the country.