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In a meeting with the VP of a bank held recently, one of the things highlighted was the need to collaborate with us. It was quite exciting for me as the head of an entity that works on women entrepreneurship to hear this from the head of a huge financial institution. One of the big challenges women faces is access to funds. The next line he uttered burst my bubble. He said there was a sudden focus on Diversity & Inclusion, and he wanted to show he was working on it by collaborating with an incubator focusing on women entrepreneurs. Women entrepreneurs are a minority in the start-up ecosystem and there is a sudden rush to plug the gap.

Over the past few decades, women have been shattering the glass ceiling in all fields, and entrepreneurship is no exception. Women in entrepreneurship have been a mainstay across the strong MSME ecosystem in India. We have seen women- led enterprises flourish in the Indian and global scenario and celebrated stories of many founders recently.

However, there are a few aspects that can be made available for aspiring women entrepreneurs across the spectrum. The ambition and entrepreneurial drive are strong in women entrepreneurs, but they sometimes lag behind in areas like business skills, technology and network connections.

There is a great need to create confidence in young women by encouraging them and exposing them to opportunities early on.  Girls must be upskilled and encouraged to become job creators instead of job seekers

In some cases, they experience financial limitations. There are women who still face familial pressure for juggling their personal and professional lives. They experience gender bias and societal bias. A study, says, ‘’Despite being the world’s fastest-growing major economy, India ranks low, at 70th among a list of 77 countries covered in the Female Entrepreneurship Index, because of a lack of [family and financial] support, infrastructure and opportunity that would make it possible for women to enter the formal workforce.”

Incentivisation through easy access to schemes made available to entrepreneurs is the key to encouraging a woman’s entrepreneurial journey. They can be supported through mentorships and by creating the opportunities to get connected. Institutional support from government organisations and PSUs is the way to do it. However, there is a need to address the lack of institutional support for first timers to boost the entrepreneurial spirit among women.

The Founder and CEO of Kinara Capital, who works on financial inclusion for small business entrepreneurs, says the systemic conditions make it difficult for most women to run their own business in India.  It clearly highlights that the women entrepreneurs who have been successful still face hassles while trying to scale or raise funds.

Be it from VCs or banks or any investing firm, the need for capital will be based on the scale of the start-up. Women have the ambition and zeal to start their venture, but they face challenges in procurement of capital. Lack of networking or not having access to the right networks for funding is seen as a major challenge.

Women have the ambition and zeal to start their venture, but they face challenges in procurement of capital

Around 79% of the existing businesses are either self-financed or privately financed by venture capitalists. Government-funded enterprises are only 4.4% of the lot. In most cases, it is not due to lack of central or state-level schemes, but it is due to the lack of awareness of opportunities. Incubators and government-initiated organizations play a key role in acting as a financial conduit between opportunities and entrepreneurs. These incubators help create a roadmap for the entrepreneurs, including all the nuances that go into creating a successful entrepreneurial journey.

Funding bodies always look at incubators as the platform where they can reach the right set of entrepreneurs. So, the role of providing the necessary credit linkages from financial institutions or VCs to upscale their businesses is on the incubators and organizations supporting entrepreneurship. The government has been implementing certain schemes that pertain to women entrepreneurs like Stree Shakti Yojana, Mudra Loan, Dena Shakti Scheme, etc. Along with these are schemes for MSMEs like Women Entrepreneurship Platform and Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana, which have been helping MSMEs in the credit and finance sphere where entrepreneurs can be benefitted.

2021 has been the year of unicorns, especially for India. In total there are about 84 unicorns, the third-highest number in the world. As many as 42 startups have become unicorns in 2021 alone.  With the help of the schemes rolled out by the Government, India will see the rise and growth of start-ups in the coming future.

There is a great need to create confidence in young women by encouraging them and exposing them to opportunities early on.  Girls must be upskilled and encouraged to become job creators instead of job seekers. Training and mentoring programs to inculcate the foundation of entrepreneurship must be conducted. As girls’ step into adulthood, they have the necessary incentivisation and can work towards their goals, dreams and passion. Change is needed at the grassroots level. In 2022, we hope to see more and more women-led unicorns in the country.

Deepthi Ravula


Guest contributor Deepthi Ravula is the CEO of WE HUB, a Govt of Telangana state, India initiative, a first of its kind incubator aimed to promote women entrepreneurship exclusively among women. She joined the Government of Telangana as a Joint Director for Electronics in 2016 and has been appointed as CEO of WE HUB since inception in 2017. She envisions to create a work environment that is gender blind and construct economic independence as a tool for empowerment. She is a strong proponent of Girls in STE(A)M and Women in decision making spaces. Any opinions expressed in this article are strictly that of the author.

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