Saturday, 24 December 2011




(This article was presented in the National Seminar on " Women Entrepreneurship: Emerging Issues, Challenges & Strategies" on 7th & 8th July, 2011 at Chadalawada Ramanna Engineering College, Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, India. This article is published in the book "Women Entrepreneurship  Emerging Issues, Challenges & Strategies". Published by Serials Publications, New Delhi.)  

                                                                                                             -Dr. S. Vijay Kumar

      In ancient India, women enjoyed great respect and freedom in the society. In fact far superior position to the men of that time. "Sakthi" a feminine term means "power" and "strength". But, due to repeated attacks on India by Muslims and the British through centuries changed the situation. In former days, women were confined to kitchen, kids, knitting, pap pad, pickles. With the spread of education and awareness, women have shifted from the kitchen, handicrafts and traditional cottage industries to non-traditional higher levels of activities. Since the 21st century, the status of women in India has been changing as a result to mounting industrialization and urbanization and social legislation. Over the years, more and more women are going in for higher education, technical and professional education and their proportion in the workforce has also been increased.

Our first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru has rightly pointed out that ”To awake the people it is the women who should be awakened first. Once she is on the move the family moves …the nation moves”. There is a need for changing the mindset towards women so as to give equal rights as enshrined in the constitution. The progress towards gender equality is slow and is partly due to the failure to attach money to policy commitments. In the words of president APJ Abdul Kalam "empowering women is a prerequisite for creating a good nation, when women are empowered, society with stability is assured. Empowerment of women is essential as their thoughts and their value systems lead to the development of a good family, good society and ultimately a good nation." When a woman is empowered it does not mean that another individual becomes powerless or is having less power. On the contrary, if a women is empowered her competencies towards decision- making will surely influence her family's behavior.

The 1980s and 1990s are frequently referred to as the era of globalization. The Indian economy has been witnessing a drastic change since mid -1991, with new policies of economic liberalization, globalization and privatization initiated by the Indian government. India has great entrepreneurial potential. At present, women involvement in economic activities is marked by a low work participation rate, excessive concentration in the unorganized sector and employment in less skilled jobs. Any strategy aimed at economic development will be lop-sided without involving women who constitute half of the world population.

Evidence has unequivocally established that entrepreneurial spirit is not a male prerogative. Women entrepreneurship has gained momentum in the last three decades with the increase in the number of women enterprises and their substantive contribution to economic growth. The industrial performance of Asia-Pacific region propelled by Foreign Direct Investment, technological innovations and manufactured exports has brought a wide range of economic and social opportunities to women entrepreneurs.

In this dynamic world, women entrepreneurs are an important part of the global quest for sustained economic development and social progress. In India, though women have played a key role in the society, their entrepreneurial ability has not been properly tapped due to the lower status of women in the society. It is only from the Fifth Five Year Plan (1974-78) onwards that their role has been explicitly recognized with a marked shift in the approach from women welfare to women development and empowerment. The development of women entrepreneurship has become an important aspect of our plan priorities. Several policies and programmes are being implemented for the development of women entrepreneurship in India

The Sixth Five Year Plan, for example, proposed for promoting female employment in women-owned industries.  The Government moved a step forward in the Seventh Five Year Plan by including a special chapter on Integration of Women in Development.  The chapter suggested:
* To treat women as specific target groups in all development programmes and involve them in decision making process.
* To devise and diversify vocational training facilities for women to suit their varied needs and skills.
* To promote appropriate technologies to improve their efficiency and productivity.
* To provide assistance for marketing their products.

During the ninth five year plan, the government has introduced in 1998 an important scheme on Trade Related Entrepreneurship of Assistance and Development (TREAD) aiming at economic empowerment of women in rural, urban and semi-urban areas. It develops their entrepreneurial skill and eliminates the constraints faced by women entrepreneurs.

The TREAD programme was operated through Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI). SIDBI has initiated various schemes for the growth of women entrepreneurs through Mahila Udyam Nidhi (MUN), Mahila Vikash for Nidhi (MVN), Micro Credit Scheme (MSC), Women Entrepreneurial Development Programme (EDP), and Marketing Development Fund (MDF) for women entrepreneurs.

Global Scenario:

Research about human capital factors in women’s entrepreneurship is more than 35 years old. (Greene Amy, 2009)The growing economic power and influence of women-owned businesses are changing the shape of the global economy,´ remarked Sakiko Fukuda- Parr, Director of the UNDP. The global impact of women entrepreneurs is just beginning to gain intensity. Women produce more than 80 percent of the food for Sub-Saharan Africa, 50-60 percentfor Asia, 26 percent for the Caribbean, 34 percent for North Africa and the Middle East, and more than 30percent for Latin America.

First Woman Entrepreneur in the World

Rita Singh, founder of the M'escos (Mid-east Shipping Company) group, is one of the first woman entrepreneurs in the business world.  Starting from scratch about 30 years ago, she now exports trendy M'escos shoes, owns a fleet of state-of-the-art- helicopters and ships, and Rs.450 crore steel plant.  The M'escos group with an annual turnover of over Rs.1500 crore, employs more than 7,000 people.

Women entrepreneurs are significantly affecting the global economy. Women in advanced market economies own more than 25% of all businesses. In India women entrepreneur comprise more than 20% of total entrepreneurs in the country

In Russia, women own 64% of firms employing 10 people or more.

In Germany, women have created one-third of the new businesses since 1990 representing more than one million jobs.

In France, women head one in four firms

In Swaziland, Women account for about 70% of micro, small, and medium Enterprises

In UK, it is estimated that between 34.1% - 41.2% of the UK smallbusiness stock is either owned or co-owned by women. (Carter etal., 2006)

In Hungary, women started more than 40% of all businesses since 1990

In USA, women own 38% of all businesses (8 million firms), employ 27.5 million people (or 1 in 5workers), and generate $3.6 trillion in annual sales.

In Japan, 23% of private firms are established by women

In China, women founded 25% of the businesses since 1978

Growth of Women entrepreneurs in India:

Increase in cost of living has prompted the Indian women to undertake economic activities in order to support their families. They are coming forward to take risks, face challenges and prove to the world that their role in the society is no more limited to that of buyers but they can be also successful sellers.

There are thousands of good examples where women have shown entrepreneurial talents and have succeeded. Women entrepreneurs are the key players in any developing country in terms of their contribution to economic development. Now, it is imperative to know who is an women entrepreneur.

Women Entrepreneurs may be defined as the women or a group of women who initiate, organize and operate a business enterprise. Government of India has defined women entrepreneurs as an enterprise owned and controlled by a women having a minimum financial interest of 51% of the capital and giving at least 51% of employment generated in the enterprise to women. Women in business are a recent phenomenon in India. By and large they had confide themselves to petty business and tiny cottage industries.

Almost half of India's population consists of women. But they constitute a very negligible proportion of the total entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurial traits and competencies have not been well developed amongst the women entrepreneurs. They are very shy in nature and emotionally attached to the family. They are treated as weak and dependent on men. They are the neglected sections in the society. In spite of the above, in sixties, women have started entrepreneurial activities as one- woman enterprises at home and from home for self-occupation and engagement. The number of women entrepreneurs was only 6000 which miserably low during the period.

Indian women started their entrepreneurial work in 1970s. Their entrepreneurship is traced out as an extension of kitchen activities mainly pickles, powder and pappad. Women are encouraged to start an occupation or venture with an urge to do something independently started to tide over their economic difficulties and responsibilities.

In the seventies, Government of India has also brought a change in its policy objective of welfare approach of women to development approach of women. Women were given priorities in all the sectors including small scale industries sector. As a result, the number of women entrepreneurs has increased over the years.

During 1980s, government and non-government bodies have paid increasing attention to women entrepreneurs through formulation of various policies and programmes and introduction of new schemes and incentives. It adopted a multi-disciplinary approach for development of women entrepreneurs. Women entrepreneurs were given top priority for implementation of programmes under agricultural and its allied activities of diary farming, poultry, animal husbandary, handlooms, handicrafts and small scale industries, etc.With growing awareness about business and due to growth of educational level, in professional education, industrialisation, urbanisation and democratic values awareness, the tradition bound Indian society has undergone a change and women entrepreneurs have shifted their entrepreneurial activities to engineering, electronics and energy. They made personal choices, stood up for their convictions and had the courage and strength to enter into new ventures. As a result of these efforts, number of women entrepreneurs has increased over the years.

In the 1990s, out of the total women population of 437.10 millions, there are 126.48 million women workforce of which only 1,85,900 women accounting for self employed in the country. This indicates a dismally low level of women participation in the entrepreneurial activities. Further women entrepreneurs in India accounted for 9.01% of the total 1.70 million entrepreneurs during 1988-89. There were more than 2,95,680 women entrepreneurs claiming 11.2% of the total 2.64 million entrepreneurs in India during 1995-96. The number of women entrepreneurs have increased to 3,28,000 in 1996-97.

In the context of the opening up of the economy and the need for upgradation of technology, the Consortium of Women Entrepreneurs of India (CWEI) is a common platform to help the very women entrepreneurs in finding innovative techniques of production and marketing and finance.Prime-Minister Rozgar Yojna (PMRY), National Rural Employment Programme and (NREP), Rural Landless Employment Guarantee Programme (RLEGP), Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guaranty Act (MGNREGA) are some of the important schemes floated by the Government which encourage women to enter into work entrepreneurial activities.

Push-Pull factors and women entrepreneurship:

An independent occupation, a sense towards independent decision-making on their life and career are the motivational factors behind this urge. Saddled with household chores and domestic responsibilities women want to get independence. Under the influence of these factors the women entrepreneurs choose a profession as a challenge and as an urge to do some thing new. Such situation is described as pull factors. While in push factors women engaged in business activities due to family compulsion and the responsibility is thrust upon them.

Qualities of women entrepreneurs:

Creative: It refers to the creative approach or innovative ideas with competitive market. Well planned approach is needed to examine the existing situation and to identify the entrepreneurial opportunities. It further implies that women entrepreneur's have alliance with clued-up people and constricting the right organization offering support and service.

Hard working nature: Innovative women have further ability to work hard. The creative ideas have to come to a fair play. Hard work is required to build up an enterprise.

Determination: Women entrepreneurs must have an intention to fulfill their dreams. They have to make a dream transferred into an idea enterprise

Ability and desire to take risk: the desire refers to the willingness to take risk and ability to the proficiency in planning making forecast estimates and calculations.

Profit earning capacity: she has a capability to get maximum return out of invested capital.

Categories of Women Entrepreneurs in India:
• First Category
– Established in big cities
– Having higher level technical & professional qualifications
– Non traditional Items
– Sound financial positions
• Second Category
– Established in cities and towns
– Having sufficient education
– Both traditional and non traditional items
– Undertaking women services-kindergarten, crèches, beauty parlors,        health clinic etc

• Third Category
– Illiterate women
– Financially week
– Involved in family business such as Agriculture, Horticulture, Animal Husbandry, Dairy, Fisheries, Agro Forestry, Handloom, Power loom etc.

Supportive Measures for Women's Economic Activities and Entrepreneurship
Direct & Indirect Financial Support• Nationalized banks
• State finance corporation
• State industrial development corporation
• District industries centers
• Differential rate schemes
• Mahila Udyug Needhi scheme
• Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI)
• State Small Industrial Development Corporations (SSIDCs)
Yojna Schemes and Programme

• Nehru Rojgar Yojna
• Jacamar Rojgar Yojna
Technological Training and Awards

• Stree Shakti Package by SBI
• Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India
• Trade Related Entrepreneurship Assistance and Development (TREAD)
• National Institute of Small Business Extension Training (NSIBET)
• Women's University of Mumbai
Federations and Associations• National Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs (NAYE)
• India Council of Women Entrepreneurs, New Delhi
• Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA)
• Association of Women Entrepreneurs of Karnataka (AWEK)
• World Association of Women Entrepreneurs (WAWE)
• Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW)
Some of the Successful Leading Business Women in India are:

• Mahila Grih Udyog – 7 ladies started in 1959: Lizzat Pappad

• Lakme – Simon Tata

• Shipping corporation – Mrs. Sumati Morarji

• Exports – Ms. Nina Mehrotra

• Herbal Heritage – Ms. Shahnaz Hussain

• Balaji films - Ekta Kapoor

• Kiran Mazumdar - Bio-technology

Women Entrepreneurship in India:


No of Units

No. of Women


Tamil Nadu




Uttar Pradesh
























Madhya Pradesh




Other States & UTS








Women Work Participation:



India (1970-1971)


India (1980-1981)


India (1990-1991)


India (2000-2001)

31.6 (latest India: 38.4, China: 68.9)







Sri Lanka




Problems of Women Entrepreneurs in India:

Arrangement of Finance::

For every business undertaking Finance is said to be the “life blood”, whether it is large, medium or small enterprise. Women entrepreneurs face the problems of shortage of finance on two important bases. Firstly, women do not in general have property on their own names to use that as collateral securities for obtaining loans/funds from banks and other financial institutions. Thus their access to external sources is very limited Secondly, obtaining the support of bankers, managing the working capital, lack of credit resources are the problems which still remain in the male’s domain.

Shortage of raw-materials:

Women entrepreneurs encounter the problems of shortage of raw-materials and necessary inputs. On the pinnacle of this, is the high prices of raw materials, on one hand and getting raw materials at minimum discount rates are the other.

Cut-throat Competition:

Lot of the women entrepreneurs have imperfect organizational set up to drive in a lot of money for canvassing and advertisements. They have to face severe competition from organized industries. They have also to face a stiff competition with the men entrepreneurs who easily involve in the promotion and development area and carry out easy marketing of their products with both the organized sector and their male counterparts. Such a competition ultimately results in the insolvency of women entrepreneurs.

Lack of education and illiteracy amongst women:

In India, around 35% of women are still illiterate. Illiteracy is the root cause of socioeconomic barriers or hurdles. Due to lack of Knowledge of latest technological change, know-how and education creates problems before women to set up competitive enterprises.

Family Conflicts:-Women also countenance the conflict of performing of home role as they are not available to spend enough time with their families. Because in India, mainly a woman’s duty is to look after her children and manage the other members of the family. In business they have to spend long hours and as a result, they find it difficult to meet the demands of their family members and society as well. Their incapability to attend to domestic work, time for education of children, personal hobbies, and entertainment adds to their conflicts.

Marketing Problems:

Women entrepreneurs incessantly face the problems in marketing their products. It is one of the core problems as this area is mainly dominated by males and even women with adequate experience fail to make a dent. For marketing the products women entrepreneurs have to be at the mercy of middlemen who pocket the hunk of profit. Although the middlemen exploit the women entrepreneurs, the purging of middlemen is tricky, because it involves a lot of running about. Women entrepreneurs also find it difficult to capture the market and make their products popular.

Lack of self-confidence and optimistic attitude amongst women:

Nowadays most of the women are suffering from one major problem of lack of self-confidence, determination, physically powerful outlook, hopefulness etc. They are always panic from committing mistakes while doing their piece of work, more over there is limited initiative of taking risk and bearing uncertainty in them. Thus all these psychological factors often obstruct their path of achieving success in the area of enterprise.

High cost of production:

High cost of production undermines the efficiency and adversely affects the development of women entrepreneurs. The installation of new machinery during expansion of the productive capacity and like similar factor dissuades the women entrepreneur from venturing in to new area. Government assistance in the form of grant and subsidies to some extent enables them to tide over the difficult situations. However, in the long run, it would be necessary to increase efficiency and expand productive capacity and thereby reduce cost to make their ultimate survival possible, other than these, women entrepreneurs also face the problems of labour, human resources, infrastructure, legal formalities, overload of work, lack of family support, mistrust etc.

Future Prospects for Development of Women Entrepreneurs:

·        Education is a boon to mankind, while lack of education to a person is a bane now-a-days. Throughout the world, we can observe that the ratio of women entrepreneurs is growing tremendously. The emergence as well as development of women entrepreneurs is quite visible in India and their over-all contribution to Indian economy is also very significant. Today the role of Women entrepreneur in economic development is inevitable because women are entering not only in selected professions but also in professions like trade, industry and engineering.

·        The industrial structure and the enterprises are undergoing a radical change. Information Technology has transformed the very technique of doing business. Individually, business ownership provides women with the independence they crave and with economic and social success they need. Nationally, business ownership has great importance for future economic prosperity. Globally, women are enhancing, directing, and changing the face of how business is done today. Ultimately, female business owners must be recognized for who they are, what they do, and how significantly they impact the world’s global economy.

·        Women should be considered as specific target group for all development programmes. Govt. should extend better educational facilities and schemes to women folk. Adequate training programs on management skills should be provided to women community. Encourage women’s participation in decision making. Vocational training should be extended to women community to enable them to understand the production process and management.

·        Training on professional competence and leadership skills should be extended to women entrepreneurs. Activities in which women are trained should focus on their marketability and profitability. State Finance Corporations and financing institutions should permit by statute to extend purely trade related finance to women entrepreneurs. And lastly women’s development corporation has to gain access to open-ended financing.


Clandestine of Success "Attribute my success to one thing – never run away from life.  Face it boldly.  Dare to be different".

·        Promoting entrepreneurship among women is especially important to tackle the problems of under employment and unemployment in the society.

·        Education has been instrumental in increasing the participation of women in entrepreneurial activities. The formal education not only helps in acquisition of requires knowledge for a job, which demands non-traditional skills but also imparts knowledge about the different occupational opportunities. Good academic background makes women confident in dealing with problems in business in an effective manner. Although it is a fact that entrepreneurship is not a special preserve for the educated but in the case of women already burdened with many social pressures, education is a powerful tool in breaking down the barriers to successful entrepreneurship. Thus education is a liberating force and barriers of caste and class, smoothing out inequalities imposed by birth and other circumstances.

·        There should be an incessant attempt to motivate, give confidence, inspire and assist women entrepreneurs.

·        Government should provide better educational facilities and schemes to women folk.

·        There should be continuous monitoring, improvement of training programmers, practical experience and personality development programmes to improvise their over-all personality standards.

·        Establishment of proper training institutes for enhancing their level of work-knowledge, skills, risk-taking abilities, enhancing their capabilities. Training Centers should provide training to prospective women entrepreneurs free of cost and Entrepreneurship Successful Leading Business Women in India  development Programme should be much more practical oriented. Inculcation of self-confidence amongst women that they can also run a business should be one of the prime motives of these programmes. Potential women entrepreneurs should be exposed to different types of emerging opportunities. Housewives should be motivated to learn additional income.

·        A women entrepreneur should herself set up an example by being successful and should act as a role model. Since children have a tendency to emulate their parents, the resultant effect would be automatic.

·        Establishment of proper training institutes for enhancing their level of work-knowledge, skills, risk-taking abilities, enhancing their capabilities.

·        Finance is sine-qua-non for any enterprise. The banking system is not sufficiently responsive to social banking needs and has not been able to deal with barriers that hinder women from using or gaining access to credit. Adequate arrangements must be made for the supply of credit facility at concession rate for the women entrepreneurs in view of their growing needs.

·        Creating provision of micro credit system and enterprise credit system to the women entrepreneurs at local level with low rate of interest.

·        Provision should be made to provide land / sheds to deserving women entrepreneurs on priority basis. Group Women Entrepreneurship (GWE) may be promoted in rural sector by reinvigorating activities / skills on traditional crafts or practices with which they are acquainted.

·        A Women Entrepreneur's Guidance Cell should be set up to handle the various problems of women entrepreneurs all over the state.

·        Positive attitudinal change in the society recognizing the role of women as entrepreneur may lead to the development of appropriate environment in which women will be able to exploit their entrepreneurial talents

·        Offering seed capital, up-liftment schemes, women entrepreneurs fund etc. to encourage them economically.

·        To extend confessional rates facilities and schemes for women entrepreneurs to prosper in the field of enterprise. acquainted.

·        Women entrepreneurs should be provided marketing facilities         and subsidy for raw materials.

Thus by adopting the above said suggestions in letter and spirit the problems associated with women can be solved.


Women have the potential and the determination to set up, uphold and supervise their own enterprises in a very systematic manner. Appropriate support and encouragement from the Society in general and family members in particular is required to help them scale new heights in their business ventures. The right kind of assistance from family, society and Government can make these Women Entrepreneurs a part of the mainstream of national economy and they can contribute to the economic progress of India in this era of globalization.


Dhameja S K (2002) , Women Entrepreneurs : Oppertunities, performance, problems, Deep publications (p) LtD, New Delhi

Dynamics of entrepreneurial development and management – By Vasant Desai. Himalaya Publishing House.

Entrepreneurship Development –By S.S Khanka. S. Chand & Company Limited. (Ram Nagar, New Delhi-110055). Indian Entrepreneurship

Rajendran N (2003) , "Problems and prospects of women Entrepreneurs" SEDME, Vol. 30 no.4 Dec.

Rao Padala Shanmukha (2007) "Entrepreneurship Development among Women: A case study of self-help Groups in Srikakulam District, Andhra Pradesh" The Icfai Journal of EntrepreneurshipDevelopment Vol.1V No. 1

Sharma Sheetal (2006) “Educated Women, powered, women" Yojana Vol.50, No.12

Women Entrepreneurship and Economic Development – By Sanjay Tiwari, Anshuja Tiwari. Publisher: Sarup and Sons

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