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Challenges Faced by Women Entrepreneurs in India

In the age of globalisation, entrepreneurship has emerged as an extremely popular career choice across the globe. Despite being a challenging and highly competitive domain, entrepreneurship is attracting more and people each year, especially the youth. However, the number of women joining the league still remains dismal. According to the sixth economic census released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Women constitute only 14% of the total entrepreneurship in India. In another report, Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE) 2018, that delved into the factors and conditions conducive for women’s advancement in entrepreneurial ecosystem, India was ranked 52nd out of 57 countries. These statistics present a bleak picture and call for an introspection. Here are some of the major roadblocks faced by women entrepreneurs that are impeding their growth.

Socio-Cultural Challenges:

A fundamental challenge that almost all women entrepreneurs in India face throughout their careers is the biased attitude of society towards them. From an early age till the later years, women are expected to conform to societal norms and gender based roles on the domestic and work front. The India society is inherently patriarchal, and the worst manifestation of its deep-rooted patriarchy is in the discrimination that most women face despite constitutional equality. From the denial of equal opportunities in education to discrimination against them at workplaces, often curbing their career progression, there are a lot of issues that women have to deal with as compared to their male compared to their male counterparts.

Entrepreneurship is mainly seen as men’s domain in India. The idea of a women deviating from this norm and taking up entrepreneurial roles is often frowned upon and discouraged by society upon and discouraged by society. Good education acts as a catalyst for success in entrepreneurship, but unfortunately a lot of Indian women lack proper education. It is a common notion that women lack entrepreneurial aptitude, skill and resilience required to run a prosperous business. As a result, women are continuously demoralised through societal and familial pressures.

To be successful in the entrepreneurial journey, one needs to dedicate a lot of time and effort at work. In the Indian society, it is acceptable for a man to devote long and odd hours at work but that is not the case with women. Here, the onus of looking after children, family members and household chores falls upon women. A married woman entrepreneur has to constantly juggle various responsibilities at home and work and striking a work-life balance is an everyday struggle. It becomes extremely difficult for the woman entrepreneur to succeed without the approval and support of her husband and family. Many women get caught up in frequent family conflicts arising due to the woman’s difficulty in meeting the demands of her family and society. Such issues not only take a toll on their business but also affect their personal well-being.

Lack of Finance:

Organising adequate working capital and financial resources is another major challenge for women entrepreneurs. Due to absence of sufficient bank balance or ownership of property, women face a hard time in accruing external funding through bank loans. The financial institutions of the country also view women entrepreneurs as less credit-worthy owing to the uncertain nature of their job and lack of credible collateral security.

In the male-dominated realm of business, it is difficult for most women entrepreneurs to find interested investors for their business. In such a situation, women have no option but to rely on their personal saving and borrowings from family and friends, which are largely insufficient. Since, working capital for financing day-to-day business activities is an extremely crucial ingredient for sustenance, a lot of women entrepreneurs struggle to make ends meet.

Low risk-taking Tendency:

In India, majority of women grow up in a protected environment where they are hardly required to take risky decisions. The economic dependence of most women on the men in their lives has also rendered them vulnerable and less willing to take risks when their business plan involves chances of monetary losses. A lot of women are under-confident about their ability to manage leadership roles and coming up with sustainable solutions in crisis situations in a business. On top of that knowledge makes them reluctant to experiment and take risks. This tendency of playing safe is a huge impediment to their success because the ability to take risks is a requisite for achieving success in an entrepreneurial endeavour, irrespective of gender.

Limitations on Mobility a crippling problem that most women face in India is limitation on their mobility. Our society is such, where women cannot travel or stay out till late as freely as men. Security of women is one reason and society’s outlook towards a woman’s free movement is another issue that restricts their mobility. Starting a business as well as running it generally requires a lot of travelling. A woman who does not have an experience of travelling and handling their matters alone is bound to feel intimidated. Even if a woman entrepreneur has ample exposure to travelling, there are concerns and sexist stereotypes against women that men don’t have to deal with.

Not Being Taken Seriously:

After all these challenges, if a woman has finally managed to start an enterprise of her own, people around her tend to belittle her efforts by viewing it as a hobby or an engagement to keep herself occupied, instead of treating it as a genuine business. Also, the deeply entrenched patriarchal psyche of our society has muffled the voices and free expression of many women in every sphere. The opinions and propositions of women entrepreneurs are not given the same value and thought as that of a male entrepreneur. A lot of women have to struggle to ‘be heard’ and taken seriously, many times by their own colleagues and employees! Withstanding prejudices, building a strong reputation, earning respect and equality in the business world are much more challenging for women than men. The journey of an entrepreneur is difficult, whether a man or a woman. Success comes to those who have a clear vision and the courage to continue moving ahead through dark days, overcoming disappointments and failures. Despite the challenges, inspiring women like indra Nooyi, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and Falguni Nayar have proved their mettle and motivated other women to dream big and turn their dreams into reality. Therefore, instead of feeling intimidated, women must have faith in themselves and be strongly inspired to conquer the above challenges, emerging as an example for the coming generations.

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