A quick glance around India’s metropolitan cities shows an increased presence of women in the workforce. According to Forbes India, women in India occupy nearly 30% of corporate senior management positions, but the overall workforce lags considerably behind.
In India, the challenges to fueling women’s growth come from the usual suspects; either families and societies are not supportive or blatant prejudices and long-held stereotypes get in the way.
And yet, women entrepreneurs are defying these odds every day, even in India’s Tier II and Tier III cities. In the metropolitan cities, we hear of women making inroads into larger industries like banking and retail; however, in the smaller towns and nooks of the country, the stories of women in the workforce do not see the light of day.
Varissa, who runs a power loom business in Meerut, U.P. is one such woman. Around 5 years ago, Varissa’s husband had to quit his job due to an illness. Faced with the responsibility of taking care of her family’s survival and livelihood, Varissa courageously stepped forward and set up her own power loom business.
Women Entrepreneurs and the MSME Challenge
For any entrepreneur, setting up a business is just the first step; the challenges often come with setting up smooth operations, scaling them up, and eventually establishing a profitable business. MSME business owners struggle with these challenges because traditional lending institutions often disapprove loan requests for a number of reasons.
For women entrepreneurs, the added challenge comes from stepping into male-dominated industries where they might not be taken seriously. “No one believed I could run a business or support my family” says Varissa. “But my husband couldn’t work, so how could I just sit at home and do nothing?”
Varissa makes blanket covers and supplies them in the local Meerut market, and in her early days, she struggled constantly to keep up with the ever-increasing price of thread. “No one was willing to give me a loan” she recalls. “They thought my business would never be profitable.”
Eventually, Aye supported Varissa with a working capital loan to help her with expanding her business. Access to credit, allows her to keep her business going by constantly investing in upgrades and machinery.
Entrepreneurship in India: The Difference Made by Women
According to a study quoted in Forbes India, companies with women at the helm perform better and startups with more female executives bring a more careful analysis of information to the table, build better long-term relationships, and can better understand the customer perspective.
Today, Varissa is the proud owner of a successfully growing business, has four machines, and is looking to purchase a fifth machine in her second loan cycle with Aye. However, her proudest accomplishment is that she owns her factory space. “Even the property papers are in my name!” she exclaims, which make her completely in charge.
Varissa’s trajectory is a good reminder of how impactful women entrepreneurs can be when they’re given the right support.
Women entrepreneurs continue to stand out across industries. Given the tangible contributions made by women entrepreneurs in various fields, it is time to realize their significance in India’s growth story.