• Dr Saurabhi Sarmah

The fear of failure, timidity and hesitation caused by lack of proper communication and interpersonal skills are some of the other psychological factors that may prevent a woman from starting a business or chasing leadership roles.

The term entrepreneurship is quite popular in the current time. We are all familiar with the concept of entrepreneurship which refers to the idea of setting up a business by a person financed by either self or by investors in the hope of earning profit. Entrepreneurship is also about risk taking and uncertainties – the risk of loss, if a business does not provide the desired outcome. To put it simply, entrepreneurship refers to the process of doing something new for the purpose of creating wealth for an individual or group of individuals, thereby adding value to society.

Entrepreneurship in India is not a new concept. The origin of entrepreneurship in India can be traced back to the age of Indus Valley civilization where the Indus people lived by trading goods along with being dependent on hunting and agriculture. However, with the course of time, the concept of entrepreneurship has expanded and it includes businesses done in organized and unorganized sectors, in traditional and modern industries both in rural and urban areas.

Now who is a woman entrepreneur? Well, a woman entrepreneur is a woman who starts or owns a business/enterprise, and is willing to take risk by investing capital in the hope of making future profit. The concept of women entrepreneurs has become popular nowadays with the increase in the number of enterprises owned by women and their valuable contribution to the economic growth of the country.

In this dynamic world where there is an urgent need for more job creators than job seekers, entrepreneurial ventures taken by women can actually contribute towards a sustained economic growth and social progress of the country. It’s a positive sign that India has now seen the emergence of a considerable number of women entrepreneurs who have been able to open up multiple job opportunities for others and bring success for themselves.

However, the progress is more visible among women belonging to the upper class families in urban cities. In rural areas and among women of middle-class families, women are still lagging behind in this respect. They are not so keen on taking up business initiatives or leadership roles due to the fear of social backlash, lack of financial support and access to new information and technology. The challenges faced by rural women and urban women when it comes to entrepreneurship are different.

Starting a business itself is a huge task and involves a lot of challenges like raising funds, reaching out to customers, hiring the right staff, creating market presence, etc. These are some of the common problems which we all face regardless of gender while setting up a new business.

However, there are some additional barriers that a woman entrepreneur has to face that may adversely affect the enthusiasm or entrepreneurial ambitions of a woman. Due to the traditional mindset of the society towards women, any enterprise/business carried out by a woman faces a lot of challenges. Although it sounds like a generic statement here, it is a fact that 8 out of 10 men shall not believe in the idea that a woman is capable of running a business or organization efficiently. Earning respect in an organization is a big challenge for a woman in a society that still practices norms of patriarchy.

Funding plays a major role in entrepreneurship. Any business is either self-financed or funded by one or a group of external investors. It may happen that a woman has a strong desire to start something, but she does not have the required financial support to start it. In a situation like this, getting funds may be a big challenge for a woman mostly in semi-urban and rural areas due to the existing stereotypical norms that define a woman. The existing gender gap plays a major role here. Lenders or investors may consider it to be a big risk when it comes to finance a business run by women.

Being a woman, sometimes it becomes very taxing to create balance between her personal and professional commitments. Sometimes, the pressure of personal life may become so intense that it becomes difficult for a woman to fully concentrate on the demands of a business needs, and sometimes, it’s the other way round; the demands of professional life is so high that she fails to maintain a healthy work-life balance. In such situations, women undergo tremendous mental stress that directly or indirectly affects their productivity. Many women don’t get any family support when they intend to start something of their own; some women face family restrictions where they are not encouraged to socialize professionally or attend out-of-hour professional functions.

Safety plays a major role in this respect. Due to the existing nature of society where crime against women is so rampant, it’s very difficult for a woman to feel free in the work space. Many women carry the fear of being exploited, and they are hesitant to take ventures that demand long hours of stay in an organization, require travel and interactions with multiple customers, clients and stakeholders.

Although many laws and policies have been created to establish a favourable business environment for women, the actual changes have not yet been implemented yet. Also, the mindset of society towards women as the ‘neglected other’ has not changed completely.

The lack of access to new information or required knowledge about emerging trends in business is another problem faced by women in rural areas. Many rural women have the zeal to start something new, but they lack the proper financial support, information and basic infrastructure to move on. They also lack proper education, knowledge of business, technology and the market trends that can become a major cause of demotivation among women. Having adequate education is vital to set up any business and run it successfully.

The fear of failure, timidity and hesitation caused by lack of proper communication and interpersonal skills are some of the other psychological factors that may prevent a woman from starting a business or chasing leadership roles.

A recent joint study titled ‘Women Entrepreneurship in India: Powering the Economy with Her’ conducted by Bain & Company and Google mentions that women in entrepreneurship can create transformational employment opportunities in India and create nearly 150-170 million jobs which is more than 25% of the new jobs required for the entire working-age population by 2030. In the light of this report, it’s obvious that there is an urgent need for women to get actively involved in entrepreneurial ventures and contribute significantly to India’s economic developments overcoming the aforesaid barriers. The more entrepreneurial ventures we have, there will be more economic growth, innovation and job creation in the country, and this will certainly reduce unemployment.