India is one of the worst performing nations in terms of female labour force participation, which stands at a meagre 22 per cent. Studies show that rebalancing of labour force participation can increase India's gross domestic product (GDP) growth by a whopping 20 per cent.
"Supporting women entrepreneurship is both an economic and a moral imperative for India. The data is clear. Women entrepreneurs create more jobs for other women and invest back into their families. Bridging the gender divide in labour force participation can increase our GDP by 20 per cent and this is a collective goal we should strive for. Identifying priority sectors with high demand-led opportunities such as food and education will allow us to be specific in our actions and create a ripple effect in other sectors, crowding in many more women entrepreneurs in the country," said Smriti Zubin Irani, Union Minister of Women and Child Development and Textiles.
Irani was speaking at the launch of the report 'Unlocking Entrepreneurship Opportunities for Women' by partner-led platform for mass entrepreneurship Global Alliance for Mass Entrepreneurship (GAME) and Facebook.
The report looked at the entrepreneurship opportunities available to women, especially home-based entrepreneurs across urban India. The research study was conducted between May 2019 and August 2019 across Bangalore and Mumbai.
Currently only 3 per cent of businesses with more than four employees are owned by a woman, says the report. It calls out food, education (specifically creches), beauty and wellness sectors in India as holding high potential for home-based women entrepreneurs.
According to the study, the food sector encompasses approximately 5,50,000 women-owned enterprises that employ more than two million women. The sector appeals to women as it doesn't require a high financial investment to start a business, and offers flexible work schedules, find the report. The emerging opportunities within the sector include homemade snacks, home-cooked meals, and cloud kitchens.
"This report shows that women have many opportunities to build entrepreneurial ventures. The food and education sectors in particular show great promise and we want to encourage more women to set up their own businesses be their own boss and achieve economic independence. While women entrepreneurs face formidable challenges, the combination of new market platforms, peer-support networks, and role models, will make women entrepreneurs a force to reckon with before the end of the decade," said Ravi Venkatesan, Founder of GAME.
Women-owned businesses within the education sector are more prevalent than those in the food sector. One in five urban enterprises in the education sector is owned by a woman. The employee base of these businesses is fairly gender-balanced with women comprising 48 per cent of the labour force on an average in these organisations. The report identifies three sectors as 'where-to-play' areas for women in mass entrepreneurship: day care and pre-school, vocational skilling, and after-school education.
According to the study, some of inhibitors for women entrepreneurs today are lack of awareness of the possibilities related to their passion, inadequate skills or knowledge to be a successful entrepreneur, skepticism about taking unconventional routes and no access to available resources and no immediate support system.
The report also suggests some interventions to deal with these challenges such as peer-to peer connections, access to success stories of entrepreneurs with relatable personas, access the best-of-breed entrepreneurship curriculum and accessible government support for entrepreneurship, for example, navigating the Mudra loans process.