‘Women entrepreneurs are more creative, open-minded and that’s exactly what we need to boost economy’

Ease of Doing Business for MSMEs: It is immensely important that women entrepreneurs are given the right kind of environment to be equal participants to help India to scale its economy to the tune of $5 trillion.

  • By Hemant Gupta

Ease of Doing Business for MSMEs: The other day, Fortune magazine was celebrating that a record 38th women CEO was joining the ranks of the Fortune 500. 38 out of 500 — that is an underwhelming 7.6 per cent and I was thinking to myself, there is something wrong with that picture!!! Women form 50 per cent of the world’s population and that is an abysmal picture by any standards!!

I got reminded of what Amitabh Kant had said: “High growth rates of 9-10 per cent year-after-year are not possible for India till women don’t become key entrepreneurs”. He further has gone on record and said that whenever opportunities have been made open for women, they have done much better than men. In light of this, it is immensely important that women entrepreneurs are given the right kind of environment to be equal participants to help India to scale its economy to the tune of $5 trillion.

Covid-19 and the ensuing lockdowns put a grave dent in the economic framework of all countries. Now, the gradual re-opening up of economic activities presents a golden opportunity for women entrepreneurs to adapt to “the new normal”, after all, study after study has shown that women are more creative and open-minded and that is exactly what we need to build a new order.

This is especially important because “the new normal” is not a constant, it is everchanging as we learn new things about the pandemic and learn of new ways to cope and overcome. We need all the creativity and the open-mindedness we can get to boost the economy.

Then, in the course of this pandemic, technology has demonstrated its importance in the world and how crucial it has become for us to survive through this crisis. From health to education to entertainment to work, all our immediate needs and wants are fulfilled by innovative technologies. And there are many more fronts in travel and tourism, manufacturing and logistics and others, where technology has only scratched the surface.

Also read: Start-up funding likely to dry up by11-36% in 2020 – report

Hence, I believe that women tech entrepreneurs are needed to boost the economy and provide the right levels of empathy and creativity to help us sail in these stormy seas. Now, by providing specific suggestions on how women entrepreneurs can go about building their businesses, I would be being prescriptive and going against promoting their creativity and open-mindedness. So here are some generic ideas that I wanted to share –

  • No idea is too small or too big as long as it is fulfilling a need and can scale in the current environment. Be it helping the neighbourhood kirana store with tech-enabled solutions for the new operating environment to quantum computing and its utilisation for solving non-linear, multi-dimensional social challenges.
  • Pursue STEM as an educational and career option. In a recent visit to one of the IITs, it was heartening to see that the institutes are promoting women student participation in all engineering streams including the traditional male bastions like mechanical and civil engineering. Much more is required to be done in this front.
  • For those women entrepreneurs that are established, help the upcoming ones by building national-level support institutions for women entrepreneurs, including mentorship, financial support, networking, and other support services. Not only are the contributions by individual women entrepreneurs important, but it is very important that there is support available for deserving women entrepreneurs to minimise the perceived risk associated with entrepreneurship and encourage women from all walks of life to embrace it.

Incubators and Accelerators can play an important role in helping enable a lot of the support that is required and it behoves the government, supranational bodies and corporates to help in setting up specific, outcome-oriented schemes to promote women entrepreneurship through incubators.

To conclude, as per a McKinsey report, India can add $700 billion to India’s economy if we help women in India to reach the worldwide average in terms of women working viz 48 per cent and we stand at just 22 per cent. Immense efforts are needed to increase women participation in the workforce, and I believe we can do it with the right policies and encouragement.

Hemant Gupta is the MD of Zone Startups India – a JV between Ryerson Futures – Toronto and BSE Institute. Views expressed are the author’s own.

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