Micro entrepreneurship: How women in hinterland are turning catalyst to India’s entrepreneurship culture

December 22, 2020 11:57 AM

Technology for MSMEs: Tech disruption in recent years and the digital push from the government have offered the necessary fillip for the germination of entrepreneurial culture in the country, thereby tapping the vast human resources.

COVID-19 has proved to be a black swan moment for India.
  • By Vidit Aatrey

Technology for MSMEs: In the narrow lanes of Unnao, perched on the parapet with her small gully-gang, sits Suneeta. With her smartphone in hand, she can now browse, share, and place orders online for fashionable clothes for her friends to be delivered to their homes – all this just by a click of a button!  There are millions like Suneeta who have found digital technology empowering their entrepreneurial dreams.

COVID-19 has proved to be a black swan moment for India. Like any other crisis, the present one has exposed the vulnerabilities of existing structures and practices, forced the change in status-quo, and, at the same time, opened a new window of opportunities. The country has always been observed as a service-based economy, thanks to the IT boom and the push towards STEM education in the country in the 1990s and 2000s. But with the new era in full swing, 21st century India is already seeing ‘micro-entrepreneurship’ as an area of expansion and growth. The journey has begun, and it has been an inspiring one, especially with the rise of women in micro-entrepreneurship. Today the Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises (MSME) sector is the most vibrant and crucial industrial sector for the Indian economy. The sector provides employment to over 130 million people and contributes to nearly 30 per cent of GDP.

Tech disruption in recent years and the digital push from the government have offered the necessary fillip for the germination of entrepreneurial culture in the country, thereby tapping the vast human resources. Access to the internet, low data/broadband charges, and an uptick in smartphone sales have allowed people to experiment with new business models, especially in digital formats, and offer unique products and services. Budding micro-entrepreneurs today are emerging from towns and cities in the hinterlands of India. Some of them are the first generations to kickstart their entrepreneurial journeys while others, especially women of the households see this as a second source of income. It will undoubtedly be interesting to see how this as a trend picks up in the new normal and be a contributor to the economy.

Why micro-entrepreneurship?

The business model and functioning of micro-enterprises have enabled the efficient use of capital and labor and initiated the indigenous enterprise. These enterprises help in bringing a regional balance leading to an improved distribution of income. Several organizations and NGOs have come together to help women and minority groups create micro-enterprises and become financially independent, stable, and lead lives of dignity. Overall, such models help in decentralizing power and finance in the structure.

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Building an ecosystem to boost micro-entrepreneurship

India has always been known for its hustle or ‘jugaad’, however, no organizational support has been provided to support these smaller ambitions. It’s time India invests in the micro-entrepreneurship sector. Various governmental and non-governmental bodies are repurposing their policies and resources to create local hubs for skill development and capacity building of micro-entrepreneurs while simultaneously hand-holding them to help them flesh out their ventures until they start capitalizing on it. The Ministry of Rural Development is running the Start-up Village Entrepreneurship Programme (SVEP) under the National Rural Livelihoods Mission which is being implemented with support from State Rural Livelihoods Missions. The trainee micro-entrepreneurs, in the wake of COVID, are contributing their bit by making face masks and supplying them to the local authorities, wholesalers, and retailers.

It is with this effective implementation of programs to scale up training in a cohesive and inclusive manner that we can channelize our human resources to alter the course of economic development of the country and making India ‘Atmanirbhar’ in the true sense. The pandemic times have re-emphasized the need for hyperlocal connectivity, it is this local network that a micro-entrepreneur uses to create a niche.

To make the best of the opportunities arising from the biggest challenge of this century, the Indian economy needs a thriving MSME sector. The substantial contribution that the sector has made to the economy has got it to be acknowledged as the “backbone”. However, the coordinated efforts from industry associations, policymakers, startups, and corporates will play a vital role in strengthening this backbone.

Vidit Aatrey is the Founder of Meesho. Views expressed are the author’s own.

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