Trade, import and export for MSMEs: The government’s initiative to boost women entrepreneurship – Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP) – has invited women-owned startups and small businesses that can procure, supply raw materials for masks and provide it to home-based women workers to make masks as an alternate source of income. NITI Aayog, which houses WEP, tweeted the initiative ‘Masking it up with WEP’ to support women workers hit hard due to Covid-19. “Home-based women workers have been hard hit and are struggling to make ends meet in this uncertain climate,” the initiative said inviting women-led businesses to join it.
Making masks would help women workers “cope with the economic difficulties that have ensued due to the pandemic and help in combating the shortage of surgical and reusable cloth masks,” it said. WEP plans to aggregate women startups and small businesses with the capacity to supply, procure raw materials and distribute cloth masks made by women workers across the country.
WEP was formally launched in March 2018 to help the aspiring and existing women entrepreneurs grow and scale their ventures through necessary support required such as incubation, entrepreneurship skilling, marketing assistance, funding and compliance support. WEP has over 30 partners such as Paypal, SIDBI, Nasscom, Google, Facebook, CRISIL, Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, US India Business Council and more. The platform currently has over 13,000 registered women and has benefited over 500 entrepreneurs, according to the data available on its website.
Importantly, women have been the biggest beneficiaries of the government’s two pet schemes to support entrepreneurship and self-employment — Standup India and Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojna (PMMY). Under Standup India scheme, wherein bank loans of Rs 1 lakh to Rs 1 crore are facilitated to at least one scheduled caste or scheduled tribe and one woman borrower per branch of scheduled commercial banks, over 81 per cent account holders are women as on February 17, 2020, according to Ministry of Finance. Similarly, for PMMY, as per a finance ministry’s statement, “out of over Rs 22.53 crore loans sanctioned till January 31, 2020, more than Rs 15.75 crore loans extended to women” — 70 per cent of total borrowers.