By Prachi Raturi Misra
COVID-19 left deep scars on the world. Businesses were no different. What was different however, were women lead businesses and people‘s belief in them. Take for example the fact that, women lead businesses actually grew during the pandemic.
WEConnect International, which educates, registers and certifies women’s business enterprises that are at least 51% owned, managed and controlled by one or more women, and then connects them with member buyers, saw some interesting trends and challenges that women owned businesses face but continue to thrive.
CEO and Co-Founder of WEConnect International, Elizabeth Vazquez a world leader in women’s economic empowerment, spoke to Prachi Raturi Misra about women entrepreneurs, what drives them and the challenges they face.
Excerpts of the interview:
How did Covid-19 impact businesses?
I guess the story was the same everywhere. The time has been very challenging for everyone and businesses were no different. A survey in India, we did, for example saw 82% people indicating that their business was negatively impacted by Covid-19, 15% said that it impacted them positively and 3% indicated that it had no impact.
How did women led and owned businesses do?
Interestingly they were very tenacious in the Pandemic. In fact our corporate partners found that businesses women and run by women were extremely agile. Our survey also found that 40% people would prefer increased networking with other women business owners.
Why do you say women led businesses are unique?
Women bring a lot of things to business. First and foremost the passion for business. Also the incredible anticipation of the needs of the others. Also they are extremely proactive in terms of delivering acts and services. This puts them in a unique position to do well in business. In our case, I think women are uniquely positioned to help large buyers understand local opportunities.
Are their challenges unique as well?
Women are still not very comfortable with building assets, focusing on wealth. Women are still not paid market rates. These things need to change.
Also a lot of times if it is a family run business, access to finance is not exactly easy.
How about women owned businesses in India?
Well there are some very well educated, entrepreneurial women around the country. That said, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done on supply as well as the demand side.
The technology has a host of opportunities. Then there is manufacturing.
What are your India plans and what is the kind of growth you expect?
India continues to be a really important strategic market for our member buyers and the women business owners and our partners in India and around the world. It’s such an important growing economy and because of the level of Education, the technology infrastructure, and you know the role in geopolitics, there are a lot of good reasons why we want to continue identifying these women in businesses developing their capacity to compete for business and connecting them to large buyers. We have a lot of large buyers in the country in every industry. You can imagine from Wal-Mart, IBM to Goldman Sachs, to Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson and many others but they understand the power of the Indian economy and the Indian people, I think our job now is to leverage those partnerships and that commitment to women’s economic empowerment and convert that into more money into women’s hands, in India. And I think business ownership is absolutely one of the best ways and fastest ways to do that so that women have more assets because in an asset based lending environment in India or anywhere it makes it very hard for the women of India to scale if they don’t have control over those assets. So that’s why business ownership and access to markets become so critical and where our commitment is.
(The author is a Delhi based journalist and has authored books. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)