Women Entrepreneur’s Day 2022: Gender bias still rampant in the business ecosystem, say women entrepreneurs
This Women Entrepreneur’s Day, we spoke to a few such women entrepreneurs who might end up being the next big entrepreneur.
Women Entrepreneur’s Day: What comes to mind when you hear the terms 'women entrepreneurs? It must either be the name of Falguni Nayar or Upasana Taku or Kiran Mazumdar Shaw. Their journey as entrepreneurs has inspired thousands of women in India to pursue their dreams of starting their own ventures.
But no matter how glamorous their destination may seem, the journey was filled with challenges and, hurdles and whatnot. This Women Entrepreneur’s Day, we spoke to a few such women entrepreneurs who might end up being the next big entrepreneur.
Banking and Financial Challenges
The Government of India has introduced a number of loan schemes for women entrepreneurs. Yet women face several challenges while availing the benefits of such schemes, said various women entrepreneurs.
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“The major challenge arises due to the lack of information (regarding the schemes) among bank employees. The process of availing the benefits of such schemes may be simple, but due to the lack of transparency it becomes complicated,” said Najooka Javier, co-founder of Tohfa, which manufactures sustainably-made accessories and home décor.
Banks often refuse to open an account for start-ups and ask for UDYAM or GST registration. According to the women, it is difficult to get GST registration done if the turnover of the company is less than 20 lakhs per annum. So, in many cases, women give up and open a savings account instead.
“The concept of helping women entrepreneurs has not been that popular. It is not easy to avail the schemes. I have written to banks many times but have been asked for mortgages. When I started in 2016, banks would often be skeptical to give loans as a woman was the solo founder,” said Aishwarya Biswas, founder of Auli, a skincare brand. She was also a participant in Shark Tank India and received Rs 75 lakh in funding.
Persistent Gender Bias
According to several women entrepreneurs, there is an archaic school of thought that creates barriers at every stage. With all the gender parity conversations in the background, women entrepreneurs still find it challenging to raise funding and find investors.
“There is still the mindset that women are not good with numbers, finances, and banking. Since there are a couple of technicalities like TDS, GST, etc involved, we are often doubted. We have to prove ourselves with the knowledge,” said Paromita Ghosh, director, and founder, of Candid Communication, a marketing and public relation agency.
The situation gets even more challenging if there is a male co-founder involved in the venture, stated the women entrepreneurs. They said that they could feel an obvious tilt in favor of the male founders as compared to female founders while dealing with some old-school investors.
“The most common reservations include that women often have ‘sunflower’ careers with no long-term commitment. There are questions regarding marital status and plans around it and other family changes (read motherhood),” added Dhanashree Bhatkal, Founder of A Money Tree, a business planning firm.
They even believe that lack of proper funding avenues and weak institutional support mechanisms are the primary impediments for women to taking up entrepreneurship.
“Only 20 per cent of enterprises are women-led, which speaks volumes about the state of women's entrepreneurship in the country,” said Priyanka Chaudhary Raina, co-founder of baby care brand Maate.
Slow but steady change happening
Women entrepreneurs believe that changes are slowly happening in the ecosystem in the last couple of years. That is also evident from the fact that there has been considerable credit growth witnessed by the non-banking financial sector (NBFC) primarily driven by women entrepreneurs.
NeoGrowth, one of India’s leading NBFCs, with a focus on lending to Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), recently unveiled a survey that demonstrated that the credit demand from women-led MSMEs doubled by the end of the festive months of 2022 as compared to the pre-pandemic festive season of July-October 2019.
“There are several women investors in the ecosystem now, and venture capital and funds that have women decision makers at the board level. This is a subtle advantage. On the soft-skill side, your business can resonate with them more deeply,” said Bhatkal.
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