Education and Skills

How women entrepreneurs are changing Indian society

Sikh devotees crowd outside a holy Sikh shrine for prayers to mark the birth anniversary of the tenth Guru, Govind Singh, in Jammu January 5, 2007. REUTERS/Amit Gupta (INDIAN ADMINISTRATED KASHMIR) BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE - GM1DUHYFGFAA

Indian women are traditionally expected to maintain domestic responsibility. Image: REUTERS/Amit Gupta

Mili Shrivastava
Lecturer in Strategy, Bournemouth University
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Education and Skills?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Education is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Education

This article is part of: India Economic Summit

In India, the proportion of women in paid work is among the lowest in the world, at just over 23% – a figure which contrasts sharply with the corresponding rate of over 78% for men.

Opportunities for women to enter employment in the country are limited by a range of factors. These include a dominant tradition of female domestic responsibility, and a prevailing social patriarchy.

Deeply entrenched cultural expectations mean that women are more likely to stay at home. And when they do work, it is mainly on an informal basis, without the luxury of secured wages and contracts.

Against this backdrop, the idea of female entrepreneurship in India faces major challenges. Setting up a business can require significant efforts outside of normal work times, and can lead to women being perceived as irresponsible if they dedicate time to entrepreneurial activities.

Image: Statista

But it seems as if things may be changing. My research on women entrepreneurs in India reveals they are contesting social, cultural and family pressures to challenge the status quo in Indian society. They are also empowering other women while providing innovative solutions to major social problems.

Have you read?

Some of the women I spoke to greatly inspired me with their stories. One manufacturing business founder, Pinky Maheshwari, was challenged by her son to make environmentally friendly paper. She went on to create handmade paper made out of cotton that is embedded with seeds. These can then be planted and grown into trees when the paper has served its purpose.

Her award-winning ideas have won appreciation and support from the highest levels of Indian government. She is, she told me, motivated by the idea of empowering others, and “hires women from rural and small towns so that they earn a livelihood and get acknowledged for their creativity”.

Discover

What is the World Economic Forum's India Economic Summit 2019?

She added: “I have employed largely women and I support them in any way I can.”

A similar spirit shone through other women entrepreneurs I interviewed. Padmaja Narsipur, the founder of a digital marketing strategy firm, supports women “re-starters” to join her workforce after a break in their working lives.

She said: “Women re-starters are highly qualified and committed. I have been one myself. I have built a workplace where trust in employees, giving flexible hours, work from home options, is built into the DNA and it is paying off.”

The CEO of Anthill creations, Pooja Rai has a vision to create “interactive learning environments in public spaces with a primary focus on sustainability”, by using recycled materials to build accessible play areas in remote parts of India.

These are just some of the many Indian women entrepreneurs I met who are creating businesses of real purpose. Despite the cultural obstacles, they are changing perceptions and creating innovative businesses that have a real impact on their communities and beyond.

Their work is rewriting the rules for business, families and society while challenging the mindset that there is limited scope for them to create good businesses.

With a blend of social purpose and business acumen, Indian women are embarking on a journey to change perceptions and creating prosperity for themselves and for the nation.

This is the new face of women entrepreneurship in India. And there is evidence that public policy is increasingly supportive of this transformation while society is beginning to celebrate their successes.

Loading...

Indian society is gradually becoming progressively egalitarian with much needed government initiatives such as “Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao” (Save the Daughter, Educate the Daughter) designed to improve the prospects of young girls.

Improved access to social media, education, and social enterprises are all contributing to change. These are giving momentum to the aspirations of women entrepreneurs in India.

Their stories will hopefully inspire women entrepreneurs from around the world, while encouraging policy makers to create avenues that support their aspirations.

Such policies could include promoting entrepreneurship education amongst women and helping to finance women led start ups. The work has started, but there is much more to do to encourage the female businesswomen of India to overcome historically entrenched barriers and become part of a global entrepreneurial society.

Loading...
Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Education and SkillsJobs and the Future of WorkGeographies in Depth
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

AI is changing the shape of leadership – how can business leaders prepare?

Ana Paula Assis

May 10, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum