Women Entrepreneurs May Be Defined Business Essay


The Indian women are no longer treated as show pieces to be kept at home.They are also enjoying the impact of globalisation and making an influence not only on domestic but also on international sphere.Women are doing a wonderful job striking a balance between their house and career.

Dr. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Chairman & Managing Director of Biocon Ltd., who became India's richest woman in 2004, was educated at the Bishop Cotton Girls School and Mount Carmel College in Bangalore. She founded Biocon India with a capital of Rs.10,000 in her garage in 1978 - the initial operation was to extract an enzyme from papaya. Her application for loans were turned down by banks then - on three counts - biotechnology was then a new word, thecompany lacked assets, women entrepreneurs were still a rarity. Today, her company is the bigget biopharmaceutical firm in the country.

Neelam Dhawan, Managing Director, Microsoft India, leads Microsoft India. She is a graduate from St. Stephens College in 1980,and also passed out from Delhis Faculty Of Management studies in 1982. Then she was keen on joining FMCG majors like Hindustan Lever and Asian Paints, both companies rejected Dhawan, as they didnot wish to appoint women for marketing and sales.

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Women entrepreneur as defined by the Government of India is "an enterprise owned and controlled by a women having a minimum financial interest of 51 % of the capital and giving atleast 51 % of the employment generated in the enterprise to women".  On the basis government offers incentives and concessions to women entrepreneurs.  However, women entrepreneurs severely criticize this definition which sets out a condition of employing more than 50 % women workers.  They point out that this is discriminatory and any enterprise set-up by women should qualify for the concessions offered to women entrepreneurs.

Women entrepreneurs are no longer as hard to find as they were a few decades ago.  However, a lot still remains to be done before the impediments in their way, in the form of unfavourable policies, hostile attitudes or lack of opportunities, are removed and women can function shoulder to shoulder with men.  Non-government organizations promoting women entrepreneurship play a critical role in removing obstacles.  Women as entrepreneurs have to play a key role in the overall economic development of the country.  It is estimated that presently women entrepreneur comprise 10 % of the total entrepreneurs in India with the percentage rising every year and it is likely in another five years, women will comprise 20 % of the entrepreneurial workforce.  This figure is given by Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) as 39.4 %. With corporates eager to associate with women-owned businesses, and a host of banks and NGOs keen to help them get going, there has rarely been a better time for women with zeal and creativity to start their own business.  Traditionally, women in India were associated with tiny enterprises called 3Ps - Pickles, Pappads and Pepper.  In urban cities of India, more and more women are successfully running day care centres, placement services, floriculture, beauty parlors and fashion boutiques.  Of late, technically and professionally qualified females are launching their small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in click and portal areas like information technology, multimedia, telecommunication and some have become very successful knowledge entrepreneurs.  Even in rural areas, self-help groups (SHGs) are empowering women to start their own business enterprises.

Endowed with the famous female intuition that helps them make the right choices even in situations where experience and logic fail, the Indian women have innate flair for entrepreneurship.  Although men and women may be motivated by different goals and expectations, women entrepreneurs are just as competent, if not better, than their male counterparts.  Connie Glaser reports in her famous book When Money Isn't Enough, that male entrepreneurs are motivated by the potential to earn lots of money, while women start their own companies (SMEs) because they seek greater control over their personal and professional lives.  The capabilities and environment with which men and women operate are completely different.  Moreover, women have a few problems in pursuing their SMEs which their male counterparts do not.  If we really want to promote entrepreneurship among women we have to necessarily differentiate entrepreneurship on the basis of sex.

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Let us look at the key changes for the Indian women entrepreneurship over the last five decades.  Women entrepreneurs of The Fifties, took to entrepreneurial business activity where there was no income generating male or took charge of enterprise her husband had left.  In The Sixties, many women educated in schools and colleges began to have business aspirations and set-up SMEs.  Women entrepreneurs of The Seventies, was the critical mass of women who educated professionally and some set-up their own SMEs in emerging and new areas.  The women entrepreneurs of 50's, 60's, and 70's had accepted both their social and occupational roles.  They played the two roles and tried to balance both.  However, in The Eighties, the women were educated in highly technological and professional disciplines and they set-up their more sophisticatedly managed SMEs.  In The Nineties, women entrepreneurs were qualitatively different breed of women.  They were qualified, capable, competent and assertive.  They made better choices of opportunities and ideas, and set-up SMEs which they managed to grow their professionism.

Women in The Nineties have often questioned their traditional coding of their roles and have become conscious of the voice of their identity.  The women entrepreneurs of The 21st Century, set-up businesses in IT, Telecom, and financial sectors and they were pioneers and mavericks.  In this millennium, the Indian women world has to cross a major threshold and enter an unknown land.  They have to walk a path where none existed with the sense to discover and fathom new heights with their effectively managed and technically sophisticated SMEs.

Among the 94.57 lakhs SMEs owned by men functioning in India, 86.92 % are unregistered and registered units amount only to 13.08 %. In the total number of SMEs owned by men in India more than forth-fifths of the SMEs (86.92%) are unregistered.



General Characteristics 

General characteristics of the Indian male and female entrepreneurs that have been noted in this study areas follows:

Female Entrepreneurs

Women tend to be more cautious and avoid risky ventures that would increase their vulnerability and expose them to possible loss of savings, more so when the impetus to become an entrepreneur arises from circumstances such as loss of job, divorce or death in the family. Business ventures are therefore kept small and products are quite diversified, rather than specialized.

Activities are focused on household commitments, namely, to improve living conditions and consumption levels of their families and to educate their children, rather than focused on profit-driven motives. Hence they tend to choose businesses that allow them to balance family and business responsibilities. Sectors to which they gravitate generally exhibit lower growth potential and lower profits.

Women's attraction to the services sector is thought to be linked to the view that women are inherently maternal and see themselves as providers for their families, hence their predisposition to enter this sector.

The creative capacity of women, which is seen to be greater than that of men, allows them to be more responsive to market conditions, thereby contributing to their survival. Not unrelated to this is the tendency of women to underestimate their skills compared to men. As a result, they are more eager to avail themselves of opportunities for self-improvement through skills upgrading and confidence building.


Male Entrepreneurs

Male entrepreneurs are generally perceived to be more self-confident and possess better business skills.

Men tend to be more profit-oriented, and are greater risk-takers with expectations of greater financial returns.

Overall, men have access to a better support system, partly because of their longer experience in the business arena, but more so because of the strength of their networking, and the male bonding phenomenon, variously known as "the old boys' club". In addition, men generally hold positions of power in organizations and political institutions and have greater control over the decision-making processes (loan approvals etc.).

Men enjoy a clear advantage with respect to accessing credit and investment capital, and acquiring market information, which together facilitate their entry into more profitable, high growth sectors.

The mobility of men tends not to be as constrained by domestic responsibilities.


Difference between Personal Entrepreneurial Characteristics  

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Based on general information gathered from respondents the main differences in personal entrepreneurial characteristic between female and male entrepreneurs are as follows:

Female Entrepreneurs

Many female entrepreneurs are said to be in business out of economic necessity.

Women tend to underestimate their skills in comparison to men. They are very eager to take advantage of opportunities such as seminars, bazaars, etc. to help them to upgrade their skills and business capabilities, as well as to build up their level of confidence.

Women tend to be more cautious in their approach to business in the sense that they are more patient than men, and are willing to wait for a longer period of time for their businesses to grow.

Motivation between men and women seems to be different. Women tend to operate in small business and maintain a clear focus on their additional duties and obligations to their family/household. Hence, their main priority is in having adequate finance in hand to meet family commitments, even if they do not obtain an income or salary at month end.

Women tend to be largely in the services sector. One view advanced by a key informant is that "as women are inherently maternal and intrinsically see themselves as providers for their families, they have a predisposition to enter this sector".

Women tend to start businesses that they can manage adequately and financially, bearing in mind that they may also be heading the household in the absence of a male figure. In this case, women's time has to be appropriated prudently between business and familial responsibilities.

Women tend to have an aversion to debt, particularly if they have started their business from a position of disadvantage. The view suggests that women entrepreneurs tend to avoid potentially "risky" business activities that may increase their vulnerability and expose them to the loss of their savings - sometimes life savings. A possible additional risk for women could be the fear or embarrassment of being viewed as a failure within the context of a perceived male-dominated society.

Women's creative capacity is seen to be greater than that of their male counterparts. Women can diversify more quickly than men in order to remain viable within the market - even though this market is small in many cases - and they are seen to be more flexible than men as well.

Male Entrepreneurs

Male entrepreneurs are perceived to be more confident than their female counterparts.

They have a better support system, principally because they have more experience in business activities.

They are perceived to possess more and better business skills than women.

They are seen to be more systematic than women.

They tend to be more enterprising in terms of taking higher risks with the expectation of attaining higher financial returns on their investments.

Challenges of women entrepreneurs

Women are subjected to discrimination in their entrepreneurial endeavours due to various gender-related causes. This discrimination has adversely impacted on their ability to raise or secure capital, to acquire and further managerial talents, and to capture market opportunities.

Women are often subjected to greater scrutiny as they approach traditional lending institutions for assistance. This has resulted in many women being discouraged from venturing into business activities on their own. However, it needs to be mentioned that those women who have done so have been quite successful at managing and operating the respective businesses. This refers in particular to women who have been successful in areas such as basketry, food vending, hair dressing, clothes designing, and food manufacturing - such as pepper sauces, making syrup and the packaging of various spices.

No clearly defined policy framework existed for SME development. In this case, in the views of key informants, there seemed to be gender discrimination in favour of male entrepreneurs. One example given speaks to the issue of males obtaining loans more easily and readily than women from commercial banks to finance their business ventures which, in some cases, were similar to those of women. The Indian Government's recent policy framework has sought to redress some of these imbalances.

A wide range of credit facilities is available. However, SMEs persons including women, experience numerous difficulties in accessing funds.

There is a lack of readily available information on opportunities for investing in SMEs.  In this regard, women who are starting from a perceived situation of disadvantage in the market - especially if they are operating at the periphery of the formal economy - are constrained in relation to maximizing their economic potential.

The absence of an "entrepreneurial culture" has permeated all levels of society.  This has resulted in the SME sector being regarded as a less attractive investment option in India. When combined with other barriers, few women find SMEs an attractive career pursuit.

Female entrepreneurs may lack business management, marketing and accounting skills.  These skills may be very weak. This may be compounded by the lack of resources and in some cases the will to upgrade these skills.

The educational system does not include entrepreneurial education, training and development in the curricula as a crucial area for national economic development. Women who would otherwise benefit from this educational emphasis are inevitably denied early access to the rudiments of business in India6.


Major Problems of Women Entrepreneurs

The major problem observed are as follows :

Women face intensive financial constraints as loans not easily available to them being females - a gender bias.

Women have over-dependence on intermediaries, middlemen and brokers who exploit rather than helping them.

Women face the problem of scarcity of raw materials and depend upon suppliers and middlemen who exploit them charging higher prices.

Cut-throat competition in entrepreneurship creates more hurdles to women entrepreneurs.

In the case of women entrepreneurs, the cost of production goes high as compared to industries run by their male counterparts.  This creates problems of marketing due to high prices.

Women have low mobility as compared to male entrepreneurs because of social hurdles, family responsibilities and discrimination by family members.

Women give more priority to family ties and relationships than economic aspects.  This prevents them from becoming successful in entrepreneurship.

India being a patriarch society, female daughters don't have rights over the property of their father and hence discriminated by financial institutions.

Female entrepreneurs cannot get sales tax number without a male partner which causes a great problem for them.  This is male chaunism that is also in the beginning of the 21st Century.

Because of lack of information networks, education and training, potential and existing female entrepreneurs are exploited by unscrupulous agents and brokers7.

 There are numerous other problems and challenges which discourages women to undertake entrepreneurship and self-employment as a career option in India as well as many other developing countries of the world.  The government must come-up with clear policies in favour of women entrepreneurs so that female entrepreneurship development can be promoted and further encouraged making them as equal partners in the society.