15-4-2019 (1)

What are some challenges to be faced by women entrepreneurs in 2019?

Indian women entrepreneurs are now stepping into a world, where they had not imagined before…

It’s a time for re-imagining for women aspiring to walk into their own business world. Despite challenges that exist, women seem determined to overcome them. Traditionally, the Indian woman was a homemaker, and refined to their homes. But the modern Indian woman is now proudly flaunting a new side to her personality. She appears to be a powerhouse of action. We see her fighting for her rights and making her mark in business, sports, politics, science, the arts and in society by and large. So, it a fitting tribute that Captain Marvel, which was labeled too be more than a superhero film, made an appearance this year!

At the same time, India is experiencing the start-ups boom, like the rest of the world. All you need is a unique idea, the requisite know-how, a sound business plan, start-up finance and the willingness to work hard – and the fruition of one’s dreams is definite possibility.

In this golden age of globalization, digitalization and start-up booms, India is clearly seeing a revolution vis-à-vis women entrepreneurs. Today’s women entrepreneurs come from all walks of life and from all parts of the country; they are not only from high-income groups.

Not only that, women are now breaking the glass ceiling consistently. From running sports media firms to real estate companies and security and detective agencies – women are entering fields that have traditionally been bastions of male domination.

Being an entrepreneur, however, isn’t easy. Start-ups come with their own set of obstacles and issues. Women in particular have far more challenges to overcome.

The gender bias

First and foremost, women have to deal with the gender bias. India has been a patriarchal society in the past where the role of women was relegated largely to domestic duties. And although the status quo is changing rapidly, there is still a long way to go.

Social barriers

Social barriers and norms also continue to hamper women with entrepreneurial ambitions, especially in rural and semi-urban areas. Even today, religion and caste get in the way of women when they step out to start a venture. But things are changing for the better and the Indian woman is standing up for herself like never before.

Education is an issue

Education is also an issue. Till recently, women, especially in the rural areas, did not have access to specialized training to hone their skills and abilities. But thanks to the internet, the world is shrinking by the day and nothing is out of reach or bounds anymore. 21st century education and skills can now easily be acquired online.

Resources, technology, infrastructure

Resources, technology and infrastructure have been daunting in the past. But in this liberating digital age, the spirit of entrepreneurs are at an all-time high – for a variety of new-age platforms are helping innovative ideas become a reality! Resources and technology are now penetrating every corner of the country. New products are discovering new markets too. 

In the past, to procure finance to kick-start their dream venture was extremely difficult for women, aspiring to start their own business. Thankfully, female-friendly government loan schemes and private microfinance for women are changing the scenario rapidly.

A work-life balance

 A healthy work-life balance is one of the biggest challenges for women entrepreneurs; a challenge that they must overcome.  As the ads too are a clear indicator of the modern men, who  are beginning to contribute towards domestic duties, in order to support their women as they chase their dreams.

So, the last leg of the story, is that challenges and hurdles exist, but women seem determined to overcome them. And 2019, looks like there is no stopping Indian women entrepreneurs, from achieving their ambitions! 


Achieving gender equality for women entrepreneurs: an uphill task?

Economic empowerment of women is a key factor in achieving gender equality

Today, it can be seen that businesses are flourishing indeed. But, an important point is that with increasing number of businesses being steered by women, entrepreneurship is still dominated by males. In fact, this is the reason why gender gap still persists in entrepreneurship.

Why does the gender gap exist in entrepreneurship? There have been policies to promote women’s entrepreneurship, and certainly policies have been directed at uplifting women but still, the reality is that gender bias exists in the environment.  

The time has come for women to play a more equitable, just and central social role, contributing both to their empowerment and to the economic, social and political development of their countries. Today, it is heartening to note that modern societies are paying heed to this.

In India too, recently, the government has launched many schemes for women aimed at their upliftment.  Some women empowerment initiatives in India include  Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Yojna, which was launched in 2015 from Panipat, Haryana on the occasion of International Day of the Girl Child – to generate awareness and also improve the efficiency of welfare services meant for girl child. Then there was Mahila E-Haat launched – to support women and also ‘Make in India’ launched in 2016, by the Ministry of Women and Child Development. The Mahila E-Haat is an initiative aimed at meeting needs of women entrepreneurs, and  provides a unique and direct marketing platform and also leverages technology for supporting women entrepreneurs, SHGs, and NGOs. This has helped a lot!

Globally samples of a current trend of change that aims to redress the balance between men and women are campaigns that have popped up like –  #MeToo. This will have an impact especially in the workplace, family and in terms of security. Meaning, they implicate equal opportunities and same wages for the same job, a more equitable distribution of family roles, and an efficient prosecution of sexual abuse and gender violence.

In Asia and the Pacific, there has been some progress towards greater equality. With this objective in mind, the obstacles women face to find decent work or set up a business in Asia and the Pacific deserve special attention. Female labour force participation has declined and most working women are trapped in informal employment, characterized by low wages and dangerous working conditions.

We know that setting up a business is a key means for women to empower themselves and overcome poverty. Some barriers include a lack of access to education or training, market information and finance.

But, the good news is that despite these constraints, the number of women entrepreneurs has been increasing in the Asia-Pacific region. Women entrepreneurs in ASEAN countries have been particularly successful. The proportion of firms with women owners have gone up in the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. This has been achieved through gender responsive budgeting, programmes to support SMEs, and strong civil society advocacy – to ensure women’s entrepreneurship is prioritized in national policy making. It is significant that at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), have acknowledged that they want to work with countries across policy areas – to develop a gender responsive entrepreneurial ecosystem.

One critical area they identified is – the need to improve women’s access to diverse sources of financing. Financial inclusion of women is a must! There are certain factors that can be adopted to quicken the pace of change. Combined with measures to improve financial literacy, these solutions (like entrepreneurship bonds, impact investment funds and gender responsive financial solutions) should improve access to finance and support greater growth.

Making life easier for women entrepreneurs is to support women’s empowerment. It can help eliminate gender inequality, protect a fundamental human right and bring considerable economic benefits. So, here’s raising a hope that the environment will be moving towards becoming more entrepreneurial, to achieve equality, thus giving women the support and opportunities they deserve….


Become an Entrepreneur in the Beauty and Fitness Industry

If you are considering starting your own business, the billion-dollar beauty and fitness industry is a lucrative option. There are many entrepreneurship options in this industry- beautician, gym ownership, fitness instructor, nutritionist, health website… Women entrepreneurs in this industry are tapping the business potential of new-age diets, beauty treatments and fitness forms.

Establishing a successful business in this industry requires certain qualities in an entrepreneur like a friendly disposition, ability to offer great customer service as well as listening to customers and taking their feedback to create a unique niche. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and ask if you are offering what the market wants. Try to also enhance local media visibility to build awareness of your business. Be in touch with relevant beat journalists and bloggers who write about the category.

Building an online presence is also an essential marketing tool. A website will make it easier to reach out to local audience as well as increases visibility on online searches. You can also register your business on Google- https://www.google.com/business/ to appear in local results and on Google Maps. Create a business page on Facebook and leverage it to grow your personal business using both paid and organic strategies. Post the content on your personal Facebook page also as well as leverage it on other platforms like Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat. Interesting video content like tips, beauty or fitness tutorials and customer reviews on YouTube are also good marketing tools. Be in touch with peers in the industry through linkedin and engage in relevant business conversations on Twitter. Always ensure there is a part of your day, even just 10-15 minutes if possible dedicated to strategizing about growing your business. In the long run, planning and persistence will help you emerge as a winner.


EntreChat: Mrs B Bhuvaneswari

Mrs B Bhuvaneswari started her business with her husband, Krishnamoorthy, who was a social worker before he ventured out. They are for sure, “enjoying this experience”. She shares with Shree Lahiri, how the whole started, the challenges faced, opportunities and more….Without any hesitation, she endorses that  “the person who is working enthusiastically, is the one who gets all the sweetness at the end”!

  • How did you start this business?

We started in 2012, in the handicrafts sector. Our beginning started through the NGO – Rural Education for Action and Change at Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh. We were organizing skill upgradation training for different artisans on products like terracotta pottery, banjara embroidery, kalamkari paintings, appliqué work, bamboo items and so on. We were promoting small production efforts at the village level. We also started a showroom at Tirupati and also went on to participate in exhibitions. 
The first four years, we concentrated on village artisans to create production centres. Today we have six production centres set up.

  • Where did the funding come from?

For upgradation, we took funds from the Ministry of Textiles and from the district level government funds – District level Rural Development Agency (DRDA).
In Tirupati, there is a “shilparamam”, like Dilli Haat  in Delhi, where the state government allots stalls at concssetional rates and we took one stall and put our products for sale.

  • What were some challenges you faced?

Our day-to-day customers want new designs and innovative level of products. At the village level, this really tough. Then there is the competition between plastic goods and machine made goods. Machine made goods are made in bulk and cost less than hand made products, where the cost is high.

  • What about any training you conducted?

When training new artisans, it is impossible for them to learn. If they are from a family of artisans, it is easy, otherwise training unemployed youth is a waste!

  • Are you selling online?

There are a lot of problems selling online. One person may order, but the payment is made on receiving. Tracking the sale is difficult. Some may bargain or say it is not ok, after receiving the goods. So it’s not clear whether they will pay or not!

  • How big is your team and how do you stay inspired?

We are four members – me and my husband, and two other people. We have got our day-to-day sales increased. This is encouraging. But competition is very much there. Customers are interested in buying hand-made products, and we have to work hard to push ahead.

  • Would you need any further training to improve?

Yes, definitely, we will welcome that.

  • Where do see your business three years later?

Currently our monthly business is reasonably good. We hope to double our sales, in the next three years!

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What Women Entrepreneurs need to know before pitching to Investors and VCs

What attracts investors and VCs, when you approach them as an entrepreneur? Although
many startups focus on perfecting their concept, the idea itself is one of the factors that may
not always be seriously considered by investors. Practically, often investors listen to pitches when they are presented with good “ideas,” but it may not happen that entrepreneurs walk
away with a deal!

The positive side is that  – with a proper knowledge and the right preparation, you can significantly improve your chances of impressing an investor. Remember, the first impression
is the last impression. You only get one chance to make a great first impression!

Before you approach an investor, here is some action you can take to maximize your chances of clinching the deal.  

·         Find the right team

Do you have an adequate team behind the concept? Do they have the experience to take forward?  Unfortunately, just having a great concept isn’t enough. This is one of the greatest considerations for an investor. Many times, inept teams have let down some businesses. On the other hand, there are also many instances where great teams have achieved phenomenal success with an average idea.

It takes immense effort to both launch and run a business; and it’s the strength, expertise and experience of your team that will determine how you can do that. Building a team with experienced professionals with skills is critical, especially if you are looking for striking a deal with an investor.

So, pay attention to some points: like analyze your business critically and identify exactly what skills and experiences are necessary to succeed. Then, evaluate your team and identify what skills are available, and which are lacking with your current team.
Before setting up your first meeting, have a strong team in place,  that has the requisite experience needed to keep the business afloat!

·         Develop a sound concept

You may have a great investor pitch, but the data and numbers behind your business will always impress. If businesses or startups have to be funded, they need to have traction and momentum. With real customer data, you can prove that you have built the right product for the right market. Traction doesn’t mean earning crores in revenue or generating thousands of active customers. Simply, it means that you were able to successfully progress your business given the limited resources that were available to you.

So, before you meet with investors, validate that you have developed a true product-market fit by: launching a minimal viable product and putting it to the test; also finding consumers amongst your target audience and generating feedback; and also tracking customer behavior and optimizing your product/service until you have developed the ideal product that customers need to solve their problem.

Frankly, validation confirms that there is a true demand for your product. Besides, it also demonstrates that you can successfully generate a return on resources. When they see that you have accomplished a substantial amount with very little, investors will be more confident that you can also provide a significant ROI.

·         Test your marketing strategy

Pumping in funds can help you rapidly scale your marketing strategy. But, first, you must test your marketing strategy – to ensure that it is both optimized and scalable.

Investors expect that you have an ascendable plan in place, so that their funding will be used to grow your business. So, before you set up your first meeting, it is critical that you identify who your market is and know how to reach them most effectively: put your marketing strategy to the test by launching small-scale campaigns and optimize these campaigns until you have the ideal cost per acquisition and, are able to easily bring in new customers, while maintaining a positive profit margin.

As you test your marketing strategy, you will be able to generate the statistics that you need to build a solid case.

·         Develop a great pitch

After surveying the situation and collecting all the statistics that matter, you’ll need to create a pitch that explains exactly why they matter. And, how should your pitch be?

Your pitch should be:
 – concise but detailed; informative but persuasive; and most of all, memorable.

 – should detail the story of your business – who the market is, what problems they face, what your solution is, and why your solution is the right solution. It should also describe why you have the right team, the right product (through product validation) and the right strategy to move it to the next level of success.

Always remember that some investors hear a number of pitches every day. In order to stand out, you need to be better than the others. This means having a stronger team, more notable achievements, better validation and a more scalable product. Remember, when it comes to securing funding, it all starts with the pitch.

·         Know your investor

The day of your pitch may be the first time you actually meet the investor. But, it is important that you should do a thorough check-up on the investor, so that you are already clearly familiar with their background. Knowing who you are pitching to is almost as important as knowing what you are pitching.

Doing research before pitching, gives you a tremendous advantage. Striking a deal isn’t just about presenting an awesome business but, it’s about finding the perfect startup-investor partnership. The more you know about the investor before the pitch, the better you will be able to optimize your pitch for them.

·         Immerse yourself in the VC ecosystem

Women entrepreneurs need to network in the startup and investing community consistently so they can learn what investors are seeking. Sometimes investors host several investor events on a regular basis, which can provide value for entrepreneurs seeking funding. So, keep a watch out and participate, for you will be the gainer!

  • The final step

Once you have successfully accomplished all the above steps, you will be able to confidently walk in and pitch to any investor. Backed by a strong team, a great product-market fit, the right strategy, and a perfect pitch, nothing should stand in your way of accomplishing your funding goal. And, during your fundraising journey, you may just about win against the odds!

it’s all about confidence! 

Do not think of gender as a disadvantage. Investors rely heavily on your ability to believe in your own leadership capabilities. Present yourself with confidence and pitch yourself with full power!

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