Entrepreneurship can be among the most rewarding and demanding career options anyone can take up. With the rewards come the challenges as well.
While most of the issues highlighted by entrepreneurship blogs focus on general problems that aren’t gender or region specific, the problems faced by successful women entrepreneurs in India isn’t talked about much. With the growing number of Indian women entrepreneurs managing successful businesses, we thought it’s a topic worth exploring.
Our guest blogger Seeta Bodke thinks culture and society add a new layer of complexity to the problems associated with women entrepreneurship in India.
Breaking centuries of tradition; the Indian woman today has not only embraced a life in the corporate world but has also begun to make her moves beyond a corporate career and into Entrepreneurship. While a corporate career gives her the financial independence and growth to substantiate her abilities, being an Entrepreneur takes her beyond that and into a world where not only does she get an opportunity to carve a notch for herself but also make a difference.
Over the years the number of women taking on entrepreneurial responsibilities has picked up indicating a healthy trend however despite the number slowly growing it still has a long way to go before more and more Indian women can be convinced about the potential that can exploited in having their own start up. The reason for this being that many women nip their interests in the bud or give up midway not because it is hard to become an Entrepreneur but because they find their journey too uphill to become one.
What stops them from taking on that journey? Why is it that despite the change in numbers we do not see as many women on the Entrepreneurial map? And whether we like it or not, why do most perceive potential failures for women who do take the plunge?
Many reasons contribute to this but when you give it a though you realize that most of the reasons that stand out usually stem from two important factors – The society and Security/safety
When a friend once announced that she would like to quit her job and set up her own Art and Design business, instead of a pat on the back or a hearty congratulations, she got a raised brow and a question that broke her confidence “You are a girl, what will you be able to do?”
While a lot many women are breaking the shackles and moving out of their homes to work, setting up businesses is still perceived to be a Man’s domain.
Most Indian women are known to be extremely adaptive but the aggression and assertiveness that is required to get their need across has not been a known characteristic in them. However this is once aspect that is changing with more and more women from urban areas who are educated and have an exposure to society taking the initiative to start their own business.
An important aspect of running your own business is the ability to socialize within the Entrepreneurial network to build contacts and win customers but very few Indian women step out of their comfort zones to do so.
If they do socialize, it is limited to the work they need to get done and not to build relationships. The implication of this is directly on the extent of visibility they have in the market and on the perception they build.
Societal expectations that whatever a woman does, she should always prioritize her family over everything else can prove to be a big deterrent for those running their own show. Most women bow down to the pressure instead of working out a win-win situation.
A successful woman entrepreneur once pointed out an easy solution to this dilemma; she worked out a solution where she and her husband shouldered their domestic responsibilities equally thus giving her enough time to focus on her work.
Understanding that men are also quite capable of handling family responsibilities and making that a reality can go a long way in resolving this obstacle.
Unfortunately most women lack the shrewdness that is required while dealing with their stakeholders. Part of this also stems from the fact that most women do not hold a long term view of their business and do not have a clear picture of how they want their start up to grow.
What also contributes to this absence of behaviour is the lack of the ability to say no. Traditionally Indian women have learned to adjust and adapt instead of putting their foot down when necessary and saying No. This nature works against them when it comes to the business world.
Probably the most important aspect of turning an Entrepreneur is being able to sustain your business. Most women are unable to carry through their ideas because of the short term goals they set without thinking through the sustainability of their venture and also partly due to the priorities they are forced to change when it comes to family.
This alone with the general perception makes VCs hesitate to fund their business. That most VCs are led by men add to the already existing problem.
In today’s times, probably this is the biggest obstacle for women in India. The security blanket is at its thinnest thus making women hesitate to take on roles that demand long hours and interactions with a world of strangers.
The rise of social crime and the need for safety pushes everything down the priority list when there is a demand to spend late hours at getting work going.
While urban women are taking the plunge after much thought, the silver lining is when women from rural areas turn Entrepreneurs in their own small ways with things such as opening a small grocery store or something as simple as rearing cows to sell dairy products. A small step in the rural world can be a huge motivation in the urban one.
Despite these bottlenecks that most urban women face in India, there are many who have risen above them and built successful businesses. Communicating with the family and thinking the business idea out with a long term sustainable plan can act as a key to succeed. Most important of all, developing an attitude to persevere despite all odds goes a long way in being successful.
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, counted among the most successful women entrepreneurs in India, did not build Biocon overnight. It took her time, perseverance and a ‘never say die’ attitude to get to where she is today. You need exactly the same ingredients to get past these obstacles and rub shoulders with her someday.
Author Bio: Seeta Bodke, an MBA grad, is a Business Consultant. After spending over a decade in technology management, she decided to follow her heart and take up freelance writing and blogging.
If you know any successful women entrepreneurs, please ask them to share their experiences/problems and how they deal with them, in the comments below. And don’t leave the site before you read this article – 10 Small business ideas for Indian men & women