7 Problems faced by Women Entrepreneurs in India

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.
 


7 Problems faced by Women Entrepreneurs in India

by Seeta Bodke

 
Problems faced by Women Entrepreneurs in IndiaBreaking 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
 

Problem 1: Traditional Mindsets

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.
 

Problem 2: Aggression and Assertiveness

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.
 

Problem 3: Networking

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.
 

Problem 4: Prioritization expectations

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.
 

Problem 5: Business mindedness

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.
 

Problem 6: Sustainability

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.
 

Problem 7: Safety and Security

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.


Over to you now. Do you think the 7 problems we’ve covered here are representative of what women entrepreneurs in India face?

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


Serious about higher education? Join us on social media for regular updates.

MBA Crystal Ball provides professional Admissions Consulting services. Hire us to improve your chances of getting into the top international universities. Email: info [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com

Sameer Kamat //
Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Connect with me on Google+ | Twitter | Facebook | Linkedin

9 Comments

  1. Alka says:

    All the problems are relevant. Different women face the above and more in varying degrees. Not many women have long term goals and parochial thinking due to family pressure can sometimes hamper growth. Having said that, I know of a lady who runs a successful e-venture. Since the business was doing well, the husband quit his job and joined in. And ever since they are facing problems. The lady had nurtured employes over the years but her husband’s over bearing attitude saw the employes leaving. The ego clashes between the couple created further problems.
    Love reading Seeta’s insightful articles.

  2. Seeta says:

    Thanks Alka. I agree, I have never been a fan of both spouses working together. There are some exceptions but most men cants take it if their wives stay ahead of them in the game. Their insecurity and angst shows up in many ways, one of them being the example you mentioned above.

  3. samriti says:

    yes, very much. I want to comment about networking. when girls try to network, many male colleagues/counterparts might think that they are trying to find a potential match in them/may be using their feminism to get the extra attention.. ! it becomes annoying at times. Hope men understand that!!

  4. Rachna says:

    Very valid points, Seeta. I feel that at least in cities where the women have access to online resources, I have seen many women entrepreneurs flourish. Whether it is a small jewelry, apparel retail or baking class, you see women entrepreneurs all around. My husband and I own a startup but luckily we work in different domains. Else, it is a recipe for disaster. Another problem with entrepreneurship is the working hours. Whether it is a playschool, a catering business or a writing company, you have to work harder and longer hours to cultivate a clientele and deliver on strange deadlines. You also have to compromise on holidays. Unless you have excellent family support and household help, it gets even more difficult for a woman to find time for everything.

  5. Asha says:

    Very articulately put Seeta. Another problem I see is the lack of self worth in a lot of women, which would enable them to take risks and also be able to allocate a financial corpus for their new venture. They often hesitate to dig into finances for fear of losing it and the fear increases ten-fold when the woman starts doubting her own ideas and capabilities.

  6. Buvaneswari says:

    I agree your points mam,but Indian women entrepreneurs unable to sustain their business not only because of their short term goal.There is many issue behind this like society,non acceptance of men to work under women,financial independence of women etc.And, i think women also have clear goal about their business as men.

  7. dreamer says:

    Thanks for the great article. I find the “networking” part especially true. Having worked at a company in which I was the only girl, it was no piece of cake for me to engage in social conversations outside of work. My other colleagues connected with each other and with upper management because they were “guys” and they had lots of things to talk about. Somehow I think it’s unfair when my male colleagues could casually grab a beer with our boss and not bat an eye, and I could not do the same. Now as an entrepreneur in the Healthcare field, I get to deal with several men in middle-management, which makes it incredibly difficult to “nurture a relationship”, given that most of them still harbor the “cant-hold-a-casual-conversation-with-a-woman” attitude. I work in business development by the way, which makes networking an important part of my professional life.

  8. ashish says:

    real facts ..
    neat n clear points and clarification
    thanks Seeta,

  9. Sandhya Iyer Bhide says:

    All points are relevant. However, one is glaringly missing:
    Starting a business activity is no easy task. and Financial know how is a grey area for women. Cost/costing, cash flow, Profit & Loss, Balance Sheet etc. makes women nervous

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *