The growth of microenterprises can lead to better gender equity and women empowerment in India, according to a recent study by Azim Premji University’s Centre for Sustainable Employment and Global Alliance for Mass Entrepreneurship (GAME).
The report titled Microenterprises in India: A Multidimensional Analysis focussed on non-farm microenterprises employing less than 20 workers. It showed that there is more than one way to accelerate the women’s movement, especially in terms of financial independence.
As of now, India fares poorly in pushing the growth of microenterprises creating a mere 11 percent of jobs. Shedding light on what can be done, the report urges policymakers to look out for collaboration, consolidate efforts, and share best practices across value chains and geographies to accelerate development in the area of microenterprises.
It outlines significant barriers to microenterprises, including lack of aspiration, perception of risks, entrepreneurial mindset and skillset, access to finance, infrastructural constraints, absence of market linkages, and mentoring. These hurdles are even greater for women, says the report authored by Amit Bosale, a faculty member at Azim Premji University, and Vidya Chandy, Director of GAME.
Hurdles do not deter women
When it comes to businesses owned by women, a good 78 percent of such enterprises are based out of their homes while only 22 percent operate in a commercial setup.
The study also notes that women owners can be found engaged more in the business of tobacco, paper and paper products, chemicals, apparel, textiles, plastics, beverages, education, miscellaneous manufacturing, and wood products.
However, they remain underrepresented in key industries like food (14.9 percent), retail (10.5 percent), and health (nine percent). In addition to this, women are nearly absent in industries like transport (0.23 percent) and furniture (0.2 percent).
Sustaining women in microenterprises
Citing National Service Scheme (NSS) data, the study shared that in 2015, women-owned firms accounted for 20 percent of all enterprises, 16 percent of all workers, and nine percent of aggregate value-added in the non-farm microenterprise sector.
Between 2010 and 2015, the share of enterprises and Gross Value Added (GVA) for women did not increase. Additionally, there was a fall in worker share from 18 percent in 2010 to 16 percent 2015.
Two policy concerns relating to women entrepreneurs in microenterprises were also discussed. First is the rising number of female entrepreneurs in industries where they are underrepresented. Second is focussing on levels of assets and productivity in industries where women are currently engaged at a high rate.