Women are more likely than men to stay home due to deeply ingrained cultural norms. When they do work, it’s mainly informal, with no guaranteed wages or contracts.
In this context, female entrepreneurship faces many challenges in India. Women can be viewed as irresponsible for putting in the effort to start a business outside of their normal working hours.
Things are changing. According to my research, women entrepreneurs in India are fighting against social, family, and cultural pressures in order to challenge the Indian status quo. In addition, they empower other women and provide innovative solutions to social problems.
The stories of some of the women that I spoke with have inspired me greatly. Pinky Maheshwari was challenged by her son to create an environmentally friendly paper. She then made handmade paper from cotton embedded with seeds. After the paper has served its purposes, these seeds can be planted to grow into trees.
Her award-winning concepts have received support and appreciation at the highest levels in Indian government. She told me that she is motivated by the idea to empower others and “hires woman from rural and small town so they can earn a living and get recognized for their creativity”.
She said: “I employ a majority of women, and I support them as much as I can.”
Other women I interviewed had a similar spirit. Padmaja Narsipur is the founder of an online marketing strategy company. She encourages women to “restart” their careers after taking a break.
She said, “Women who re-start are highly motivated and qualified.” I was one. “I have created a workplace that is built on trust, flexible working hours and work-from-home options. It is paying off.”
Pooja Rai, CEO of Anthill Creations, has a vision of creating “interactive learning spaces in public places with a focus on sustainability” by using recycled material to build accessible areas in remote areas of India.
Here are some of the Indian women I met who have created businesses with a real purpose. They are changing perceptions despite the cultural barriers and creating innovative businesses which have a real impact in their communities and beyond.
They are rewriting rules for families, businesses and society. Their work challenges the idea that they have limited opportunities to build successful businesses.
Indian women have a unique blend of business acumen and social purpose to help them change perceptions and create prosperity for both themselves and the nation.
The new face of Indian women’s entrepreneurship. There is also evidence that the public policy supports this transformation, while society begins to celebrate these women’s successes.
The Indian society is slowly becoming more egalitarian, with government initiatives like “Beti padhao, Beti bachao”, designed to improve prospects for young girls.
All of these factors contribute to the change. Women entrepreneurs in India are gaining momentum from these initiatives.
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Their stories will hopefully inspire women entrepreneurs from around the world, while encouraging policy makers to create avenues that support their aspirations.
These policies could include promoting women’s entrepreneurship and financing women-led start-ups. It is clear that the work has begun, but much more needs to be done to encourage Indian women to become entrepreneurs and overcome their historical barriers.