A few decades ago, due to the different Indian structures, thinking about women rural entrepreneurs in India was not just anachronistic, it was almost “impossible”.
Even if there were probably women who were running companies or businesses, those ones were maybe covered by men’s activities or they looked so simple that they were almost “irrelevant”.
With the new millennial, due to the strong globalization (business or pleasure trips, social networks, movies, tv shows, music, platforms were to read, learn or share ideas but also thanks to people moving around the world, following tastes, passions, or opportunities), a better and faster economy, a more open and developed education, different social legislation but also a generational update, India, with his huge quantity of people has and is changing a lot.
One of the most evident aspects of this change is visible thanks to the formal entrance of women in the business world, and not just as workers, but as entrepreneurs, successful entrepreneurs in various activities.
It is true that the number of women entrepreneurs in India is lower, due to social and cultural restrictions still, compared to the men, but it is exponentially higher compared to twenty or thirty years ago!
What Really Happened In The Last 2 Decades?
India is a huge country made by a really articulated number of “areas” where more or less everyone owns a huge city with an impressive number of people living inside.
At the same time, if you consider not just the different areas but India on its own, there is a number between 700.000 and 800.000 villages where more than 70/75% of the population live.
These villages are, day after day, more connected to the fastest version of the internet, with better services and better (using a western idea of standards) life conditions but, even if there is a full industrial development with new, updated and different jobs, in these areas ut is also true that the rural sector still covers an important place.
Only 30/35% of the labor force is made by women because the other 65/70% is still “owned” by men.
What is impressive, in this sector, is the fact that more than 50% of the female population who are employed, don’t have a relevant role and in most of the cases what they get are almost ephemeral positions.
With the increasing number of the Indian population, with the better conditions (in several environments) the demand for production has increased and without having enough male workforce, people started to open a workforce full of new possibilities for women.
Are Women Just A Replacement Of The Lack Of Workforce Or Is There Something Else?
Indian women more than men are living the change, every day their condition and rights are evolving, differing from the previous day thanks to two main factors: education and work background.
With a high level of education, they can interface with a harder level of jobs but also resolve problems in different fields with different ideas and points of view.
At the same time, having family or knowing people in the closer spheres can give more information, more guidance, for example: if your mother has a specific job, you can learn from her point of view how to do something, which is her problem, what could she do better or what would she like to change, she can teach you or show you from young age tools, instruments or solving tactics that you could take to adulthood and use as skills to improve jobs or, change that position in a better one!
As long as this development is going on it’s also true that there is still a big gap between women and men’s situations due to different kinds of conditions like the socioeconomic statuses or the early marriages where women hardly continue their studies.
Without having an education or work background, for women (but it is the same for men), it is harder to understand the different elements of the industry: it becomes more complicated to run companies and to be successful women entrepreneurs in India having these lacks in technology upgrades or techniques, marketing, and communication or even how to find funds or government help to invest and grow.
Programs For Rural Women Entrepreneurs
Since the last part of the previous millennium, the Government of India decided to create programs to promote, help and resolve poverty and work solutions, one of the first ones was the Swarna Jayanthi Drama Swarozgar Yojana.
With innovative measures to provide loans, with longer terms and different kinds of requirements, this program has helped a lot of women access funds, to develop new ideas or companies, or more simply to own new machines, new cars, new products.
Another initiative that has helped a lot the developments, has been the training method, where several training options have been created to teach, form, and build knowledge and professions inside the women’s reality.
This is a list of several programs that India offers to women, to help them form themselves, to help them find jobs, and to help them become entrepreneurs:
Programs For Women Entrepreneurs In India
- Assistance for Rural Employment Guarantee Schemes;
- IRDP: Integrated Rural Development Programme;
- National Food for Work Programme (NFWP);
- National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA);
- Support and Training and Employment Programme for Women (STEP);
- Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY)
The Current State
Let’s analyze some data now: the women-owned enterprises are growing exponentially in India and compared to all the closer States, it is also the country where they develop quickly.
This element could not be shocking, thinking about the number of Indians but when we estimate that between 13 to 15 million are businesses owned by women, this number is probably one of the highest all over the globe!
• With the help of the different programs, with the global investors, with the development of new or more local banks but also with the higher level of education, the number in the last decade of women-owned businesses has increased from 14% to over 20% of the country.
• As long as this number is increasing, India still has a big gap with a lot of other countries, compared to the percentage of women-owned businesses. Countries like Korea, Mexico, or Brazil have a lower number of activities but a more balanced percentage with men.
• Another peculiar aspect is the fact that the majority of these businesses are made by a single person, seen through economic eyes this means lower employment because the country presents a lot of businesses, so potentially a lot of possible employers but the reality is that to take care, most of the time, is enough a single person; just the 15/20% of the companies have hired more than a person.
• The last data that is really interesting is the fact that not always, even if it seems on documents, women own many businesses/activities. It has been calculated that between 10% to 30% are owned by a female name but the reality is there are or there are men running the company!
Success Stories Of Rural Female Entrepreneurs In India: Top 10 Entrepreneurs In India
ANITA DEVI: The Mushroom Lady Of Bihar
Anita Devi is one of the most successful women entrepreneurs in India who made her success growing mushrooms. She graduated at home studying science in two universities, Dr. Rajendra Prasad Central Agriculture University in Samastipur, Bihar, and GB Pant University of Agriculture and Technology in Uttarakhand.
She was looking to find solutions to earn money but also to increase the family situation – she needed to help her family as well as several villages in the area.
CHETNA GALA SINMHA
Chetna Gala Sinmha is a social activist and entrepreneur woman who has worked through time finding ways to empower women from the poorest areas of India, especially the rural ones.
In 1997 she opened the first Bank for and by rural women with the name of Mann Deshi Mahila Sahakari Bank.
Talking about the numbers of this bank, only in 2018, the bank has provided over 50 million dollars to support women entrepreneurs’ projects of any kind.
She also created a foundation called Mann Deshi foundation who owns different activities like community radio, a school to help the rural women entrepreneurs in India in the business fields but also other institutions to help women to create and grow their projects.
PREMA GOPALAN : The Swayam Shikshan Prayog Woman
Prema Gopolan started her journey after the 1993 earthquake. That event destroyed the majority of Latur, the damage was unbelievable and the problems uncountable.
She along with a few other people decided to do something, decided to fight to look for solutions and after a few months they have been able to create a group made by women from over one thousand villages to work on the reconstruction/rehabilitation of the area.
After 5 years they completed the project, rebuilding everything that was destroyed.
She decided to create SSP with the aim to form women to work, to do anything, arriving to learn how to lead in a workplace as in a community facing a lot of problems like food, energy, agriculture, healthcare, etc.
Thinlas Choral is an activist and entrepreneur from Ladakh. Since her childhood, she spent a lot of time living and exploring the area till the point where she started to work as a trekking guide.
Considering the historical moment and the place this fact was really peculiar as weird: that kind of job mostly belonged to men! No matter what, with time and experience she built popularity, and more or less 10 years after in 2009 she founded her company: Ladakhi women’s travel company.
The company started as a trekking/tourism start-up, became year after year bigger till the point she decided to do a new step in her journey: it was no longer just a trekking company but a real organization able to help women to enter this world, to help them find jobs and places but also working more with the ecotourism.
NAVALBEN DALSANGBHAI CHAUDHARY
Navalben Dalsangbhai Chaudhary is an entrepreneur whose business is based on milk.
Originally from Gujarat, she has been able in the last years to create a good profit from milking buffalos and cows, she owns more or less 120/130 animals.
After years she has been able to hire 15 people and her business is growing month after month.
Sobita Tamuli is a really young entrepreneur who has been able to create a big business from what she had around. Married when she was eighteen she started to live a regular house life in a small village in Assam.
She was responsible for taking care of the house, taking care of the family but also about the plants and ground she had around. After a few years of this life, she realized that by mixing specific ingredients she was able to create stronger and more natural manure.
A mixture of banana plants, dried and old leaves, dirt, khan, cow dung, and a few other natural elements.
In a short period of time, she has been able to be noticed by a lot of local farmers, and slowly she obtained a lot of clients all over the region. Her business has not stopped in this field, recently she started a new one focused on Japis, the traditional conical hats of the area.
PABIBEN RABARI : The Hard Jari Woman
Since her childhood, to help her family who was struggling, she has always worked without having the possibility to continue her studies.
Working from home she had the possibility to learn directly from the maternal hands the traditional embroidery methods.
After years of work, she started to be more and more skilled, discovering all the time new ways to approach the different jobs she had to do. One day she ended up inventing the Hard Jari, a completely new and personal process of embroidery.
Her products, made with this method started to be sold super fast and in big quantities, the bags she used to create took the name of Pabi Bag and in a few years, they became popular all over in and outside of India.
Nowadays her business counts more than 50 women working for and with her.
Godavari Satpute is another example of a really talented Indian entrepreneur who has been able to create a business from “nothing”. Literally from nothing.
Her talent has been so peculiar that she has been able to see inside waste materials something more, something else.
She founded Godavari Akashkandil, a company that uses those materials, in a way that recycles those elements to create unique paper lamps.
Her working life as, the ones of other women in the same condition, started due to a need: the salary of the husband was not enough to support the whole family so she started to think about ways how to increase it.
After a first loan provided by a member of the family, she made the prototype and with that, she started to produce a small number of lamps. From there the business became bigger and bigger and now, her company has more than 50 women working full time and almost 30 others part-time (with a minimum number of men inside).
She has expressed on a lot of occasions her desire to help other women who were living or are living the same reality she had in her past.
In 1993 Anita Gupta founded the Bhojpur Mahila Kala Kendra to help rural women entrepreneurs in India to have a better and higher education but also employment training.
She has used one of the most precious things in our lives to make a business: memories. Growing up she collected a lot of memories about several episodes in her life she never liked, episodes of oppression, episodes of iniquities, and injustice.
Finding the courage and the right help she decided to open a business focused on helping other women what she has struggled to have: education, work possibilities, independence.
SHRI MAHILA GRIHA UDYOG LIJJAT PAPAD: Lijjat
This is one of the oldest Indian women’s worker cooperatives launched in 1959.
I decided to give space to this specific one because the cooperative is one of the oldest who manufactures several goods.
It was created by seven women from Mumbai (Jaswantiben Jamnadas Popat, Parvatiben Ramdas Thodani, Ujamben Narandas Kundalia, Banuben. N. Tanna, Laguben Amritlal Gokani, Jayaben V. Vithalani, and Diwaliben Lukka) who tried to find a solution to earn money with the skills they had.
Nowadays the company has more than 40.000 employees and they are still working, with the same spirit, with the same mission of the first seven founders: being able to create jobs, to find solutions, to teach, and to promote or sustain women in the job industry.
Which of these rural women entrepreneurs in India have you already heard about? Tell us in the comments below!