women entrepreneurs and networking

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A joint paper on Networking of Women Entrepreneurs authored by Prof Chowdari Prasad and Mr Vamshikrishna Arumbaka of Alliance Business School, Bangalore presented at an International Conference in January 2009 organised by Manipal Institute of Management and ASCENT, Bangalore


International Conference on "Harnessing Entrepreneurial Potential of Women For Economic Growth" Organized by Manipal Institute of Management, Manipal To be held during January 22-24, 2009

WOMAN ENTREPRENEURS AND NETWORKINGProf. Chowdari PrasadProfessor of Finance & Registrar, Alliance Business School Bangalore 560 068, Email: Chowdari.p@absindia.org and

Vamshi Krishna ArumbakaBusiness School Bangalore 560 068, Email: Vamshiavk@yahoo.comPGP Student (Marketing), Alliance

AbstractThe average Indian woman plays many roles in life - as a daughter, sister, wife, mother, employee, professional, employer, business woman, etc and contributes to the well-being of her family. Though media sings hymns of stories of a very few successful female professionals or entrepreneurs, the reality is scary. Literacy rate among women continues to be very low. Despite several claims and policies about their emancipation, only 10% of the entrepreneurs are women. They still walk many miles everyday for water, food, work, education, etc. Although entrepreneurship is catching up in post reforms era, they have many hurdles to cross and extra battles to win to be on par with men. Women have contributed as Intrapreneurs for far too long by remaining behind their men. The new breed CEOs are no longer subject to biases based on gender. Many women are now opting to craft their goals and dreams to become entrepreneurs. Government Schemes and availability of institutional finance support them fully. The paper looks at the success stories of leading women entrepreneurs who are net-worked. Lijjat Papad, SEWA, AWAKE, FIWE, and many SHGs are examples of testimony for believing that changes can bring more and more women to network.


Introduction: One woman starts dreaming to do something big, concrete, different or unusual to harness her potential and wants to convert the dream to reality. Others keep a watch and follow or join her subsequently in her endeavors and the networking takes place. There are certain inherent qualities that make her an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is not merely starting a business and making profits. Almost 35% of the women in India are surviving economic crises for long years silently. There are several hurdles that hinder and her dream remains a dream. Hurdles that the age old customs, traditions, culture, religious practices, etc., that restrain them to be progressive. Indian Women and Literacy: Literacy rates in India are very low. National Literacy Mission (NLM) statistics show that only 54.16% of women are literate. The Commission also lists out factors responsible for poor female literacy rate. Historically, a variety of factors have been found to be responsible for poor female literacy rate, viz., 1. Gender based inequality 2. Social discrimination and economic exploitation 3. Occupation of girl child in domestic chores 4. Low enrolment of girls in schools and 5. Low retention rate and high dropout rate To improve the literacy rate NLM suggests the following measures: Create an environment where women demand knowledge and information, empowering themselves to change their lives. Inculcate in women the confidence that change is possible, if women work collectively. Spread the message that education of women is a pre-condition for fighting against their oppression. Highlight the plight of the girl child and stress the need for universalisation of elementary education as a way of addressing the issue.


Literacy in women enables them to reach a state of heightened social awareness, increase in school enrolments, and increase in self confidence and personality development, gender equality and empowerment.

It also helps in improving the woman's status in the family, health and hygiene.

Literacy helps developing entrepreneurial spirit in women. Participation of women in literacy campaigns has opened several opportunities for neo-literate women to step out of the households and involve themselves in some enterprise or a new vocation. The Dumka campaign in Bihar has demonstrated how literacy campaign helped women to take charge of their own lives. They have formed a group called Jago Behna (Awake sister), which tries to sensitize the women to the need of collective action against social ills. These women have also set up Didi Bank (Sister Bank) which promotes the habits of thrift and savings. Women have also learnt maintaining a hand pump thereby breaking their dependence for repairs on mechanics from outside the village. It also helps them to achieve financial strength and access to credit. In almost all the districts, the literacy campaigns have gone beyond the transaction of mere literary skills and have served to enhance knowledge and skills for better management of expenditure and improving earning capacities. In several districts, the women participants in literacy campaigns have begun to set aside their earnings not only in regular banks but also in specially thrift societies. Such societies, as for example in Dumka are run by the women themselves. It is the unity and determination of these women that made this drive a grand success. Women at Dumka realized that being in a group or community is always fruitful than being a lone soldier. The power of networking is in its convergence. The convergence of ideas, thoughts, motivation, and fight will always end up in the convergence of benefits. And networking is what would solve the evil. Networking helps the change to happen gradually but steadily and in an ever increasing way in concentric circles. Networking would help women to be in touch with others similarly placed and share ideas,


techniques, exchange information and help each other. Globally empowerment of women and gender equality is recognized as a key element to achieve progress in all areas. BARRIERS & MOTIVATION: While there are so many barriers like literacy, family responsibilities, lack of selfconfidence, ethnic barriers, hostile culture and societal reactions, lack of financial help, fear of risk and failure keep women away from trying something on their own many have treaded this path and become successful in their own right. Many women have come together as one group, community, network and turned entrepreneurs. LITERATURE REVIEW: What makes women turn to become self-employed and entrepreneurs? In an early study of women entrepreneurs, Carter and Cannon (1988) examined the motivational and behavioural characteristics of 60 female business owners, utilising both structured questionnaires and unstructured interviews. They found that the need for independence was an important motivating factor to start a business for the women in their sample. Brindley and Ritchie (1999) aimed to explore the personal and contextual factors that influence the start-up and successful continuation of womens businesses. Taking a comparative approach, they conducted twenty semi-structured interviews with SME owner/managers, ten female and ten male, in order to examine how personal and contextual factors may be gender related. They found that the female entrepreneurs main motivations for starting their own businesses were the need for flexibility due to childcare responsibilities, and their negative experiences of previous employment. Many authors have suggested that women are choosing to enter self-employment in order to overcome certain barriers such as the glass ceiling, thus linking womens motivations with their position in the Labour market more generally (Buttner and Moore 1997). With the motivational factors encouraging let us look at how some women in India and abroad have benefited from being in networks that is dynamic and encouraging.


SELF HELP GROUPS (SHGs): The Self Help Groups (SHG)s predominantly in Andhra Pradesh and elsewhere, aim to do exactly this. Poor rural men and women are given micro credit to undertake entrepreneurial activity thus helping them generate income and pay back to the bank in small installments. The interest rates are flexible and low and ensure that the women keep something off the income as savings reducing their dependence on banks. Sometimes small groups of women are given credit in groups. LIZZAT PAPAD: It is more beneficial when women operate in a network because it is not just a louder voice but a strengthened workforce, better management, faster access and to summarize adds more gun powder to the equation. The story of Lizzat Papad and how it succeeded is well known to all. It stands a testimony to how networking can be a solution to many problems of women entrepreneurs. It all began on 15th March 1959, which was a warm summer day with the sun shining brightly in the cloudless sky. A majority of the women inhabitants of an old residential building in Girgaum (a thickly populated area of South Bombay), were busy attending their usual domestic chores. Seven women gathered on the terrace of the building and started a small inconspicuous function. The function ended shortly, the result - production of 4 packets of Papads and a firm resolve to continue production. This pioneer batch of 7 women had set the ball rolling. As the days went by, the additions to this initial group of 7 was ever-increasing. The institution began to grow. The early days were not easy. The institution had its trials and tribulations. The faith and patience of the members were put to test on several occasions - they had no money but started on a borrowed sum of Rs. 80/-. Self-reliance was the policy and no monetary help was to be sought (not even voluntarily offered donations). Work, however, started on commercial footing. With quality consciousness as the principle that guided production, Lijjat grew to be the flourishing and successful organization that it is today, a Rs. 300 Crore entity. Today Shri Mahila Griha Udyog has a wide range of papad, khakra, vadi, masala, atta,