The reasons behind the trend
The rise in education among women, rising level of male-female equality, rise of general awareness and independence among women are some of the major reasons.
Ruchita Shah of OyeChotu, Ahmedabad, believes that equal parenting, a sub-product of the rising gender equality, is also a contributing factor. However, she says, this trend is more noticeable in the metros.
Jessica Gupta of the Mumbai-based Secret Wardrobe feels that ‘easy access to information through the web world’ is an important reason behind this rise. Ruchira Bhatia of Saundhi Mitti concurs. “The digital boom has led to opening up of sectors of great interest to women, like fashion, home decor, arts and crafts and cooking, which has allowed women to try and create a business out of their hobbies and interests,” Ruchira states.
“Career women across the country are realising that there is an alternative to a full-fledged job that allows greater flexibility and greater fulfilment of individual aspirations,” says Ruchira. “Among housewives, too, realisation is dawning that life after marriage and/or children need not mean only full-time home-making/childcare, and that they can also become entrepreneurs,” she states.
Jayanti (Jonty) Rajagopalan of Detours Hyderabad states, “One reason is the increasing number of women working for a living and their growth in the corporate sector. This gives them the confidence to start their own business.” “It can also be due to men being more supportive with the idea of their partners doing something 'risky' while they get home a regular income,” Jonty avers.
Being a woman entrepreneur in India
All the women entrepreneurs we talked to were of the opinion that there an number equal opportunities available to them as they are to male entrepreneurs. The playing field appears to be level in this regard in India.
“So far, the response has been encouraging,” says Jessica, conceding that this could be because her business is part of the fashion segment, which is naturally seen as a ‘woman’s forte’. “Being a woman has never posed any hurdle in developing my business as such,” she states.
Ruchira states that she has not faced any hurdles specific to 'women' entrepreneurs, and one major reason for this is that she has a very supportive family, which allowed her the freedom to become an entrepreneur. “Perhaps, a lot of women find this a big stumbling block,” she states.
“Apart from family constraints, I cannot imagine a single reason why being a woman entrepreneur would be any more difficult than being a man entrepreneur, unless the field chosen is traditionally male-dominated or, in other ways, tough for women,” states Ruchira.
“I would not say being a woman entrepreneur is easy in India. There is still a segment of people who take women for granted and expect 'out-of-business' activities from women,” says Ruchita. However, this is rapidly changing, she says.
The best and worst of being a woman entrepreneur
“You do tend to get noticed more as a woman entrepreneur, because people still consider a woman starting a business as something out of the ordinary. In some ways, I guess it is good because you get written about, and that means PR!,” Jonty says.
“However, the fact that women entrepreneurs are still seen as being unusual is, in itself, a problem for me. It will take many more years for her to be seen as just another person starting something on her own. Till then, we have to live with the good and the bad that comes with it,” quips Jonty.
“I think a lot also depends on the industry you are in,” she states.
“An issue here could be that given how difficult it is to get started, a lot of women may be forced to reassess their ability to become an entrepreneur, because it means more money being spent, more time away from home, more support needed from family,” Ruchira says.
“The best part of being an Indian woman entrepreneur is that these days, you constantly get to hear of other women who are starting or doing really well in their own ventures, and this is a great motivating factor,” states Jessica.
“The worst part is that you still come across judgmental people who assume that just because you successfully run your own venture, you must be neglecting your family for your work,” Jessica quips. Jonty and Ruchita share her opinion on this.
Words of advice for women entrepreneurs
“It is tougher for a woman entrepreneur to achieve a work-family business. It is, therefore, key to effectively divide responsibilities among your partner(s) or employees,” says Jessica.
“It is good to have an adequate support system at home,” she adds.
“Confidence and networking will always reap positive results,” states Ruchita.
Jonty states that it is important to understand that men and women make decisions differently, and thus, have different ways of running their business. “We tend to make decisions with a combination of the heart and the head. My advice would be to continue doing that. It is a strength and not a weakness,” she states.
“Choose your team wisely – have people who respect you and complement you,” Jonty adds.
“Get your hands dirty,” advises Ruchira. “Get in touch with other entrepreneurs in your space, and discuss openly and freely,” she adds.