Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities for Needy Women in India
India’s economic growth rate has remained consistently high over the last few years. The Indian economy is in a consolidation mode and it is the right time to create more entrepreneurial opportunities for the weaker sections of the society. This is essential in order to make economic growth more equitable across different social strata. There needs to be a special focus on addressing the challenges faced by poor, rural and other needy women in India. It is important that these women are able to participate more productively and reap benefits of the overall economic progress of the country.
There are a few organizations that are working effectively towards the mission of creating entrepreneurial opportunities for women in need. The International Centre for Entrepreneurship and Career Development (ICECD) is one such organization that is empowering widows and other destitute women across India with entrepreneurial skills so that they can earn a respectable livelihood and become self-sufficient. ICECD has trained more than 45,000 women across the country. From selling snacks to animal fodder, running road-side stalls, making phenol to soaps and more – the centre has helped the women to explore various avenues and earn a livelihood in the range of Rs. 1500 to Rs. 25,000. The project has successfully enabled 90 percent of these needy women to start small businesses or get linked to skilled employment. (1)
There are a number of potential entrepreneurial opportunities for women in smaller cities and towns as well in rural regions, which need to be exploited properly to provide gainful employment. Typical business opportunities for women in smaller regions include making handicraft products using wood, metal, stone and other common materials. Products that are always in demand in urban markets include glass items, bangles, utensils, furniture made of cane and bamboo, pots, vessels and statues of clay, embroidered fabrics, rugs and carpets. Other areas of entrepreneurial opportunity for women include floriculture, banana cultivation, mushroom cultivation, dairy products processing, agro products manufacturing such as pickles, jams, squashes and papads, coir work, tailoring and embroidery, tobacco products, and incense sticks. (2)
Rural retail is a major upcoming sector where significant entrepreneurial opportunities exist for poor rural womenfolk. They can sell low cost but good quality products in rural areas where the demand for such products is gradually rising.
The key strength of rural women is that they understand the local language, customs and culture and can identify the needs and preferences of the local rural market. This task cannot be performed successfully by urban marketers directly. Keeping this aspect in view, Hindustan Lever launched “Project Shakti” in Andhra Pradesh where nearly three thousand women have already become rural retail entrepreneurs. Such projects can be replicated and expanded in size and scope across the whole of rural India. (3)
Skill development and training remains key to creation of entrepreneurial opportunities for women. Various women-oriented NGOs and government agencies need to allocate funding to create entrepreneurial training programs for women. There is enormous potential to make the poor and rural women more productively engaged in gainful employment activities. It requires a dedicated focus and systematic planning and implementation at the state, district and village level to generate entrepreneurial opportunities so that women can contribute more substantially to the economic growth story of India.
- Vikas Vij (views expressed in the article are that of the author)
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