A Bullish Outlook for India’s Female Entrepreneurs

The Indian economy may be going through a rough patch, but a recent study points out that as compared to women in developed nations like the U.S. and the U.K., women in India are more bullish about their entrepreneurial ventures.

Commissioned by PC maker Dell, the Women’s Global Entrepreneurship Study surveyed women entrepreneurs across India, the U.S. and the U.K. The study found that women entrepreneurs in the U.S. anticipate an average growth of 50% in their businesses over the next five years, while in the U.K. women entrepreneurs expect to see their businesses growing by only 24% over the same period. In India however, women entrepreneurs anticipate an average of 90% growth over the next five years. And 80% said that they are hiring.

The study was released by Dell at the third annual Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) event held in New Delhi recently. The earlier DWEN events were held in Shanghai in 2010 and Rio de Janeiro in 2011. According to a statement by Dell, India was picked as the host country for this year’s conference because of “its role as one of the largest emerging markets, as well as its influence on the world of technology.”

“Women are playing increasingly important roles in leadership and we’re seeing some of the most exciting global growth coming from female-led companies,” said Moira Forbes, publisher of Forbes Woman, who led the two day event. She noted that in Asia, “female business leaders and entrepreneurs are changing the face of business and India is at the forefront of this phenomenon.

Hema Ravichandar, a strategic HR advisor, suggests that the emergence of the services sector in India, which has resulted in an increase of women in the workplace, has played a key role in encouraging them to strike out on their own. “Many [women] after experiencing life as an employee [in the services sector] have been inclined to adopt entrepreneurship,” she says. “This not only gives them much-needed flexibility with regard to their respective work patterns — especially useful when on the ‘Mommy track’ — but also empowers them to do things differently and, [in] many cases, more effectively. This success in a way reinforces others into experimenting with this option.” Ravichandar adds that the emergence of the services sector “has also made [entrepreneurship] a much more level playing field unlike traditional industries, [such as] manufacturing.”

Nirmala Menon, founder and CEO of Interweave Consulting, a Bangalore-based firm that focuses on diversity management and inclusiveness in the workplace, points out that there is a lot of visibility and acknowledgement of women entrepreneurs as reliable partners and vendors. “Some organizations are encouraging them as part of their corporate supplier diversity programs. This is spurring other women to enter the space as well.”

Menon adds that Indian women inherently have an important entrepreneurial trait — resilience. “Women in India have had to traditionally manage with limited resources and that native intelligence helps them manage creatively with frugal resources available,” she notes. “They reuse, save, negotiate, find alternatives — all of which contributes to their success as an entrepreneur.”

But what are some of the challenges that they face? Menon suggests that women find it more cumbersome than men to navigate the regulatory and procedural complexities. She attributes this to “a fairly complex process managed mostly by men.” Menon adds that while women entrepreneurs have domain expertise, they often lack profit and loss experience and by consequence could struggle with the “business-side” of an enterprise. However, the biggest challenge for women entrepreneurs in India, she says, is coping with societal expectations. “These are changing, but still have some way to go.”

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