Introduction to Women Entrepreneurship
Women Entrepreneurs may be defined as the women or a group of women who initiate, organize and operate a business enterprise. Government of India has defined women entrepreneurs as an enterprise owned and controlled by a women having a minimum financial interest of 51% of the capital and giving at least 51% of employment generated in the enterprise to women. Like a male entrepreneurs a women entrepreneur has many functions. They should explore the prospects of starting new enterprise; undertake risks, introduction of new innovations, coordination administration and control of business and providing effective leadership in all aspects of business.
Problems and Challenges of woman entrepreneurship in Assam
The entrepreneurs in Assam in particular and those of Indian’s North Eastern Region in general, irrespective of their gender, have some specific problems in setting up and running their business ventures. Similarly the Indian women in general have some problems specific to them. The nature and magnitude of the problems faced by our women depends on various factors to which a woman is subjected. Women in general have high degree of patience, profound sincerity in work, diligence, sense of duty and efficient managerial skill (with initial guidance). But unfortunately, the society either fails to identify their quality or under-estimate them and /or suppress them as second class citizen. The problems in general the women entrepreneurs in developing countries like India face, which are equally applicable to the women entrepreneurs in Assam relate to the following:
1. Social attitude and support: Being in a male dominated society, the Indian women are treated as dependent on men and have no liberty to take decisions of their own. The attitude of non-co-operative from her husband or close family members stands heavily in the way of developing women entrepreneurship. Moreover, the conservative attitude of the society does not allow our women in most cases, to take up entrepreneurial ventures. The gender related discrimination is felt more severely when a woman entrepreneur approaches promotional agencies or banks.
2. Mobility constraint: The women in Assam more particularly those of rural areas have restrictions in their mobility so far as their social status is concerned. Although now-a-days they have relatively more freedom of mobility, but most often become soft target of suspicion by husband. As a prospective entrepreneur, a woman has to visit various financial institutions and Govt. agencies repeatedly to get her works done. But the humiliating attitude of the officials frustrates her and most often abandons the idea of venturing the project.
3. Dual Responsibility: A woman entrepreneur has to perform dual responsibility of her profession at enterprise as also at family as wife and mother. The unmarried girls also, in many cases, are expected to take care of their younger’s and help mother in her work, besides working at their enterprises. As responsibility of family care largely remains in the hands of women, the women entrepreneurs in Assam in particular and India in general suffer from work-family conflicts.
4. Scanty Financial Resources: Financial constraint is a problem for business in general. But when it comes to the case of a woman entrepreneur, the problem becomes more severe. As both family members and the officials of financial institutions have less confidence on women as entrepreneurs, they are mostly reluctant to spare finance for a woman business venture.
5. Low risk bearing capacity: Women in general have less confidence as compared to their male counterparts. As such, they have less risk taking ability; which is an essential pre-requisite for entrepreneurial success. Women in our country live a protected life. She is taught to depend on male members from birth. She is not allowed to take any risk even if she is willing to take and has ability to bear it.
6. Low educational background: Our women, more particularly those who live in rural areas, bear a very low educational profile. Many of them are either illiterate or have very low level of education. As a result, they face a lot of problems in doing with their business.
7. Absence of Skill and Motivation: Our rural women in general lack entrepreneurial skill and they do not posses adequate motivation towards entrepreneurial career. However, the Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship (IIE) experience indicates that effective training is a vibrant tool in developing and motivating women entrepreneurship.
8. Absence of Group Efforts: The tendency of our women to work in group is very less. More particularly, when it comes to the case of doing business, they hardly understand the benefit of working in group. Therefore, our women should be encouraged to setup and operate enterprises with their group efforts.
9. Absence of Rural Connectivity and Development: Our rural areas are highly potential markets for consumer goods. But absence of proper connectivity and development efforts are the major challenges in developing sustained entrepreneurial practices among our rural women.
Government Incentives and supports and opportunities towards women entrepreneurship
Despite various constraints faced by the women entrepreneurs of Assam in particular and India in general, several opportunities are also available now-a-days. These are discussed below:
1. Government Incentives and Supports: Now-a-days there are various Govt. schemes of incentive and support to promote women entrepreneurship. Some of the schemes are absolutely for women and other weaker sections of the society; while there are many others which are gender free where women have some privilege. Some of the Govt. schemes which help promotion of women entrepreneurship (already discussed in greater detail here above) are listed below:
a) Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana: This is a central Govt. scheme under the Ministry of Rural Development and became operative from 1st April 1999. All the Rural Development and poverty alleviation programmes like IRDP, TRYSEM, DWCRA, SITRA, GKY and MOWS were merged together in this scheme. The purpose of this scheme is to provide sustainable income to the poor people living in rural areas of the country through establishment of Self Help Groups (SHGs) with 10-20 members each. The scheme is gender free and takes care of marginalized and weaker section of the society. Accordingly, 50% of the benefits are reserved for SCs/STs and 40% are booked for women beneficiaries. The funds are provided by NGOs, Banks and Financial Institutions.
b) Income Generating Scheme under the Department of Women and Child Development: The Department of Women and Child Development, Govt. of India, implements this scheme. Under this scheme, the Govt. grants financial assistance for training and setting up of income generating projects for needy women to ensure their economic freedom.
c) Mahila Udyam Nidhi: The small Industry Development Bank of India (SIDBI) implements this scheme exclusively for women to provide equity support to women entrepreneurs. Loans and grants are extended to accredited NGO for creation of training and other infrastructural facilities for women. It is an exclusive scheme for providing equity support to women entrepreneurs in a bid to overcome their capital deficiency.
d) Mahila Vikash Nidhi: This is another initiative taken by the SIDBI to encourage women entrepreneurship. Under this scheme, the SIDBI extends development assistance to needy women to pursue income generating activities. It is a specially designed scheme for economic development of women, especially in the rural areas by providing them avenues for training and employment opportunities.
e) Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme: This scheme became operative from 15th August 2008 and replaces the earlier two schemes named Prime Minister’s Rojgar Yojana (PMRY) and Rural Employment Generation Programme (REGP). The scheme is gender free and therefore can easily be availed by women also like their man counterpart. The scheme basically operates through Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC). The applications for rural areas are channelized through the Khadi and Village Industries Board (KVIB); while those from urban areas are required to be routed through the District Industries and Commerce Centres (DI&CC). The identification of beneficiaries is done at the district level by a Task force headed by the concerned Deputy Commissioner with representatives from Directorate of Industries and Commerce (DIC), Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) and banks.
f) Trade Related Entrepreneurship Assistance and Development (TREAD) Scheme for Women: With a view to encouraging women in setting up their own ventures, the Govt. of India started this scheme during the 9th Plan. The scheme envisages economic empowerment of the women through the development of their entrepreneurial skills in non-farm activities. The application for assistance must come through approved NGOs in group of entrepreneurs.
g) Credit Guarantee Fund Scheme for Micro and Small Enterprises: The scheme basically aims to ensure better flow of credit to Micro and Small Enterprises by minimizing the risk perception of financial institutions and banks in lending without collateral security. Under this scheme, the guarantee cover is provided to collateral free credit facility extended by Member Lending Institutions (MLIs) to the new as well as existing Micro and Small Enterprises on loans upto Rs. 50 lakh. In the general, the guarantee cover available is up to 75% of the loans extended.
h) Exhibitions for Women under Promotional Package for Micro and Small Enterprises: The Development Commissioner (DC), MSME has formulated a scheme to encourage small and micro manufacturing units owned by women and registered with DIC/DI&CC in their efforts at tapping and developing overseas markets, to increase participation of representatives of small / micro manufacturing enterprises under the MSME stall at International Trade Fairs / Exhibitions and to enhance exports from such units. Under this scheme, participation of women entrepreneurs in 25 international exhibitions was envisaged during the 11th Plan (2007-2012).
2. Socio-Economic change: It is observed, the socio-economic environment in Assam in changing gradually. The degree of resistance from family and society has now come down to some extent. Today, many husbands encourage their wives to take up entrepreneurial activities. Parents and brothers of many unmarried women help them in taking up entrepreneurship career. Similarly, parents in-law in many cases, also have developed a positive attitude. Such changes are visible in case of upper middle class families where wives and girls are educated. Such a trend is expected to bring a competitive environment in the society for women entrepreneurship.
3. Changing role of promotional agencies, banks and Govt.: With insistence from Government, the promotional agencies and banks are gradually changing their attitudes towards women entrepreneurs. Govt. sponsored training programs are also organized from time to time exclusively for prospective women entrepreneurs. Today, more and more educated women gravitate to the training centers for skill development and many of them are found to be keen to start ventures of non-traditional nature.
4. Possible integration of India’s North East with South East Asian Nations: Strenuous efforts are being made towards integration of India’s North East with the South East Asian Countries including China for trade and commerce. In the process, there is possibility of reopening of the historic Stilwell Road. This will certainly boost up our tourism sector. Tourism being a multi-sectoral activity will considerably widen and prospect for development of women entrepreneurship in Assam, including the other states of the region.