Social Entrepreneurship: Indian Women Shine In Social Ventures

Social entrepreneurship is a vast field of work that deals with identifying a social problem and then giving it an entrepreneurial solution. On doing this, the main goal of a social entrepreneur is to bring positive changes in the society.

Women have always been associated with social entrepreneurship in some form. The work of Florence Nightingale practically gave birth to the concept of nursing as we know in the modern world, and can be cited as one of the best examples of women’s contribution to social entrepreneurship.

The Rise of Women Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship is now a booming sector. Everywhere, women are leaving fat paychecks to jump on the entrepreneur bandwagon for their personal satisfaction. Some do it just to hone their passion while others do it to bring about a social change. The latter are known as social entrepreneurs. They use their intelligence to merge business with social welfare.

The statistics and surveys speak volumes about the relationship of women and social entrepreneurship in today’s world. In the United States alone, 38 percent of all the companies are owned by women, thus contributing annual sales of about $ 3.6 trillion to the economy.

Similar figures show up in the Europe and Asian corporate sectors, blurring the concept of gender discrimination to a large extent. Many women have even made it to impressive power lists compiled by the likes of Forbes and Fortune magazine.

But if you think that they’re doing well only in clichéd “feminine” sectors like cosmetics and fashion designing, then you’re in for surprise. Some of the crème de la crème positions of multinational banks, soft drink companies and stock-broking organizations are occupied by women. And they do not just talk profits.

Many of the top contributors of NGOs and other non-profit organizations are female entrepreneurs. Even these NGOs are run by socially-driven women who invest their contributions in various causes.

Indian Women In Social Ventures

India is fast growing in this aspect and being one of the most populated countries in the world, the demand and scope of social entrepreneurship is greater here than anywhere else.

Our country has no dearth of inspiring initiatives and shining examples set by women social entrepreneurs. Here are some examples of Indian women who have initiated social ventures.

Ela Bhatt founded the grassroot development initiative, SEWA, which worked for the simultaneous social and economic empowerment of women at the grassroots level. She is also the leader of the International Labour Cooperative Women’s Microfinance movement.

Shilpi Kapoor’s initiative, Breakbarrier Technologies, aims to make technology solutions accessible to the differently abled

Neelam Chhibber’s Industree Crafts, works for the emancipation of local artisans by connecting them to viable markets.

Revathi Roy started ForShe, a taxi service run entirely by women.

Vijaya Patsala founded Under The Mango Tree, an organization that promotes beekeeping among women farmers, and with the goal of making women more financially independent and self-sustained.

Women have always been passionate about the society around them. This is evident by their active participation in NGOs and other non-profit organizations. But with their growing confidence and exposure to the world around them, they are now taking their passion to a higher and broader level by running large-scale, successful social ventures.

After Decades of Conditioning, India Is Re-Aligning Itself With the Culture of Entrepreneurship

Globally, entrepreneurship has become a key engine for employment generation. As policy makers grapple with economic uncertainty and cultural changes, large corporations that traditionally created jobs are biting the dust. From 2003 to 2013, 712 corporations disappeared from the Fortune 1000. One can safely extrapolate that very few Fortune 1000 companies will be around in another 30 to 40 years. However a new breed of risk-takers and innovators in the form of entrepreneurs are beginning to line up on the horizon of business world. According to a report by the Kauffman Foundation, industrial era companies in the US dismissed more jobs than they created in contrast to high-growth startups that created the maximum number of new jobs between 2000 and 2010. Facebook has been credited with having created 4.5 million new jobs, directly and indirectly. This global trend makes a strong case for supporting Indian start-ups and entrepreneurs as a means to create future employment.

However, it is even more important to create a support system that ensures the survival of the start-ups beyond the first five years. In other words, once invested in a start-up, return on investment (ROI) can be assured only when the investment finds further sustenance. This is critical as 70 to 95 percent of start-ups fail or exit, resulting in disproportionately high job destruction. Studies have shown that 47 percent of the jobs created by start-ups are eliminated by exits in the first five years. It is the surviving 53 percent of businesses that witness rapid growth and bring about broad-based job creation.

This means that government policy must be attuned to the practical needs, while addressing the pain areas, of Indian entrepreneurs. The policy must address: funding to be more easily available to entrepreneurs; creating a large pool of experienced mentors and advisers who provide inputs around manpower and resource management, legal and marketing, partnerships and technology; and providing mechanisms to improve access to local and global markets.

It is evident that supporting entrepreneurship is a medium to long-term approach. The question that needs an answer is: what type of entrepreneurship should be prioritized for support so that success and subsequent job creation is assured? Today’s marketplace has become hyper competitive. Just take a look around. There are more choices available to consumers and enterprise buyers than ever before. There are new business models that don’t require buyers to own products or commit up front to long-term subscription of services. Delivery systems have changed, allowing businesses to reach customers in remote locations and new markets, bringing down geographical and political barriers. Entrepreneurs are innovating to give birth to entirely new asset-light business like Uber, Ola, Airbnb, Oyo Rooms, Zomato, Foodpanda, PayPal and Paytm. These businesses are re-shaping entire industries, forcing traditional players to re-think their strategies.

Igniting the spirit of entrepreneurship and sustaining it is also a long-term undertaking. Not everyone is blessed with the DNA of entrepreneurship. A culture of free enterprise needs to be nurtured. Today, one of the nations to have taken positive steps towards creating such a culture is the US where 1,600 colleges offer over 2,200 courses that ‘skill’ students in entrepreneurship. These courses build knowledge through academic studies, practical industry experience via apprenticeship programs, entrepreneurship clubs, boot camps and access to investor networks and support systems. Education, without doubt, is a way to ensure higher success rates for entrepreneurs. In India, we need to create cost-effective and scalable education models that help reach students using video and mobile technology on MOOC platforms that transform teaching into learning, thereby eliminating the need for massive armies of instructors and trainers.

Lastly, a substantial demographic in the form of Indian women remains untapped. Of the total number of entrepreneurs in the country, only 10 percent are women. However, even within these small numbers, women entrepreneurs from India-Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Sulajja Motwani and Ekta Kapoor to name a few-have been in the limelight. Significantly, a Dow Jones study has confirmed that start-ups with female executives have a higher chance of success. What they need to succeed is education, vocational training, access to funding and interaction with entrepreneurs and buyers across the world. According to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), annual growth of the Indian economy could improve 2.4% if the country implements pro-gender policies.

Historically, Indian society and the education system have focused on creating doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc. These professionals are a necessity. But after decades of conditioning, the nation is re-aligning itself with the culture of entrepreneurship. We are at the cusp of entrepreneurial success. This opportunity must not be lost for the lack of policy and world-class support systems