Women Entrepreneurial Empowerment: Where’s the Wind Beneath their Wings?

Women entrepreneurship in India is gaining importance in the current global economic environment. According to McKinsey Global, India can potentially add $700 billion to global GDP by increasing women’s labor force participation ( source ). India has many women entrepreneurs who manage and run successful businesses and social enterprises. These women entrepreneurs not only inspire others but also create job opportunities in the country. However, a number of obstacles prevent women entrepreneurs from realizing their full potential. Women entrepreneurs running social impact startups have a harder time overcoming these barriers to success. Fortunately, players are aware of this reality and are creating opportunities that allow women entrepreneurs to create sustainable social impact at scale.

Women entrepreneurs bring to their businesses their unique perspective, ability to make the most of available resources, ability to multitask, passion and ability to get things done. But being a female entrepreneur in a male-dominated industry can be tough. Her journey begins with being undervalued, and while her ideas and vision are genuine, gender bias makes it difficult to get funding and market opportunities to justify and scale her businesses. Access to finance, expertise and the help of an adequate network can increase the potential of women entrepreneurs and propel them to the forefront of global entrepreneurship.

Dare to dream.  Girls and women in Sajhe Sapne centers that play the role of skill development and placement centers in village clusters

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Dare to dream. Girls and women in Sajhe Sapne centers that play the role of skill development and placement centers in village clusters

Several public and private initiatives have created unique platforms to help women entrepreneurs. Public programs such as the Udhyam Sakhi Portal for Women Entrepreneurs, Niti Aayog’s Women Entrepreneurship Platform, Start-up IndiaProgram and Skill India provide the much-needed support needed to start and scale businesses. One such platform isPragatiA meta initiative powered by The/Nudge Center for Social Innovation. Pragatiprovides entrepreneurial opportunities for women by supporting numerous women-led social impact organizations such as Sajhe Sapne, Shakti and Tisser that promote gender equality and create large-scale livelihood opportunities for the bottom 30% of the economic pyramid.

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Pragatirecognizes that the number of potential women entrepreneurs in India is high. India’s economic growth has provided ample opportunities and this is necessary to support women entrepreneurs who are driving start-ups with social impact. That’s why Pragati aims to solve the pressing issue of struggling female entrepreneurs working in the social impact space. The program discovers and supports early-stage women-led non-profits that address the last mile of women’s entrepreneurship and technology adoption.

Pragati offers women entrepreneurs 360 degree assistance throughout their entrepreneurial journey. The three main benefits of the program are:

  • Funding up to Rs. 2 billion based on the type, maturity and scale of the organization
  • Access to a strong support ecosystem that includes mentors who have built large scale businesses and non-profits or have worked closely with government, horizontal mentors in fundraising, legal and organizational capacity building; donors; and various tools and resources
  • The opportunity to be part of a community of leaders and change makers working to create livelihoods for the bottom 30%. As observed in previous Pragati groups, this enables collaboration and multiplies the impact on
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Pragatialso promotes and supports the integration of technology in social impact work. For nonprofits, technology can play a key role in amplifying impact. This can be useful for increasing the efficiency of front-end work while supporting back-end efficiency. Also, adopting technology in the last mile would enable many more Indians in the bottom 30% to bridge the digital divide. With Met’s involvement with Pragati, organizations have been able to use technology to streamline operations and scale, and help many marginalized communities take advantage of technology.

After two successful groups Pragati recently announced its third cohort of women entrepreneurs—women working to solve complex development challenges with the common theme of sustainable livelihoods for women in India. Pragati organizations work in several areas: upskilling of rural and suburban women (Sajhe Sapne, Esther, Svatanya, IABT), revival of handicrafts that lead to social upliftment of artisans (Tisser, Ekibeki), reduction of malnutrition and improvement of mental health. (FMCH), providing technology to other nonprofits (Tech4Good Community) and even incubating other women-led businesses (Shakti – The Empathy Project).

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Entrepreneurs inside Pragatitruly effect change. The work of these incredible organizations proves that, when offered the necessary opportunities for growth, female entrepreneurs can pave the way for impactful change and make a significant difference in the lives of those they serve.

With a population of over a billion, India needs passionate social entrepreneurs who can help solve the pressing development challenges facing the country. Supporting and nurturing women entrepreneurs can sustain our economy and provide livelihoods for many vulnerable communities. Only by unleashing the entrepreneurial power of women can India exponentially increase its economic potential and achieve its sustainable development goals.

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