By Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Chairperson & Managing Director, Biocon
India is home to nearly 18% of the world’s population and women make up almost half of that number. Women thus have a crucial role to play in driving the Indian economy to the aspirational US$5-trillion milestone by 2025.
Entrepreneurship remains critical to harness the economic potential of women. Empowering women to realise their full potential will enable India to realise the significant potential for innovation, economic growth and job creation. A study by the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that advancing women’s equality in India could boost its GDP by US$0.7 trillion in 2025 or 16% as compared to the ‘business as usual’ scenario.
India’s booming startup ecosystem is already benefiting from the energy of dynamic women entrepreneurs. Of the 6,300 startups recognized by Startup India currently, nearly 2,500 have a woman as founder, director or partner.
Currently, India has ~8 million women entrepreneurs, who come from all walks of life and from all parts of the country. They are successfully running startups that sell everything from handicraft to organic manure, provide construction services and security and detective services. Encouragingly, nearly 60% of these women entrepreneurs started their business between ages of 20 and 30.
Women Can Realise their Entrepreneurial Dreams
Today, women across the country have realised that they can be as successful as their male counterparts and with sufficient encouragement, achieve any feat.
In my view, being a woman provides us with special attributes such as compassion, sensitivity, multi-tasking and above all, the inner strength to excel. With the right mix of skill, experience and resourcefulness, women can use their spirit of enterprise and scale heights of success.
In order to be successful, Indian women need to develop a sense of self-confidence, a sense of determination and be willing to work hard. An overall sense of perseverance is very essential. One should not feel demotivated by failure, instead they should learn from failures and build on the experience for future success.
Overcoming each obstacle spurs one ahead toward success. For instance, when I set up Biocon, I faced credibility challenges such as my youthful age, my gender and my unfamiliar business model. No bank wanted to lend to me, no professional wanted to work for me and it was a challenge to set up a business because women were considered “high risk” in the business world. Undeterred, I pursued my dreams and today Biocon is testimony to the fact that women in India have it in them to create world class organisations that can make a global impact.
I think women have travelled a great distance since my early startup days. Women, today have a lot of support, from the government as well as financial institutions and can excel as entrepreneurs. Governments at the central and state levels have launched several financial schemes for women, including the Mahila Udyam Nidhi Scheme, Annapurna Scheme, Udyogini Scheme, Dena Shakti Scheme, Bhartiya Mahila Business Bank Loan etc.
Leveraging the Power of Technology
Information Technology has no gender barriers and the internet offers the perfect level playing field for everyone who wishes to access information. When I started off as an entrepreneur way back in the Seventies, in addition to all the other challenges that I faced, one major hurdle was the inaccessibility to relevant information.
Thanks to the Internet revolution, women can take the power of their ideas to financers and markets in a way that was not previously possible. If they are deft, their ideas and products can even go viral through the powerful medium of the Internet.
The statistics on Internet usage in India are compelling:
- With 451 million monthly active internet users at end of financial year 2019, India is now second only to China in terms of internet users, according to a report by Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).
- Two-thirds of Internet users in India are in the age group of 12-29 years
- About 97% of users use mobile phone as one of the devices to access internet.
- Mobile data in India is many times cheaper than elsewhere in the world
The growing penetration of mobile phones in India is already challenging traditional power equations and creating opportunities for women’s emancipation and empowerment. With more than a billion mobile subscribers in India, mobile technology can be leveraged by women entrepreneurs.
In a country like India, where a majority of women work in the unorganized sector and are involved in activities like handicraft, sewing, weaving etc., mobile technology will also allow them to create markets for their products and services. This will not only increase income-generating opportunities for these women but also lead to greater gender equality.
Crowdfunding, which helps generate small amounts of capital from a large number of investors, has emerged as a modern financing system that can provide women with working capital option for their enterprises. Kickstarter, Wishberry and Ketto are a few crowdfunding organisations in India.
As they say, innovation is not only about doing different things, it is also about doing things differently.
Winds of Change
It is imperative to have family support and co-operation to succeed in one’s entrepreneurial venture. For women especially, balancing home and work may become difficult without adequate support from the family. Whilst it is true that I was single when I built Biocon, the real growth came when I got married. My husband has played a vital role in our success today.
Today’s woman needs to develop a sense of self-confidence, determination, hard work and business intelligence to chart her way to the top. A sense of overall perseverance is very essential. I am proud to be a woman and strongly believe that the world belongs to those who want to make a difference.
So let’s do what is necessary to break the gender barrier and unleash the woman power in our country.
I believe women entrepreneurs hold the potential to unleash transformational societal change and sustainable economic development, and can ensure that the fruits of economic development are enjoyed by all.
In the words of one of India’s most inspirational leaders, the late APJ President APJ Abdul Kalam: “Empowering women is a prerequisite for creating a good nation, when women are empowered, society with stability is assured. Empowerment of women is essential as their value system leads to the development of a good family, society and ultimately a good nation.”