Women in small towns see a future in business - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

Women in small towns see a future in business

Jan 20, 2024 03:10 AM IST

Mentorship and support are crucial for female entrepreneurs to succeed

Karishma Verma is waiting to snag her first big order this year. The 21-year-old commerce graduate from village Ahatha in Uttar Pradesh’s Hapur district has been making moodhas since she was 12. Every man, woman and child in her village is engaged in some aspect of making furniture of the Sarkanda plant, a sort of reedy cane, that grows in abundance on river banks. But Karishma is different. She’s the only woman seller in her village.

Armed with degrees, many of these first-generation women learners want to do something that gives them an identity and puts their education to use (Shutterstock/ Representational image)
Armed with degrees, many of these first-generation women learners want to do something that gives them an identity and puts their education to use (Shutterstock/ Representational image)

It’s not easy doing business, Karishma explains. The competition is tight and even when she comes up with unique designs, they get easily copied.

Not far away, in Hapur town, Sapna Sharma is busy conjuring up new varieties of petha, a traditional sweet made from ash gourd. On display are variations with flavours from banarsi paan to chocolate in innovative shapes from cylinders to even hearts. Business is good. “You will not get this variety even in Agra [famous for its petha],” she tells me. The secret to her success? Smart packaging and sourcing the best possible raw material.

Aspiration is not lacking in women in Tier 2 and 3 towns. Nor is ambition. Armed with degrees, many of these first-generation learners want to do something that gives them an identity and puts their education to use. Sharma has two masters’ degrees and a degree in education. For a while she taught in a school but, “there was a lot of work pressure and the salary was low, so I thought why not work for myself?”

India’s dwindling female labour force participation is hardly a secret and there are many theories that explain why despite increasing educational attainment—the latest ASER survey highlights that just a tiny gender gap of 0.2 percentage points for teenagers—women are opting out of paid work.

One explanation is that women and men work in very different ways. Burdened with housework, women look for paid work that is flexible or at least close to home. Safety is a consideration. Having family support is absolutely critical.

Entrepreneurship is another option. Women can work for themselves on terms that suit them. But there are obstacles. The first is moving away from traditional skills like tailoring or pickle and papad making. This generation of women wants more. At IIT Mandi, 19 women signed up for a free three-month residential agricultural drone training camp held in October last year.

The next hurdle is funding and mentorship, says Pritha Dutta of MeraBizNet, a portal launched in May last year that supports small and medium women-owned businesses through mentorship, training and partnerships with credit agency, Cibil and the German government. “It’s hard for women from smaller markets to access services, get expertise and scale businesses.”

How, for instance, do you transition an idea into a business? How do you register a business? What are the different government clearances you might require? How do you access loans and government schemes? What about digital marketing? How do you scale up? “Women are very open to ideas and training programmes,” says Dutta. But the hand-holding invariably continues well after the programme is over.

Sapna Sharma credits a large part of her success to the mentorship she’s received. It was her mentor who advised her to improve packaging and come up with a logo for her pethas. Business is now so good, she grins, that her husband has quit his full-time job and joined her.

Namita Bhandare writes on gender. The views expressed are personal

Catch every big hit, every wicket with Crickit, a one stop destination for Live Scores, Match Stats, Infographics & much more. Explore now!

See more

Get Current Updates on India News, Elections 2024, Lok sabha election 2024 voting live , Karnataka election 2024 live in Bengaluru , Election 2024 Date along with Latest News and Top Headlines from India and around the world.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Share this article
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Wednesday, July 17, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On