Female Entrepreneurship: A journey to becoming a Netrepreneur

Khalid Isar

Today, Indian women are breaking stereotypes and moving away from traditional roles and corporate profiles to turn entrepreneurs. It is not just the educated, urban woman, but also women from smaller towns and rural villages who are turning to entrepreneurship and setting-up independent businesses. Women entrepreneurs, in general, are faced with the dichotomy of managing both the home and their business - equally well. This may generally leave them with much less time for business development. In India, though, the challenge entrepreneurial women face is gaining visibility and acceptability.

It has traditionally been a challenge for women to set up an enterprise. It is a known phenomenon that women entrepreneurs are not taken seriously, particularly in the business community. In the initial days of establishment of a business, women usually face preliminary barriers by different individuals of this eco-system, be it banks, suppliers or vendors.

According to the recent ‘Women and men in India 2012 report’ by the Central Statistics Office, there are 12% of ministerial positions held by women and 9% of the women are judges in different high courts in India. Another report by the World Economic Forum seconds that India is on a growth trajectory. The “Global Gender Gap Report 2012” compiled by the World Economic Forum, ranks India at the 105th position on the list for economic participation and opportunity of women among 135 countries. This indicates that women, though in small percentages, are participating in the decision-making process of India, thus proving that women can be competitive and efficient when it comes to delivering results.

Helping to involve Indian women in the business environment is the internet; it is a great leveler. It is a very potent business tool that is far-reaching and cost-effective. A woman entrepreneur can access a world of opportunities, gain more visibility in the market, establish trust with their trading partners and compete with large companies on more equal terms – all within the confines of her home with a simple mouse click, without the hassles of business travel or marketing calls.

E-commerce can enable women entrepreneurs to save time in every step of their business cycle, including identifying business opportunities, purchasing raw-materials and even finding sales leads online. Site analytics on Alibaba.com, the online B2B e-commerce portal, showed that the female membership base on the site saw a healthy growth of 71% year-on-year as of Jun 30, 2011). This demonstrates how e-commerce has the potential to provide Indian businesswomen a flexible, accessible and cost-effective platform to overcome traditional male-dominated industries and explore business prospects beyond conventional channels.

Today, with the growing use of e-commerce, women entrepreneurs can access information, build and sustain business networks and contribute to their family’s household income. There are many online platforms today that offer aspiring women entrepreneurs virtual workplaces and digitally mobile lifestyles thereby providing the needed flexibility to achieve their business objectives.

However, internet and e-commerce brings relief as it keeps the identity of the applicant invisible, thus making it easy for women to approach and take the business forward. Once the business is established, then it is acknowledged from all stakeholders of the society. As the business grows and becomes successful, banks and other financial institutions instill faith in entrepreneurs and gender becomes immaterial.

With such services offered by the internet, more and more women are taking the plunge and entering the corporate world, thus indicating a positive outlook. Until recently, very few Indian women have been using the Internet’s prowess to their business advantage productively. Despite the growth in this area, there still lies a vacuum which can be filled by women entrepreneurs to not only achieve stable monetary growth, but also break the socio-economic barriers prevalent in the society. So, it is a wake-up call for women to embrace and increasingly leverage the benefits of the internet and e-commerce.