For women entrepreneurs, going online is the most promising road ahead

With small businesses forming 30 percent of the GDP, enabling women entrepreneurs is more important than ever and will be critical for the socio-economic transformation of India.

Updated: Mar 8, 2021 08:04:19 PM UTC
Image: Shutterstock

Parvesh, a woman from a small village in Haryana called Bajghera, began working with Indhaa small homegrown organisation of apparel, accessories, and home furnishings to supplement her income. Despite not having studied past the eighth standard, Parvesh along with five other women from her village managed to scale up their brand Indha solely by leveraging the power of digital. A Facebook page has taken Indha from receiving 10 orders each month to thousands now. Today, 300 women have been skilled under the brand that now curates products for consumers across India and abroad.

Women across the world and here at home in India are challenging the status quo and breaking stereotypes, in line with the theme of this year’s UN Women's International Women’s Day'Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a Covid-19 world.'

We know that women entrepreneurs all over the world have faced multitude of challenges, far greater than those faced by men. This was further confirmed by the Future of Business study done by the World Bank, the OECD, and Facebook during the pandemic that showed that women-owned small-medium businesses (SMBs) were more likely to report that they were closed due to Covid-19, and that women were disproportionately bearing the burden of domestic responsibilities.

But not all has been lost. A Deloitte study released for Facebook late last year found that women business leaders showed a greater degree of flexibility in their business models in response to Covid-19. It was indeed commendable to witness ‘womenpreneurs’ bounce back from the effects of the pandemic. Many businesses led by women quickly shifted their businesses online in order to ensure they not just survive, but thrive, even through these difficult times.

We need to celebrate women and their dreams every day, and here are some things I’d want every entrepreneur who is a woman to remember, not just today but every day of the year.

Digital can fuel your dreams
The Deloitte study also told us that women business leaders were more likely to make over half of their sales through digital channels. Digital has the ability to break down social barriers, instantly giving any entrepreneur the potential to have her business reach not just across India but also the world. In fact, numerous women have turned their dreams into thriving businesses by using online platforms as their primary medium for consumer engagement and generation of sales. One such example is that of Mumbai-based Anisha Berlia, who turned her passion for baking into a successful pastry business during the pandemic, which she runs right out of her home. Her customers reach out to her directly through social media, a channel she uses to gather market insights, and share catalogs and menus with her audience.

No idea is too small
Pottery is a dying art, something that Shashi Bagchi of Bengaluru wanted to change. Maati, a brand of terracotta products in South India, is her brainchild which she started from her home back in 2006. She works with local potters around her, and her products have now found a place in homes across India, solely by using social media as a channel of reaching out to people. Shashi’s story is testament to the fact that no idea is ‘too small’. Whether it’s a pottery business from Jayanagar, a Chikankari apparel store from Hazratganj, or even a cloud kitchen based out of Bhavnagar – businesses can be connected with people across geographies on the back of digital.

Lift each other up
Women-led businesses have not just scaled themselves but have also come to the aid of local communities to ensure livelihood opportunities for them even in the pandemic. A Gujarat-based apparel business from Okhamandal region of the state has not just grown its revenue significantly during the pandemic but it has also gone from supporting 2,500 artisans to now more than 20,000 in less than a year. More and more women leaders are now employing local talent and rural women from vulnerable communities, and empowering them to be self-reliant.

Every day is your day
In 2020, women created twice as many fundraisers on Facebook as men did, and made twice as many donations, with 64 percent of total funds raised also coming from women. Women have also led the way in growing communities and rallying resources, creating 2.7X more Covid-19-related groups than men, with four times more members. While International Women’s Day is a great way to celebrate the resilience of women across the world, it’s just one day. Trends such as these show that every day is your day, and this spirit should never die down.

With small businesses forming 30 percent of the GDP, enabling women entrepreneurs is more important than ever and will be critical for the socio-economic transformation of India. With the massive digital acceleration that has ensued over the past year, we will see more and more women trailblazing the way for their communities, building innovative business models, fueling change, and supporting each other to build a brighter tomorrow for our country and the future generations.

The writer is Director – Small and Medium Businesses of Facebook India

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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