As per the 6th economic census, conducted by the Government of India, women owned 8.05 million micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), which accounts for only 13.76 per cent of all MSMEs in the country. Efforts to correct this gender gap are afoot but the COVID-19 pandemic has further slowed down the progress.
It’s easy to think of this as a persistent problem that needs to be dealt with. But the more I speak with practitioners, donors, and government officials, I see a growing belief that this is an opportunity that needs to be unlocked. Much has been talked about the demographic goldmine India is sitting on but the opportunity arising from women-led entrepreneurship is just as significant. In recent years, we have seen conversations in this space grow louder. Gender lens is now transitioning from a good-to-have to a non-negotiable in investment mandates and incubation programmes. Away from the world of start-ups, there is a growing number of projects commissioned to promote women-led businesses. Leading international donors and institutions, such as UNDP, World Bank, FCDO, and GIZ, among others, have made this a priority.