Ways to support and leverage the potential of women business owners to create a more sustainable economy

Despite advances in technological accessibility, many women-owned businesses have yet to harness the full potential of e-commerce tools. | Pixabay

Small businesses quickly became one of the main drivers of the country’s gross domestic product and, subsequently, of its economic growth. Aided by the technological revolution and the resulting positive disruption to the traditional industrial setup, India’s business ecosystem has paved the way for a diverse set of new entrants. To this effect, the previous decade has witnessed a rapid proliferation of businesses in India, making it the third largest startup ecosystem in the world. This phenomenon has propelled the country onto the path of economic boom, contributing to job creation and fueling the engines of growth and development.

Knowledge of the propensity of startups to drive socio-economic progress has also led to pan-Indian adoption of policies and programs aimed at creating a catalytic environment for entrepreneurs. The Government of India has invested substantial resources to boost entrepreneurship through programs such as the Prime Minister’s Job Creation Program (PMGEP), Entrepreneurship Skills Development Program (ESDP) and Startup India.

Several state governments, CSR entities and civil society organizations are also undertaking their own initiatives. Yet, the participation of women entrepreneurs in this ecosystem remains minimal. According to the latest available estimates, of the 58.2 million micro, small and medium enterprises operating in the country, only 14% or 8.05 million are owned by women.

Moreover, women-owned businesses in India are largely geared towards small businesses, with nearly 98% of businesses falling under the micro-enterprise category. (Source: NITI Aayog)

Elizabeth A Vazquez, President, CEO and Co-Founder of WEConnect International talks about ways to support and leverage the potential of women business owners to create a more sustainable and inclusive global economy. Ms. Vazquez is co-author of the book “Buying for Impact: How to Buy from Women and Change Our World”.

When it comes to accessing digital spaces, female entrepreneurs have a long way to go. In what ways can digital accessibility be accelerated?

Leveraging digital platforms has the potential to be a great leveler for women-owned businesses, especially in emerging economies. Access to appropriate technology breaks down barriers to entry into global markets.

According to a series of recent surveys conducted in 2020 by WEConnect International on women-owned businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, women have used technology to offset the impact of the pandemic. They not only reacted to minimize the impacts of the pandemic, 54% identifying and reducing unnecessary spending, but also proactively finding new solutions, 42% creating new lines of business in response to local and global needs, and 38% identifying new business opportunities. They leveraged technology to adapt their business models to virtual platforms at a time when in-person meetings were no longer possible and found new ways to use technology to anticipate and respond to new demands in changing markets. rapid evolution.

However, despite advances in technological accessibility, many women-owned businesses have yet to realize the full potential of e-commerce tools. We need to improve access to technology for women-owned businesses, because digital business transformations will only multiply the effect women business owners can have on the world, near and far.

How can women entrepreneurs help build more sustainable and inclusive economies?

Although almost a third of all private businesses globally are owned by women, these same businesses receive less than 1% of spending from large corporate and government buyers. If this imbalance were corrected, or even slightly improved, trillions of dollars would in turn be reinvested directly by women in families and communities around the world.

Women-owned businesses are one of the most underutilized engines of innovation and job growth in developed and emerging markets. By harnessing the power of female entrepreneurs, new ideas, products and services are being launched in markets around the world.

According to a special report “How to Rebuild the Global Business for Good,” underwritten by Moody’s Corporation and TD Bank Group and led by WEConnect International, when women business owners have access to markets and capital, everyone benefits: employees, families, communities and the global economy.

Buy from a women-owned business today and every day.

How can women entrepreneurs have equal access to capital financing?

The journey to equal access to capital finance is fueled by value chain diversification and gender-neutral sourcing by corporate giants with women-owned businesses offering competitive goods and services .

When women-owned businesses are better able to sell their products and services, they are much more attractive to banks and investors looking for a return on their capital funding.

When women seek credit with contracts in hand, it is much easier for lenders and funders to provide financing options. In addition to bank loans, women who own businesses want access to sources of organic growth – income that doesn’t need to be paid back with interest or equity – they want contracts to fulfill orders , provide solutions, grow their businesses and create jobs for others .

Unfortunately, women-owned businesses in South Asia receive less than 1% of the total money spent on products and services by large buyers; they are invisible in value chains. Women need equal access to capital financing in order to compete in the global marketplace.

What are the benefits of supplier diversity and inclusion?

Diverse suppliers are competitive on total value and add unique value to supply chains. Increasing supplier diversity and inclusion not only makes for better business, but also a better world. Major global players already source parts of their value chain from South Asia and see the benefits of gender-neutral sourcing.

What role does WEConnect International play in South Asia?

Policymakers, businesses, multilateral institutions and women entrepreneurs themselves all agree that now, more than ever, we need more women to start and grow businesses as a sustainable engine of growth and inclusive prosperity in South Asia.

WEConnect International facilitates and supports training and certification initiatives in the region based on the growing demand from buyers, women suppliers and funders who believe that equal opportunity in the face of market competition has a significant impact on local and global economies.

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