Less known women entrepreneurs of our country, creating history by standing against all odds and doing great in their businesses.
Vapi– Out of 58.5 million entrepreneurs in India, women in business only comprise of 8.05 million. As per the sixth economic census released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. In India, the number of women entrepreneurs seems nominal.
Mrs Alpa Kotadia married at the age of 21 after finishing her graduation. She ended up being in a conservative family where women were supposed to be homemakers and not working. But, with dedication and her passion for starting something of her own, she started her journey in 2001 by opening a small pre-primary school of her own by breaking all the barriers at home which were holding her back. The school is now one of the renowned school in Vapi with the name of Vapi Public International school starting from kindergarten to class 12th. She managed to make her name in the education sector.
“Things were different in 2001; women were not there or presented in little numbers in the education department. When I got permissions for starting my school, I used not to get permissions easily; it was male-dominated and challenging to get permissions. But, the faith I had within myself, the courage to stand up and start a school of my own helped me and didn’t let anything hold me back from accomplishing my dream,” said Mrs Kotadia, Founder of Vapi Public School and Vice President of Private Schools and Children Welfare Association.
Things are changing slowly and gradually, but gender biases prevail in our society, so it is a challenge to build their businesses for some women. Orthodox and conservatism are coming into the picture and holding back women at times. One of the biggest barriers in the path of women willing to starting their own business is they have family responsibilities to look after and handle things at home.
Ms Anshu Ghosh, of IT Sector and Founder of Overseas Information Technology, said, “Twenty-six years back I started my journey in the IT industry, and things were different way back then, it felt like being a woman in man’s world. Not only this, but I had no privilege of the digital network, no internet services. I had to build all contacts on a personal level for future benefits. In the conference room, I was the only woman present.”
Ms Ghosh later added, “Now definitely things have changed and developed in IT industry, it has now most of the top-notch people and foremost who believe in gender diversity. I don’t come across now gender biases the way I used to come back across it 26 years back.”
Dola Sarkar, a businesswoman who started the business along with her husband from Calcutta of Naanis Video and Photography, said, “I lost my husband when my kids were studying, so I had no other option apart from handling the business alone and look after it to finance my kid’s education and not let them face any troubles.”
She added, “Initially, things were tough for me as I only used to emphasize handling the clients, and my husband used to look after the technicalities of the business, so for me, understanding and learning the technicalities came off as a challenge. Not only this but after my husband died, the employees we had for long lost faith in me and questioned my ability to run the business singlehandedly. As a result of which, I had to hire new employees and train them from the beginning.”
Women are expected to handle things well at home if they want to step out and work, and if they are unable to, the societies taunt comes at a cost price. Women have the burden to prove that they can run their businesses smoothly and run the home with the same passion.
Ms Sarkar added, “I was juggling between handling responsibilities at business as well at home, it was one of the biggest challenges put on my way and to prove I can handle both the things with equal enthusiasm and passion.”
One of the biggest barriers in the path of women willing to starting their own business is they have family responsibilities to look after and handle things at home. Family Planning also comes into the picture when a woman wishes to start their own business.
Mrs Sapna Prajapati, a beautician based in Vapi, said, “The biggest challenge I faced starting my own business was the burden of family planning, earlier I used to give door-door service, but when I was expecting a child I wasn’t able to give door-door service because of which I lost my clients. They were not willing to come to my home. As a result, I set up my own beauty parlour, and now it is doing well. Initially, getting the fund for starting up was a task, but my savings played a major role, and not to forget, my mother in law was a constant support in my entire journey.”
“My creativity and talent is sideline just because I am a Muslim woman. I was made fun of, but I did not take it seriously. I kept going and believed in myself. Now I am here running my startup proudly with courage.” –Mrs Ilaf Sakib Hakim
A woman has to face double challenges to start her own business when she is a Muslim in our country.
Mrs Ilaf Sakib Hakim, owner of Hastkala (Event planning, Handicrafted gifts, Customized chocolates and cakes), said, “I come from a small town Vapi, and male dominance still exists there. I had to fight it to start something of my own.” She added, ” Being a Muslim, it becomes more challenging. The biggest challenge I face is because of my hijab. My clients cancel the deal quite often when they get to know the face behind Hastkala is me. Some of them comment, you are Muslim, and above it, you’re a woman, so we can’t trust you. Communalism comes into power. So to run the business smoothly, I decided to hide my identity to earn profits. Finally, I dare to come in front and reveal my identity, “I am the face behind Hastkala”, after hiding for the last three years.
“She ended, “I want to be considered because of my talent and work, not to look down on because of my community or just because I am a woman.”
“There’s no age limit to study or start anything of your own.”–Mrs Heena Jitesh Shah
Mrs Heena Jitesh Shah, Nutrigenetic Counsellor and Clinical Nutritionist, Enviga Founder, said, “At a very young age, I have seen gender bias in my family. My brother went to English Medium School, and I was sent to Gujarati Medium School. Just after completing my graduation, I was married at 21. I was a homemaker till the age of 37, but I wanted to do something of my own, so I decided to complete my further studies before starting something of my own.”
She added, “The biggest challenge I faced was fighting the constant criticism from everyone around while completing my Education that too from English Medium. Everyone had second thoughts a B.sc graduate from Gujarati Medium, how would she manage to study Clinical nutrition from English Medium College. Even balancing things at home and coping up with studies was a bigger task for me. I took it as a challenge, completed my Education, proved everyone wrong and soon started something of my own at the age of 42 years. But, before it, I had to practice for three years at a hospital where I wasn’t allowed to prove myself or show my knowledge; it was disturbing. Then I decided to start something of my own. Initially, it was tough building clients, but now when I have accomplished it and earn loyal clients, I feel I have come so far even after starting so late.” She ended, “I am proud of what I am now. It would not have been possible without my kids and husband’s support.”
Mrs Shah ended saying, “Even I wrote a book – “Go, Grow and Glow with Nutrition – Medical Nutrition Therapy for Cancer.”
A woman can achieve anything if her family is supportive and get the correct support system.
Ms Poonam Desai, the owner of D’Herbs Kitchen and Certified POSH trainer (Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act), said, “One of the biggest challenges I faced was getting investment for a startup. I didn’t get financial support quickly because people have second thoughts when a girl asks for money to start her own business. I spent all my savings which I earned through POSH, in starting up my own Food business. It was challenging getting funding; apart from it, dealing with carpenters, painters and interior designer singlehandedly was demanding.”She added, “No matter what, but my mother constantly supported me and believed in my idea behind D’Herbs Kitchen of a healthy eating healthy lifestyle.”
According to the Global Diversity Investment report, globally, men account for 92% of partners in the top 100 venture capital firms. Female-founded startups receive only 2% of total investments by venture capitalists.
Getting financial aid and investment for women starting their own business is not only a challenge for women in India, but it’s a global challenge for women.
Can say things are changing for some woman only, but not all.
“The glass is not half empty; it is half full.”
Similarly, the brighter side is at least 13.76% of the total entrepreneurs in India are women. (Percent is taken from sixth economic census, by Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation)
Mrs Shikha Poddar Suhasaria, My Closet Owner, said, “I luckily belong to that one per cent of women for whom starting their own business is not a challenge. My family supported me, and I have not come across gender discrimination since my childhood. It’s a privilege in itself. But, I won’t say women entrepreneurs don’t face challenges just because I didn’t. They do face, and for women, hardships come at every point of life. We all learn to deal with it with time.”
“One basic challenge all women face who are willing to start their own business is added family responsibilities. It is one thing that holds us back from the start, something of our own.” Mrs Shikha added.
Dr Arun Kumar, Economist and Retd. Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University said, “The fundamental problem doesn’t lie in economic aspects for women starting their own business. It is the sociological aspects that add to the financial crisis women face in creating their own business. In economics, all individuals are treated equally and termed rational individuals, not rational males or females. The root cause behind gender differences and inequality in funding or pay scale is the Social differences we have drawn over past decades between men and women.” He concluded by saying, “First, we need to break the social differences between men and women. Eventually, the economic differences would go away.”
R. Kaleem Ullah, Social and Women Right Activist, said, “It will take a long time in bridging all the social differences between men and women. Giving women equal opportunities as men and not bringing them down when they want to start something independently is the first step to start. The basic social problem is women are always expected to take care of the home and not step out to make money; even if they step out to earn money, the first question thrown at them is – “Who will handle things at home”.
He added, “Undoubtedly, things are changing for some women; they are coming into power and at a higher position, but there are a lot of women who still don’t have the privilege or correct amount of opportunity. There’s a long way to go and completely eradicate all social differences between men and women.”
He ended by saying, “The problem lies in the society that cannot see women beyond the narrow perspective.”