Women entrepreneurs

Findings for the Study of Women Empowerment through Entrepreneurship in Odisha

Part 2

The right combination of environment, planning, effort and innovation results in the creation of successful new business ventures and that in turn leads to economic development. The proper amalgamation of above can only be achieved by the women entrepreneurs. It is because the success of any strategy for economic development will need complete mobilization and utilization of a country’s natural resources with its manpower. The women constituting more than half of our total population can provide an answer to the country’s need for dynamic and innovative women entrepreneurs in the 21st century which has already opened the floodgates for major industrial investments in an era of liberalization, privatization and globalization. The government and the various industrial, promotional and supporting agencies in India have been making considerable efforts to facilitate the process of the emergence of new women entrepreneurs for the last few decades. All these efforts have created a multifarious growth of enterprises, but they are concentrated in a few regions and have been mostly male-centric.

The industrialization policies of the Government of Odisha have not been able to make a significant impact on all regions in general and the backward regions in particular. Even though, the women entrepreneurs are the central agents behind industrial development, the existence of economic opportunity, sympathetic cultural forces, supportive government action and above all, strong personal qualities of the women entrepreneurs are missing. These development activities have not been gender neutral because of the social, cultural and economic factors. Therefore, in our male dominated society women have been relegated to the role of traditional homemakers than the industrial women entrepreneurs. But modern women have broken the shackles of the so-called femininity and ventured into business.

In this context, the purpose of the present study on the promotion of micro enterprises by women entrepreneurs has been undertaken to understand the dynamics of economic growth and women entrepreneurship development in the most backward districts in Orissa i.e. Koraput, Bolangir and Kalahandi. Despite the abundance of natural resources, raw material and the announcement of government policies for industrialization especially in the backward regions of Odisha through MSMEs, it is still an industrially backward state. Therefore, it needs a group of dedicated women entrepreneurs. But the question is: Can women as a group come up and fill the gap? A study of women entrepreneurs operating small-scale enterprises by taking loans from banks, financial institutions and non-governmental organizations can provide some insight into the above.

In the present study, a women entrepreneurial background and their motivation have been analyzed to show how women entrepreneurship can be developed in these three districts of Odisha. Here, an attempt has also been made to study some of the aspects, which contributed to the growth and development of women entrepreneurs. The major objectives of this work is to identify the social, education, psychological, personal and other characteristics associated with women enterprise development. Further, the study thoroughly examines the motivational patterns, financial pattern, marketing strategies, financial and marketing problems of the sample women entrepreneurs. Finally, the role of Government and non-governmental agencies in the promotion of women enterprises among women entrepreneurs are examined in this study.

The sources of data for the present study are both primary and secondary. The primary data has been collected from the women entrepreneurs with the help of structured questionnaires. 300 sample women entrepreneurs were selected at random and questionnaires were administered personally to elicit responses. The stages of economic backwardness vis-a-vis industrial growth in these three districts of Odisha are assessed by using data from secondary sources like Economic Survey of Odisha, statistical abstracts of the Directorate of Industries, Odisha, Orissa Reference Manuals, Directorate of Economics and Statistics, Odisha, District Statistical Handbooks of Koraput, Bolangir and Kalahandi and research publications of other eminent scholars in this field. The data are then coded and tabulated for analysis. Data is presented through suitable tables in a content analysis model. The impact of the demographic profile of women entrepreneurs on the promotion of micro enterprises has also been analyzed.

Major Findings

The women entrepreneur is considered to be the main force behind the growth and death of micro and small industrial units. While studying the women entrepreneurs in micro enterprises of Odisha, five major issues have been dealt with. These are:

(i) What are the motivational factors behind the promotion of micro enterprises by women entrepreneurs?

(ii) What are the factors behind her success or failure?

(iii) What are the roles of Government and non-governmental agencies in the promotion of micro enterprises?

(iv) What are the financial patterns and problems of micro enterprises? and

(v) What are the marketing strategies and problems of micro enterprises?

The major findings of the study are summarized below:

  1. The study of the sample women entrepreneurs revealed that 86.7 percent of them belonged to the rural areas, 8.3 percent were from semi-urban areas and 5 percent came from urban areas. It is also observed that 45.70 percent of the women were unemployed, 38.70 percent of the women entrepreneurs were from agriculture and the rest of the women entrepreneurs were in service, industry and trading before becoming a women entrepreneur. So most of the women entrepreneurs     were     unemployed     and     were     from agricultural background  before  setting  up  their  micro enterprises.    Unemployment,    erratic    and    inadequate avenues from agriculture in the KBK districts forced the women to enter into micro enterprises units.
  2. It is found that 38.3 percent of women entrepreneurs in the age group of 25-35 years and 43.7 percent of women entrepreneurs in the age group of 35-45 years initiated to start micro enterprises. 84.7 percent of respondents were illiterate and remaining respondents had either primary or high school education. 72.3 percent of the respondents were from the non-business background and 27.7 percent of respondents   belonged   to   business   background.   93.3 percent of respondents were married women and only 6.7 percent of respondents were unmarried. 96 percent of women entrepreneurs belonged to nuclear families and only 4 percent of women entrepreneurs were from joint families.  It is concluded that background of women entrepreneurs with respect to their place of business, age, educational qualification, marital status and type of family has a direct bearing on the promotion of micro enterprises.
  3. It is observed that irrespective of the demographic status, 36 percent of women entrepreneurs were motivated to start micro enterprises for self-employment and 34.3 percent of women entrepreneurs entered into micro enterprises units for their financial independence.  12.7 percent and 17 percent of respondents were influenced by profit and personal desire respectively. Further, the analysis revealed that rural women entrepreneurs were motivated mostly by self-employment and financial independence to set up their micro enterprises.
  4. The family is an important source of motivation for the women entrepreneurs. As it is observed that advice or influence of family members/relatives/friends were found to be useful factors for the present career for the women entrepreneurs of KBK districts; followed by the Government schemes, training institutes and previous experience in the same line of business. It is also observed that the women entrepreneurs having some experience other than in the family business, preferred non-traditional business; while those with experience in family business started their units as an extension of their family business which was mostly in traditional products.
  5. Microfinance is the lifeblood of any business and easy availability of funds facilitate the development of women entrepreneurship. 41.30 percent of the respondents from KBK districts obtained funds from banks, 40.30 percent of the respondents obtained funds from own sources and 18 percent of respondents obtained funds from friends and relatives, moneylenders, etc. Borrowings from banks with the help of SHGs and own sources were the major sources of funds in the KBK districts. In all the three districts, lack of easy availability of funds was a major problem for the women entrepreneurs.
  6. The size of the business depends upon the quantum of funds available for women entrepreneurship from different sources. The maximum present level of investment in the enterprises was found below INR 50,000 by the respondents in all the three districts. 89 percent of the respondents from KBK districts were found to have an investment of less than INR 50,000. Only 11 percent of respondents had an investment more than INR 50,000 and less than INR 10,00,000. It was observed from the survey areas that lack of availability of funds was a major obstacle in the promotion and growth of their business.
  7. Growth in sales is a major indicator of business performance and success. Because, the availability of ready markets for the products reduces the inventory level and reduces the blockage of working capital for a long period, it results in the growth of the business. 87 percent of the respondents from districts were observed to have been selling their products in local markets, on the roadside, door to door selling, etc. and remaining 13 percent of the respondents from districts were selling their products in other places like cooperative societies, exhibitions, village fairs, etc. Since most of the women entrepreneurs sold their products in the local market, 82.70 percent of respondents from districts had annual turnover of less than 7 25,000 and the remaining 17.30 percent of respondents were having an annual turnover above INR 25,000.
  8. Channel of distribution of products is one of the important marketing strategies for the success of business. It was found that about 92.30 percent of respondents from the KBK districts sold their products directly to customers in the local unorganized markets at prices acceptable to customers resulting in less volume of turnover which led to poor rate of profit and 7.70 percent of respondents said that they sold their products through middlemen and Government agencies.
  9. From the study of the marketing problems of the women entrepreneurs, the possible problems faced by them were lack of knowledge about the product, lack of attractive packaging, lack of advertising, poor quality of the product, lack of trained sales representatives and others. 24.70 percent of respondents from the districts said that there is lack of knowledge about products, 13 percent of respondents said that there is lack of attractive packaging, 17.70 percent said that lack of advertising is one of the reasons for poor turnover, 19.70 percent said that poor quality of the product was responsible for less sales, 9 percent gave their opinion that lack of sale representatives was one of the factors responsible for inadequate growth and 16 percent of respondents said that as customers in the local markets had poor purchasing capacity, goods were sold on credit to them and debt recovery became a major the problem for them in future.
  10. Profit is one of the  important measures  of business success. In the sample units, as many as 95.70 percent of respondents from KBK districts reported that they were making a profit. Out of them, 57.70 percent earned poor profit, 22.70 percent good profit, 13 percent fair profit, 3.70 percent very good profit and 3 percent excellent profit. It is encouraging to find that majority of the respondents in the districts were successful in achieving growth    in    sales.    However,    the majority    of   women entrepreneurs were earning a poor rate of profit. This is due  to inadequate marketing facilities, lack of infrastructure, shortage of fixed and working capital, lack of awareness of Government schemes lack education, etc. for the promotion of micro enterprises in the districts.
  11. Training is required to impart new skills as well as to refresh the women entrepreneurs. In the course of interviews conducted, it was observed that only 4 percent of the women entrepreneurs from the districts were influenced by the EDPs/technical training programmes conducted by different   authorities   like  NGOs,   SHGs,   Government agencies and other local associations.
  12. As the majority of women entrepreneurs were found to have earned a very poor rate of profit, it was difficult on their part to sustain their business in the areas which were inaccessible to outside world. When they were asked to suggest measures to make their business sustainable, 87.7 percent of total respondents suggested that Government and non-government agencies should provide them with marketing facilities to market their products.
  13. During the course of interviews with respondents, it was observed that they were ignorant of training facilities being  provided  by  Government  and  non-government agencies on business activities. Similarly, incentives and subsidies  should  be  granted  by  Government  on  the promotion of business activities in those areas in which they are not educated. Thus, it should be ensured that women entrepreneurs are aware of training facilities as well as incentives available to them.
  14. 14.    Ploughing back of profit is one of the important sources of internal microfinance for the growth and promotion of business enterprises. It was observed that as many as 56.30 percent of respondents from the KBK districts used their business profit in the development of business whereas, 43.70 percent   of   respondents   used   it   for   their   personal consumption. This may be one of the reasons why many micro enterprises, in spite of having good rate of profit, failed to promote or develop their business units.
  15. When asked about the steps that the government should take for their benefit, 87.70 percent of the entrepreneurs from the KBK districts said that Government should provide women entrepreneurs with marketing and subsidy facilities and remaining respondents of the districts gave importance to other factors like consulting the business community  prior  to  business  legislation,  treating  all businesses impartially and applying laws rigorously and passing necessary legislations to regularize and organize the field of business.
  16. There were many obstacles in getting assistance from the government. 48.70 percent of the respondents from the KBK districts felt that excess official formality from the Government was a major obstacle in getting assistance, 23.30 percent of the respondents felt that rigid procedures were  the  major  obstacles  in  getting  help  from  the Government, 17.70 percent of the respondents found that Government   assistance   was    inadequate   and   other respondents felt that undue delay in providing Government facilities were the major obstacle.
  17. From the analysis of the study, it was found that there were many obstacles faced by women entrepreneurs in starting their business units. Some important obstacles faced by them were lack of self-confidence, lack of resources lack information and others. As many as 85.70 percent of respondents from the KBK districts said that lack of microfinance was a major obstacle in starting their business units. Besides microfinance, there were other problems which need to be taken care of.
  18. The running of business is as important as the formation of business. As observed from the Survey, 51.70 percent of respondents from the KBK districts felt that liquidity and other financial problems were major obstacles in running the  business  by women  entrepreneurs.  25 percent  of respondents felt that managing marketing was the major the problem   in   running  the   business;   14.30   percent   of respondents said that lack of availability of raw materials was the problem in the running of the business and few respondents   stated  that  managing  family   along   with business was a problem for them.
  19. When asked about the monthly income before and after becoming a member in the micro enterprises unit, it was found that there was a significant difference between these two incomes i.e. 80 percent of respondents from the KBK districts said that they had no income before becoming a member of micro enterprises whereas, 77.30 percent of respondents said that their monthly income has gone up considerably. Hence, the promotion of micro enterprises by women entrepreneurs in the districts has helped in improving their socio-economic conditions.
  20. The analysis of the data reveals that there was significant the difference   between   the   assets   held   by   the   women entrepreneurs before and after becoming a member of micro enterprises unit. Thus, entering into micro enterprises had a significant impact on procuring assets.


Government efforts for the last few decades for the development of industrial sector in backward regions have paid little dividends. The study reveals that the slow development of industries and social development is due to the absence of the right type of women entrepreneurs. The emergence of women entrepreneurs in a region is linked with the socio-economic climate of that region. It is also conditioned by the commitment of the political and bureaucratic elements to economic development. Recognizing that the women entrepreneurial base is widening and that an impulse of autonomous activity has to be carried forward, there is a need for emphasis on not only quantitative but also qualitative women entrepreneurship. It is obvious that problems like start-ups, escalation in cost or production, low demand, labour problems, shortage of power and raw materials of on-going enterprises varies from business to business, yet the common problem of almost all the enterprises is the microfinance to start with and additional finance to sustain.

  1. The small women entrepreneurs are weak in many aspects of management and cannot withstand the competition from large   units.   This   is   more prominent   in  the  field  of marketing.   Many women   entrepreneurs   suggested  the reservation of some items for the exclusive production of the small units. The government and other quasi-governmental bodies should give preference for purchase from small units. Many women entrepreneurs are of the opinion that marketing agencies should be created at co-operative level, which will take the responsibility to market the products of MSMEs, leaving the women entrepreneurs to concentrate on quality of the product. Women entrepreneurs must also be given training in production and marketing, which will make them confident to compete with others.
  2. Education and training have a positive effect on women entrepreneurship development. It is universally accepted that ‘entrepreneurs can be taught and developed in India’. Illiteracy has been the main stumbling block for women entrepreneurship development. From the interviews of the women entrepreneurs, it was found out that, they need suitable education and training. The present theoretical framework of education provided by our system, which facilitates them to secure a degree, a visa for getting jobs; but it has proved futile from self-employment and women entrepreneurship development perspective. Therefore, the vocational education including women entrepreneurship development programme needs to be imparted from the primary and secondary education stages itself. The encouragement and development of entrepreneurial culture should become the nucleus of our education system, so that they will not become ‘job seekers’ but ‘job providers’. To serve this contentious objective, synergistic linkages amongst the business community, educational institutions and various Government departments are of paramount importance.
  3. The study of women entrepreneurs revealed that, the strengths and opportunities were higher in degree than that of weakness and threats. This is a positive hint that women entrepreneurs are confident of overcoming the age-old weaknesses and threats by channelizing their major strengths and opportunities they possess. The government policies and entrepreneurial development programs have produced many first generation women entrepreneurs. By proper training and planned effort, the entrepreneurial qualities and competencies can be strengthened and motivated, so that women participate in the economic growth of India.
  4. The emergence of a few successful women entrepreneurs in the region promises that, like in other fields, they too can achieve success in women entrepreneurship. This possibility can be explored and established if women are provided with proper education; quality infrastructure facilities, customized training programs, easy availability of financial assistance, the supply of adequate raw materials, equipment credit facilities, training facilities and marketing assistance. Women entrepreneurs should also be trained to adopt modern productive and management concepts to improve their competitive strength.
  5. In the course of our interview, many women entrepreneurs felt that Government officials were discouraging and the schemes provided to them were not suitable for their local business requirements. Hence, there is an urgent need for institutions including commercial banks to reorient their policies and move towards project and production-oriented lending. With substantial resources of microfinance and manpower at their command, banks should be able to function as catalytic agents for the future development and growth of women entrepreneurs. Financial aid or loan at low rate of interest should also be made available to the women entrepreneurs.
  6. It was observed that though the women entrepreneurs seemed satisfied with the women entrepreneurship development programmes, yet majority of them were of the opinion that these   were   not   rural   area   specific,   hence   lacked applicability.  Thus, Government and semi-government financial institutions should provide special support to the women entrepreneurs. The authorities concerned should arrange     work-related     training     courses,     seminars, symposiums, workshops, conferences, etc., which should be convenient for the women entrepreneurs to attend. It becomes extremely important for some of the programs to be organized for motivation, wide exposure of industry, promotion    of   industrial/professional    awareness    and facilitating excellence   in their chosen  entrepreneurial activity among women of all age groups.
  7. On circumspection of findings, it is highly recommended to introduce new economic legislations for developing the potential women entrepreneurs in these three districts in particular and Odisha in general. Women Entrepreneurship Development    Programmes    (WEDPs)    should    make significant progress in widening entrepreneurial base in the state of Odisha, to match the entrepreneurial performance being experienced in some states like Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh. Proper sheds and plots, financial subsidies, availability of raw material, transport, liberal assistance and gearing up the various facilities for enhancement of the status of enterprises must be undertaken by the Government of Odisha in the line of above states.
  8. Many women respondents during the interview felt that red-tapism,   bribe,   non-committal   and   non-responsive behaviour by Government officials, non-availability of guidance, advisory services in time and effective training to prospective young women entrepreneurs are also the factors that need to be considered in re-framing and re-organizing, women entrepreneurship development programmes in these three districts of Odisha. It will not only benefit the women entrepreneurs but will be in the larger interest of the region,   state   and   the   country,   in   achieving   higher productivity and prosperity. Stipend to trainees must be provided to entice the tribal women to enter this field. Training centres for employed women should be set up to impart skill and industrial know-how. Special concession for rural women from SC/ST community, in the form of government reservation, etc. should also be provided.
  9. 9Majority of the women entrepreneurs, during the course of interview, said that they faced a lot of problems from the family as well as from the society in carrying out their work. They were also of the opinion that “woman power exists in all societies. But it is the role of the society to nurture their talent and promote women entrepreneurship.” Hence, it is desirable that the development of local women entrepreneurs should be in the agenda of the planning effort.   It   should  be   included   in  the   curriculum   of education so that women will tend to be independent after being educated. Development of women entrepreneurs and their competencies are mostly done at behavioural levels. By  right  kind  of child-rearing  practices,  the  family environment can inculcate the spirit of women entrepreneurship right from the early childhood amongst women.
  10. The small units operated by women in the villages do not get the advantages of scale and specialization of labour The woman entrepreneur has to look after all the functions of management. This has reduced the labour productivity and increased the cost of the product. Hence, it is suggested that clustering should be done for the MSME units and SHGs to avail the common facilities like R&D, transportation and communication facilities, marketing and storage facilities, etc. These common facilities are to be provided by the Government or the industry associations. The role of small industries association is that of a mentor, which should come as a rescue for the strengthening of common problems and deal with the government for basic facilities. They should also collaborate for making policies for the small units.
  11. Many    women entrepreneurs   revealed   that   they   are   being demotivated because of the problems being faced and losses being incurred in the business. In order to motivate new women entrepreneurs in rural areas, case studies and audio-visual     presentations     of    successful     women entrepreneurs should be prepared. To bring awareness among rural women, a lot of publicity should be done. It is the success stories of several women entrepreneurs that will improve the environment for women. Collaborative associations  of urban and rural women entrepreneurs should be formed and pressure groups need to be created to accelerate the process.
  12. Rural women entrepreneurs were of the opinion that they lacked microfinance and did not have information about the new government schemes and they depended heavily on the bank, not only for their start-up microfinance but also for other  information. So, banks should not only serve as lending institutions but also play the role of a promoter. Special training-cum-orientation programmes for appraising bank officers and agencies should be planned to change their biased  attitude towards the rural women. There is a definite need for simplifying procedures, reducing the formalities and a genuine implementation of a “one-Stop shop” concept.
  13. Majority of the women entrepreneurs from the districts said that they needed microfinance not only to start business but also to continue it in future. Given the low rate of return, it was indeed difficult for them to carry on the business further. They were also of the view that, the banks and other financial institutions did not care for the future of their business and they never received any help, either financial or advisory, once the business has started. Hence, a  great deal  of troubleshooting  help,   even   after  an enterprise has started, will have to  be built into any programme for generating rural  women  entrepreneurs. Financial institutions will have to show more patience and understanding   while   monitoring   their   progress   and recovering loans. There should be a separate allocation of funds   by   the   state   and   centre   exclusively   for   the development of rural women entrepreneurs. Conclusions:   The women  entrepreneurs  of the  three districts   taken   for   the   study   have   enterprising   spirit, responsibility, deep sense of involvement and have already proved their worth by entering into business enterprises and being successful, though on a limited scale. Improvement in both quantity and quality of women entrepreneurs is the need of the hour. With concerted efforts of various institutions in giving encouragement and incentives, women from all sections of   society   can   bloom   into   real   women entrepreneurs.    With advancement   of education,   information   and   technology, women of Odisha can make their presence felt in the field of industry and business.

Scope for Further Research

The study is limited to Koraput, Bolangir and Kalahandi districts of Odisha. Only a few aspects of the women entrepreneurship like background, motivation, competencies, role of Government and NGOs, financing pattern, and marketing practices are studied to determine the promotion of enterprises by women entrepreneurs in the districts. The term success/failure is defined by the women entrepreneurs as they rate themselves. None of the financial institutions or other stated sources for database, maintain a separate list of women entrepreneurs enlisted or associated with that organization. Hence, to identify women entrepreneurs was an uphill task.

The study is a cross-sectional one without having any past reference, as no research study on the women entrepreneurial competencies of Odisha in general and in this three district:. in particular is available. Hence, the comparability of the data is absent.

Apart from that, the limitations of time and money were also important factors. Though interviews with many women entrepreneurs and local authorities helped in eliciting certain vital information, yet, this did not find any place in the records anywhere so far. Thus, there is scope for further research by increasing the scope of the study and sample si/c. The findings of this study could be applied to study the process of idea generation, assessment and planning, in order to develop new businesses among large organizations.

Findings for the Study of Women Empowerment through Entrepreneurship in Odisha
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