Three years after she graduated from business school, Bhagyashri Dixit took the plunge and set up her own graphic T-shirt brand to fulfil a lifelong dream of setting up her own enterprise. Five years after the brand – SheepStop – had found its feet, Dixit gave birth to her son and is now able to balance her responsibilities towards work and home.
“Setting up your own business is like giving birth to a child. It requires just as much attention and as many sleepless nights. I’ve always thought of my business as my first child,” Dixit said.
Dixit is among a growing number of women entrepreneurs in the country. In fact, a recent Global Entrepreneurialism Report conducted by international bank BNP Paribas has ranked India on top for the highest percentage of women entrepreneurs.
Conducted among 2,500 entrepreneurs in 17 markets spanning the US, Europe, Middle East, and Asia, the survey found that 49% of the entrepreneurs in India were women. India performed better than Hong Kong and France, which were next on the list.
Anant Sardeshmukh, director general of the Mahratta Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture (MCCIA) that has a special cell for women entrepreneurs, said the survey’s findings weren’t surprising. “The business environment for women entrepreneurs has changed substantially in India. There is a lot of potential and there is government support as well,” he said.
He further said there are no biases in finding finance and credit, both readily available these days, but there was a need for the government to set up more incubation centres where women can start a commercial activity and gain the confidence to take it to the next level.
Lubeina Shahpurwala, who has been at the helm of affairs of Mustang Socks for 12 years, agrees that when it came to workers or banks, she never felt any discrimination based on her gender.
“When it comes to the industry, however, there is a perception that women can’t run a manufacturing outfit. Very recently, one of our clients visited my factory and later expressed his surprise that I know the ins and outs of the place,” she said.
There continues to be a perception that women can only set up businesses that have to do with designing, fashion or something on the creative side, but Shahpurwala has never let it affect her. Her advice to young women who dream of setting up their own enterprise is to believe in themselves and never compromise.
Commenting on the challenges that remain for women entrepreneurs in India, Sardeshmukh said that a majority of these businesses are in the micro sector and expanding them to small- and medium-scale enterprises tends to happen at a slower rate.