The emergence of entrepreneurs in a society depends to a great extent on the social, economic, religious, cultural, psychological and environmental factors prevailing in a society. Entrepreneurs with their inherent intelligence, drive and hard work making the best use of the opportunities that are made available in the above factors. Women entrepreneurs are no exception to this.

Though women, in traditional societies are confined to the four walls of houses doing all the household works including taking care of the children and are treated as property of men, the concept and status of women in the modern society has been changed substantially.

Modern age has lifted the veil of ignorance. Slowly and subtly changes are creeping in. Women have come out of the four walls to participate in all sorts of activities. They are growing and blossoming as successful persons in their own right.

They have proved that they are no less than men in efficiency, hard work or intelligence. They are treated equally in teaching jobs, IT firms, hospitals and administrative jobs, military and defence fields, law, science, medicines and even aeronautics and space exploration. Now they have jumped into industrial activities and run their enterprises successfully. They are emerging as potential entrepreneurs. They have been making significant impact in all segments of the economy. Indian women also do have vast entrepreneurial talent which could be harnessed to join in the race for development. Therefore, it is now quite significant to discuss about the concept, meaning,, growth, problems and its solutions of women entrepreneurs in India.

Meaning and Concept of Women Entrepreneur:

Increase in cost of living has prompted the Indian women to undertake economic activities in order to support their families. They are coming forward to take risks, face challenges and prove to the world that their role in the society is no more limited to that of buyers but they can be also successful sellers.


There are thousands of good examples where women have shown entrepreneurial talents and have succeeded. Women entrepreneurs are the key players in any developing country in terms of their contribution to economic development. Now, it is imperative to know who is an women entrepreneur.

In the simplest sense, women entrepreneurs are those women who take the lead and organise the business or industry and provide employment to others. It signifies that section of female population who venture out into industrial activities. It may be defined as a woman or group of women who initiate, organise and run a business enterprise.

However, Government of India has given a broader definition of the term women entrepreneur. It defined women entrepreneur as “an enterprise owned and controlled by women having a minimum financial interest of 51% of the capital and giving at least 51% of the employment generated in the enterprise to women”.


According to J.A. Schumpeter, “Woman who innovates, imitates, or adopts a business activity is called woman entrepreneur.” Thus women entrepreneur are those women who initiate, organise and operate business enterprise and want to prove their mettle in innovative and competitive jobs. She also want to oversee and control every aspects of her business for its overall success.

Growth of Women Entrepreneurship:

Almost half of India’s population consists of women. But they constitute a very negligible proportion of the total entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurial traits and competencies have not been well developed amongst the women entrepreneurs. They are very shy in nature and emotionally attached to the family. They are treated as weak and dependent on men. They are the neglected sections in the society. The much low literacy rate 39%, low work participation rate 28% and low urban population share 10% of women as compared to 63%, : 52% and 18% respectively of their male counterpart well confirm their precarious position in the society.

In spite of the above, in sixties, women have started entrepreneurial activities as one- woman enterprises at home and from home for self-occupation and engagement. The number of women entrepreneurs were only 6000 which miserably low during the period.

Indian women started their entrepreneurial work in 1970s. Their entrepreneurship is traced out as an extension of kitchen activities mainly pickles, powder and pappad. Women are encouraged to start an occupation or venture with an urge to do something independently started to tide over their economic difficulties and responsibilities.


In the seventies, Government of India has also brought a change in its policy objective of welfare approach of women to development approach of women. Women were given priorities in all the sectors including small scale industries sector. As a result, the number of women entrepreneurs has increased over the years.

During 1980s, government and non-government bodies have paid increasing attention to women entrepreneurs through formulation of various policies and programmes and introduction of new schemes and incentives. It adopted a multi-disciplinary approach for development of women entrepreneurs. Women entrepreneurs were given top priority for implementation of programmes under agricultural and its allied activities of diary farming, poultry, animal husbandary, handlooms, handicrafts and small scale industries, etc.

In the nineties, out of the total women population of 437.10 millions, there are 126.48 million women workforce of which only 1,85,900 women accounting for self employed in the country. This indicates a dismally low level of women participation in the entrepreneurial activities.

Further women entrepreneurs in India accounted for 9.01% of the total 1.70 million entrepreneurs during 1988-89. There were more than 2,95,680 women entrepreneurs claiming 11.2% of the total 2.64 million entrepreneurs in India during 1995-96. The number of women entrepreneurs have increased to 3,28,000 in 1996-97.


During the ninth five year plan, the government has introduced in 1998 an important scheme on Trade Related Entrepreneurship of Assistance and Development (TREAD) aiming at economic empowerment of women in rural, urban and semi-urban areas. It develops their entrepreneurial skill and eliminates the constraints faced by women entrepreneurs.

The TREAD programme was operated through Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI). SIDBI has initiated various schemes for the growth of women entrepreneurs through Mahila Udyam Nidhi (MUN), Mahila Vikash for Nidhi (MVN), Micro Credit Scheme (MSC), Women Entrepreneurial Development Programme (EDP), and Marketing Development Fund (MDF) for women entrepreneurs.

In the context of the opening up of the economy and the need for upgradation of technology, the Consortium of Women Entrepreneurs of India (CWEI) is a common platform to help the very women entrepreneurs in finding innovative techniques of production and marketing and finance.

Prime-Minister Rozgar Yojna (PMRY), National Rural Employment Programme and (NREP), Rural Landless Employment Guarantee Programme (RLEGP) are some of the important schemes floated by the Government which encourage women to enter into work entrepreneurial activities.


With growing awareness about business and due to growth of educational level, in professional education, industrialisation, urbanisation and democratic values awareness, the tradition bound Indian society has undergone a change and women entrepreneurs have shifted their entrepreneurial activities to engineering, electronics and energy. They made personal choices, stood up for their convictions and had the courage and strength to enter into new ventures. As a result of these efforts, number of women entrepreneurs have increased over the years.