[Kurukshetra October Summary] Promoting Women Agripreneurship – Explained, pointwise

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Introduction

Women entrepreneurs, especially women agripreneurs, represent the fastest growing category of entrepreneurship worldwide and India is no exception. By starting the business enterprises, women agripreneurs have demonstrated strong willpower, skills, risk-taking attitude and appetite for hard work, with grit and determination to succeed. Since 2016, the Start-up India, Stand-up India campaigns have gained considerable momentum. In addition, women agripreneurship has enhanced their morale and enthusiasm to do something productive for their family, local community and in turn to the nation.

Since the launch of Startup India initiative by Government of India in January 2016, the growth of start-ups and new-generation enterprises has been manifold. However, the number of women participating in the entrepreneurship activities has been relatively less, when compared to the number of their men counterparts, for variety of reasons. The women’s participation in economic activities is about 25%, while they constitute over 48% of the Indian population. Forbes India Report 2019 indicated that Indian women leaders occupy about 30% of senior corporate leadership positions in India (higher than the global average of 24%), while India gets rank of 113 out of 135 countries in gender equality in overall workforce. According to Global Women Entrepreneurs Leader Report 2015 by ACG Inc., India has ranked 29 out of 31 countries. Similarly, World Bank’s India Development Report 2018 has revealed that India has one of the lowest female participation in workforce globally, with rank of 120 from among 131 countries. Considering the above dimensions and ground realities, there is an urgent need to design the institutional strategies to support the ecosystem for promoting women entrepreneurship in general and women agripreneurship in particular, which is essential for the integrated development of India.

Read More: Female Labour Force in India – Trends and Challenges – Explained, pointwise
Agripreneurship and Women Empowerment

Agripreneurship is the synthesis of agriculture (and allied sectors) and entrepreneurship to generate commercially-viable products and services and high-value businesses and processes. The agripreneurship comprises of the creation, development, nurturing and expansion of the agri-business enterprises in agri-based and its allied sectors. It includes entrepreneurial interventions of agri-tech, farming, and marketing of agri-products in organised business practices from comparatively unorganised sector.

Women agripreneurs, represent the fastest growing category of entrepreneurship. Women play a vital role in the integrated development of agriculture and allied sectors. Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam had said that ‘Empowering women is a pre requisite for creating a good nation, when women are empowered, society with stability is assured. Empowerment of women is essential as their thoughts and their value system lead to the development of a good family, good society and ultimately a good nation’.

A Goldman Sachs Report (2018) observed that “enabling women, particularly as entrepreneurs, benefits future generations because women tend to spend more on their children’s education and health, which should boost productivity as well“.

A Report by the McKinsey Global Institute (2021) observes that the concerted efforts in minimising the gender gap in workforce participation has the potential to add US$ 12 trillion to global GDP by 2025. Women are the future of India’s progress, and development, since they possess the multi-tasking skills, are predominantly focused, empathetic and inclusive leaders, while managing any business enterprises.

At present, the woman in India contribute to about 14% of agri-business owners. Various surveys have found that more than 1/3rd of the total agri/rural start-ups are being managed by women agripreneurs. Increasing number of women agripreneurs are significantly contributing for the improved socio-economic growth, sustainable and holistic development of rural areas in India.

Scope and Prospects for Promoting Women Agripreneurship

There is huge scope for promoting women agripreneurship, especially because nearly 70% of agriculture and its allied activities are predominantly managed by women. However, to promote women agripreneurship, there is a need of: (a) An institutional support mechanism; (b) Access to the quality training; (c) Funding opportunities; (d) Marketing networks; (e) Leveraging the technology through e-commerce platforms; (f) Innovative approaches to take their products to the target customers etc.

Women are expected to dominate the workforce-trends and leadership positions in India in the upcoming few decades. The trend is almost similar in case of women agripreneurs. According to a recent report by India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), more than 30 million additional women-owned business enterprises are expected to create about 150 to 170 million jobs by 2030. The economic outlook is projected to grow dramatically as a consequence of this enabling ecosystem of women entrepreneurship.

A significant number of agri-based business opportunities are being exploited in the agro-spheres such as agro-product processing, agri-based food packaging, export of fresh vegetables and fruits, organised retail-supply of agricultural semi processed/processed products etc. This has got significant growth potential due to enhanced availability of institutional micro-finance, enabling regulations by Union/State governments, ease of access to high-tech solutions and trainings workshops on agri-based and its allied aspects. These provisions are progressively transforming the outlook of the agripreneurship industry, with special focus on women agripreneurship ventures. This is significantly bringing the ‘inclusive growth of women agripreneurs’ thereby promoting the enabling ecosystem of nurturing the variety of agri-enterprises.

Scope of Women Agripreneurship

Source: Kurukshetra October 2022

Public Policy Initiatives

Government of India has initiated various programmes and has created dedicated institutions/projects to foster the agripreneurship in India.

Institutionalised Initiatives for Promoting Agripreneurship: The ‘Agri-Clinics and Agri-Business Centers Scheme’ by the National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management (MANAGE), Hyderabad has provided considerable boost to women agripreneurship. It has provided agri-extension activities and facilitated transfer of technology in agri-based enterprise ecosystem. It has also supported the marketing of agri-based enterprise products/services. A significant number of trained men and women agripreneurs have been able to successfully establish and manage the agri-based technical/ consultancy extension services to farming community.

Promoting Local Agripreneurs and Agri-Business Incubators (ABls): The Prime Minister has emphasised on innovative practices and use of technology to nurture the agri-business enterprises. This will create employment in a large scale, ensure social and economic equity, inclusive growth, achieve self-reliance through agri-based start-ups. ‘Organic Sikkim‘ has been successfully making agri-farmers to earn about 20% higher income by taking away the middlemen and discovering newer markets for their agri-products through Sikkim’s organic retail stores. The stores are predominantly managed by women agripreneurs.

Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY): Through the scheme, the Government has been promoting agripreneurship by extending technical and financial support. The Scheme has enabled the localised incubation ecosystem through State Agricultural Universities and ICAR Research Institutions. Agripreneurs are given structured training for 60-days through 29 Agri-Business Incubation (ABl) centres across India.

NABARD Promoted Agri-Entrepreneurship Initiatives: The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, through its District Development Managers (DDMs) at all the districts across India, has been managing a variety of agri-businesses and women agripreneurs enterprises, in partnership with many NGOs, CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) Projects of corporates and large organisations.

Micro-Finance Institutions (MFIs): The microfinance movement has promoted and nurtured thousands of micro, small and medium women agripreneurs. MFIs have helped transformation of millions of women in the rural India through Diversity, Equality and inclusion (DEI) principles.

‘WeACT’ (Women Entrepreneurs Access Connect Transform): It is a national level network of women entrepreneurs, where the interventions undertaken are executed in collaboration with Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDIl), Ahmedabad and Accenture Pvt. Ltd, along with many other partners. Till Dec 2021, about 3,651 women enterprises have been nurtured across 14 states in 3 core sectors, (Food and Agro-based Enterprises, Handloom and Handicraft Enterprises and Household Supply Enterprises). The institutionalised capacity building, integrated marketing linkages and digital support systems have enabled them to become profitable and sustainable.

The initiatives taken by Government of India has significantly boosted the confidence of women agripreneurs and their holistic approach towards life, self-reliance, socioeconomic empowerment and thereby self-actualisation. This will help in attaining balanced regional development as women agripreneurship is primarily rural-based. This is also reducing rural-urban migration, which will improve the economic status of rural women. This has been helping in infrastructure development by creating in situ employment opportunities for others, and also reducing the social discord/evils and overall boost the socio-economic wellbeing by adopting new production systems.

Issues and Challenges

There are several challenges faced by women agripreneurs in starting and managing the growth phases of agri-enterprises.

Women agripreneurs face various challenges during the time of work and implementation like: (a) Dual responsibility of home and enterprises; (b) Threats from established corporate players; (c) Lack of knowledge/market awareness; (d) Lack of knowledge in branding, management, accounting etc.; (e) Lack of information source, required skill sets and training; (f) Lack of support from the family.

In addition to this, the fear of failure, low risk-taking capacity, also act as deterrent to their growth.

The infrastructure challenges include: (a) Lack of storage and warehousing; (b) Lack of electricity; (c) Lack of credit facility and finance especially formal finance (for both investment credit and working capital financing). The dependency on money lenders leads to exploitation, when the institutional credit is not forthcoming for managing their business enterprises.

Way Forward

Indian women agripreneurs have been making significant strides of growth in changing/transforming Indian agri-ecosystem. This has been getting expedited owing to enabling policies for start-ups by Government of India, enhanced access to the educational/training programs and digital media, and improved access to funds/credit facilities, grant-in-aid by various agencies like KVIC, CSR Grants by Corporates, etc. The concerted efforts have given a strong boost to the growth of start-up culture and enabling entrepreneurial ecosystem, where the woman agripreneurs are actively supporting the growth of rural economy. It will help in attaining inclusive growth and breaking the gender stereotypes by empowering women and helping in attaining gender equity.

Syllabus: GS I, Role of women and women’s organization; GS III, Inclusive Growth and issues arising from it.

Source: Kurukshetra October 2022

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