Obstacles in Life of Women Entrepreneurs in India

The road to success in life of women entrepreneurs encounters major challenges.

Women entrepreneurs are key players in any developing country particularly in terms of their contribution to economic development. In recent years, even among the developed countries like USA and Canada, Women’s role in terms of their share in small business has been increasing. A study conducted by IIT, Delhi illustrates the following:

  • In Japan, the percentage of women entrepreneurs increased from 2.4 percent in 1980 to 5.2 percent in 1995.
  • Britain has seen an increase of over three times of women in workforce than that of men even since 1980s.
  • Women own one-third of small business in USA and Canada.
  • Women make for 40 percent of total work force in Asian Countries.
  • In China, women outnumber men by at least two times when it to starting business there.


Although more women are embracing entrepreneurship, they often face challenges right from the beginning till the enterprise functions. Being a woman itself poses various problems to a woman entrepreneur. In both urban and rural sectors women face various similar and different obstacles. They face tough resistance from men. They are considered as helpers. The attitude of society towards her and constraints in which she has to live and work are not very conducive.Besides the above basic problems the other problems faced by women entrepreneurs are as follows:

Social Barriers

  1. Male-Dominated Society: The Constitution of India speaks of equality between sexes. But, in practice, women are still considered to be as inferior to men in nearly all outdoor aspects. They are looked upon as a weak member of society. So never they are given equal opportunities as men. Women not only are restricted to express themselves but also have to face role conflict as soon as they initiate any entrepreneurial activity. This, in turn, serves as a barrier to women entry into business. Thus it is an uphill task for women to face such conflicts and inequality.
  2.  Stigmata in society: Women are often looked down upon with suspicion in this country when they ask for a space to run their business. The attitude of the society in general towards a woman trying to compete in a man’s world is deterring. This in turn results in women gaining lesser access to varied resources like labour, raw materials, machinery etc.
  3. Lack of Credit: Though women constitute about 50 per cent of population, the percentage of small scale enterprise where women own 51 percent of share capital is less than 5 percent. Even if the entire idea behind a successful enterprise is of a woman, she does not receive the credit of making the enterprise a huge success. This bitter truth offends many to start a new venture.
  4. Limited Mobility: In India, women mobility, unlike men, is highly diminished. Single woman moving alone and asking for room is still looked upon in a suspicious way. Often, women feel uncomfortable in dealing with men who show extra interest in them than work related aspects. All this compels a woman to give up the idea of starting an enterprise.
  5. Family Ties: In India, it is mainly a women’s duty to look after the children and other members of the family. Man plays a secondary role only. In case of married women, she has to maintain a balance between her business and family. Her total involvement in family leaves little or no energy and time to devote for business. Further, support and approval of husbands seems sometimes apprehensive for women’s entry into business.
  6. Lack of Education: In India, around three-fifths (60%) of women are still illiterate. Those who are provided have either less or inadequate education than the male which could be due to early marriage, son’s higher education or due to poverty. Illiteracy is the root cause of socio-economic problems. Such thing makes women unaware of business, technology and market knowledge. Also, this leads to lack of skill and causes low achievement motivation among women creating one type of hindrance for women in the setting up and running of business enterprises.

Professional Barriers

  1. Problem of Finance: Finance is regarded as “roots of a tree” for any enterprise. Women entrepreneurs suffer from shortage of finance on two counts. Firstly, the banks consider women less credit-worthy and discourage women borrowers as they believe that they can at any time leave their business further this belief leads to lesser other capitalists investing in women-run businesses. Secondly, women do not generally have property on their names to use them as collateral for obtaining funds from external sources. Thus, their access to the external sources of funds is limited. Hence, often women entrepreneurs are bound to rely on their own savings, if any and loans from friends and relatives who are sometimes negligible. Such problems are structural in nature and beyond the control of entrepreneurs. They also face financial problem due to blockage of funds in raw materials, work-in-progress finished goods and non-receipt of payment from customers in time.
    Inadequacy of Raw Material: Most of the women enterprises are plagued by the scarcity of raw material and necessary inputs. Added to this there is, on one hand, the high prices of raw material, and on the other hand getting raw material at the minimum of discount nearly impossible sometimes. The failure of many women co-operatives in 1971 engaged in basket-making due to the inadequate availability of forest-based raw materials is an example.
  2. Marketing Problems: Women entrepreneurs stiffer a lot in raising and meeting the marketing needs of the business. They constantly face the problems in marketing their products. To enter a field which has been dominated by males is a daunting task for a woman. Men have ruled over the marketing zone for many years which is why women find themselves lagging behind in this area. They have to rely on middlemen and outsource to meet up this demand. The middlemen not only exploit them by adding their own profit margin resulting in less sales and lesser profit but also the elimination of middlemen is difficult, because it involves a lot of running about.  This in turn poses a hindrance to their professional growth. Also it is difficult for a woman to capture the market and make their products popular.
  3. High cost of production: Several factors including the exploitation by middlemen and inefficient managing capability contribute to the high cost of production which stands as a stumbling block before They face technology obsolescence due to non-adoption or slow adoption to changing technology which is a major factor of high cost of production.
  4. Limited managerial ability: Management has become a specialized job which only efficient managers perform. Women entrepreneurs are not efficient in managerial functions like planning, organizing, controlling, coordinating, staffing, directing, motivating etc. of an enterprise. Therefore, less and limited managerial ability of women has become a problem for them to run the enterprise successfully.
  5. Legal formalities: Fulfilling the legal formalities required for running an enterprise becomes an upheaval task on the part of an women entrepreneur because of the prevalence of corrupt practices in government offices and procedural delays for various licenses, electricity, water and shed allotments. In such situations women entrepreneurs find it hard to concentrate on the smooth working of the enterprise.
  6. Stiff Competition: Women entrepreneurs do not have organizational set-up to pump in a lot of money for canvassing and advertisement. Usually they employ low technology in the process of production. In a market where the competition is too high, they have to face a stiff competition for marketing their products with both organized sector and their male counterparts who have vast experience and capacity to adopt advanced technology in managing enterprises. Thus, such a competition ultimately results in the liquidation of women enterprises.
    Search for a mentor and a support network: 48% percent of female founders report that a lack of available advisers and mentors limits their professional growth. With the majority of the high-level business world which is still being dominated by men, it is hard for a woman to make her own connections and her own path. It is difficult for them to find the right support network and proper guidance. Every successful woman at some point of their life must have encountered some men who were actually supposed to guide them but created just obstacles in their path.


  1. Low risk-bearing ability and self confidence: Women in India lead a protected life. They do not get much family support, are less educated and economically not self-dependent. All these reduce their ability to bear risk involved in running an enterprise. Also because of their inherent nature. shy and mild, they lack self-confidence which is essentially a motivating factor in running an enterprise successfully.
  2. Absence of Entrepreneurial Aptitude: It is a matter of concern for women entrepreneurs. Many women take the training by attending the Entrepreneurship Development Programmes without entrepreneurial bent of mind. Even after attending various training programmes on entrepreneur ship they fail to tide over the risks and troubles that may come up in an organisational working. As per a study, involvement of women in small scale sector as owners stands at mere 7 percent. Women who are imparted training by various institutes must be verified on account of aptitude through the tests, interviews etc.
  3. Defying social expectations: Many women, often in trying to set up something right, do a lot wrong. Most female business owners who have attended networking events can relate to this scenario.Women often feel as they need to adopt a stereo typically “male” attitude toward business i.e. competitive, aggressive and sometimes overly harsh.

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