Small businesses and entrepreneurs form one of the largest pillars of the Indian economy. But there is still a need for a serious and sustained intervention to support women entrepreneurs, especially in tier 2 and tier 3 cities. Women are still expected to be tied to the traditional roles of a wife, a mother, and a caregiver and those who strike out as entrepreneurs work against the grain.
In the last few years, especially during the pandemic, e-commerce in India has seen tremendous growth. Many women in tier 2 and 3 cities have begun to adapt and reap the benefits of selling online. Digital Technology, e-commerce and data has become indispensable for business success. While it is easy for educated, urban folks to adopt and apply these technologies, a large section of the Indian diaspora still struggles with awareness of technology, access to credit and language barriers. The worst-hit are women business owners in inner cities and rural areas who also must fight societal gender barriers. Thus, it is critical to break the bias and empower women through focused education and training interventions about business and technology.
Mastercard shares the top three ways how technology adoption can help women entrepreneurs to succeed.
1. Making businesses more efficient: Adopting digital technologies enables one to organize sales, orders and inventory systematically. Digital payments allow one to not only increase efficiency but also gives a clear view of the financials, aiding in better business decisions. For example: Initiatives such as Project Kirana by Mastercard and USAID leverages a tech-and-touch training methodology, engaging kiranas with peer-learning groups, video-based content, and in-person training to help women-owned kirana stores increase revenue streams and adopt digital payments.
2. Enabling credit access: Most businesses owned by women are micro-enterprises. These businesses have difficulty establishing formal lines of credit due to their small size, lack of collateral in the hands of founders, and the tentative nature of their operation. When such firms digitize their operations, the data generated can help lenders assess their creditworthiness. Embracing digital payments empowers one to tap into formal lines of credit and enables women-owned businesses to grow and expand. For example: the $100 million credit facility launched by HDFC, Mastercard, USAID and DFC in India extends working capital loans to small businesses, especially women–owned that need financing to support their digitization and recovery from the effects of the pandemic.
3. Improving reach and customer experience: Technology is also helping businesses expand their reach and allowing them to give customers the kind of experience they’ve come to expect. Online marketplaces can help women entrepreneurs ship their products to customers across the world. Social media is another powerful tool for businesses to create awareness about their products to a much wider customer base.