Published: March 2020
This study aims to leverage insights gleaned from ground level case studies of entrepreneurship so as to advocate for more systematic government support for women entrepreneurs, in general and more specifically, in the context of sanitation – an area of key concern for the National Faecal Sludge and Septage Management (NFSSM) Alliance.
In low to medium income economies like India, it appears that the motivation for entrepreneurship among women is largely driven by the necessity to earn a livelihood as opposed to innovation, efficiency, opportunity or passion. The dynamics of women’s entrepreneurship in India are affected by a series of factors ranging from discrimination in educational opportunities, family constraints, lack of self-esteem and lower political representation. Additionally, factors like bureaucratic red tape, unfavourable market behaviour, and lengthy legal procedures that commonly plague entrepreneurs in general, are doubly harder for women entrepreneurs to navigate than their male peers.
It is therefore imperative to provide enterprising women business owners/potential owners with the strategies for addressing gaps and leveraging opportunities. To do this, insights must be drawn from the experiences of existing business enterprises on how best to create an enabling environment for women entrepreneurs. Accordingly, this study deep-dives into the business models of four different ventures – (1) Gramalaya that runs community toilets in Tiruchirappalli; (2) JanaJal, a social sector initiative seeking to improve access to clean drinking water; (3) SWaCH, a cooperative organisation that provides for the door to door collection of waste in the municipalities of Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad; and (4) Café Kudumbashree, a micro-enterprise based in the hospitality sector serving traditional Kerala cuisine and run by Kerala’s Kudumbashree Mission. Each of these ventures have been selected for a variety of reasons, such as adopting an interesting approach, or being an enabling platform for encouraging female agency through collective action, thereby offering unique learnings for encouraging women’s entrepreneurship.
The aim of this study is to inform the priorities of the government for addressing policy gaps to improve and encourage women entrepreneurship, with a focus on the sanitation ecosystem.