Women Entrepreneurship in India

Mobilising Strategic Philanthropy to Strengthen Women’s Entrepreneurship in Urban and Peri-Urban India


Women Entrepreneurship in India

Women’s entrepreneurship is increasingly understood to be a key driver of economic growth and job creation. Widely recognized as a key component of women’s economic empowerment, women’s entrepreneurship has the potential to contribute significantly to advancing women’s rights and increasing their influence.

Asian Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN) has embarked on the journey of mobilising strategic philanthropy to improve livelihood pathways for women entrepreneurs in Urban and Peri-Urban India with the support of J.P. Morgan.

Within the first phase of the project, AVPN has worked with LEAD at Krea University to map the landscape of barriers and challenges for women entrepreneurs. Once these key challenges are identified, AVPN will work with diverse multi-sector stakeholder groups leveraging collaborative philanthropy to unlock a range of interventions and solutions that can help women entrepreneurs to overcome the obstacles and attenuate roadblocks.

Archetypes of Women Entrepreneurs​

We see the following archetypes of women entrepreneurs plying businesses in urban and peri-urban areas

These archetypes broadly represent the breadth of entrepreneurs with varying motivations, behaviours, needs, experiences and aspirations. They include female urban and peri-urban nano and microenterprises, home-based and own-account enterprises, and growth-oriented enterprises. Cumulatively, the four segments represent approximately 10.84 million urban and peri-urban enterprises. The skilled and steadfast entrepreneur categories together account for 62 per cent of enterprises. While the employment generated by these enterprises is low, they provide women from low-income and socio-economically weaker segments a pathway to engage in income-generating activities and flexible working arrangements.


Enhancing Business Acumen and Optimising Business Outcomes

Encouraging Entrepreneurship

Individual and social factors

Enhancing Business Acumen and Optimising Business Outcomes

Access to information, skills, assets and markets

Enabling Environment

Macro, policy factors


Opportunities for collaborative action

“Filling the gaps” - move capital towards underserved entrepreneur segments and geographies

Women entrepreneurs face diverse challenges and a more collaborative approach can help address high-priority challenges for underserved segments (i.e. those with monthly revenue < Rs. 75,000) and geographies. This approach is critical to support gender-inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic as well. Furthermore, research has demonstrated that a well-rounded package of interventions can have a larger impact on advancing women’s entrepreneurial activity and business outcomes in comparison to focusing on just one intervention.

By recognising the intersectional nature of these challenges and developing a robust impact thesis that enables cross-sectoral collaboration, there is an opportunity to break silos. A collaborative philanthropy model can pool in expertise from funders that have experiences in different geographies and sectors and deploy blended financing models including a combination of grants, debt, and equity, and restricted versus unrestricted funding.

Micro approach, macro impact

Invest in programs that can mobilise women entrepreneurs at the community level while advocating for change at the regional and national levels. Through collaborative giving, it is possible to support a pan-India network of organisations and ecosystem partners that can mobilise aspiring entrepreneurs and create communities of entrepreneurs that serve as a peer network and channel for delivering services.

Drive innovations in solutions and approaches, by diversifying the risk of testing “what works” and adapting it to different contexts

While there are various solutions available in the ecosystem to address credit gaps, skilling requirements, and other challenges, there is a lack of scalable models that can be adapted to cater to different entrepreneur archetypes. Pooling resources can help channel investments to solutions that may be high risk or to early-stage entrepreneurship development programs that have high potential for impact. This can accelerate the learning curve for donors and partners, and offer flexible and responsive capital to organisations working on the ground to test new ideas.

Invest in measurement tools and approaches needed to inform collaborative giving at scale

Given the complexities that underpin the measurement of women’s entrepreneurial activity and the impact of entrepreneurship development initiatives, collaboratives can invest in longitudinal studies and robust data collection mechanisms to bridge data gaps and improve the sector’s understanding of how enterprises led by women are established, operated and scaled over time.

Research & Insights

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This is why we do what we do

“We hope the social investor community of AVPN and the larger ecosystem stakeholders find this report useful in identifying collaboration opportunities and in developing their philanthropic strategies to enable women entrepreneurship. It is vital that philanthropic capital is unlocked and philanthropists take joint action to address these complex gap areas and create impact at scale. Collaborative philanthropy can be a powerful approach in addressing grave issues in an accelerated manner, and pave the way to truly making this the Asian Decade of social transformation.”

Lavanya Jayaram

Executive Director, South Asia at AVPN

“There is ample global evidence on the economic benefits associated with increased women’s participation in the workforce and economy. At J.P. Morgan we have a diverse culture of respect, equity and inclusion and through our philanthropic efforts we support a number of programs across the globe that are committed to building an inclusive economy. Through this study we aim to go deeper into the challenges of small businesses owned by women and how these challenges show up for entrepreneurs across different stages of their businesses.”

Maneesha Chadha

Global Philanthropy at J.P. Morgan

“There is a strong unquestionable economic, social and humanitarian case to encourage entrepreneurship among women. Not only is it a powerful way to empower them, but boosting women’s participation in entrepreneurial activity can provide the required push the Indian entrepreneurial ecosystem badly needs to spur creativity and innovation among many other aspects.”

Sharon Buteau

Executive Director, LEAD at Krea University


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