Women in Kerala Scale up the Entrepreneurship Bandwagon with KSIDC’s WE Mission

Women in Kerala top the country in terms of education and literacy rates. But that is only half the story. Today they are taking another step forward. Women in Kerala are taking to entrepreneurship in large numbers. The Economic Review, 2014 of the state says that 25 per cent of the 2,34,251 working SSIs/MSMEs registered in Kerala were promoted by women. 3354 new enterprises were registered in the state by women during the year 2013-14.

 

The Kudumbasree mission brought about a huge change in the outlook of women. It gave women the opportunity to stand on their own. And it has given women, the confidence to start their own ventures. 

 

“There weren’t many women who would think about starting their own business earlier. I was lucky that I had the support of my family, without which it would not have been possible for me to start the business,” says Ms Noorjahan MA, who started Falcon Garments, 12 years back at Areekkode in Malappuram district. But the situation has changed now. “After the Kudumbasree movement, women have started coming forward to start their own enterprises,” she adds.

 

“The Kudumbashree experiment showed that there is a lot of entrepreneurial talent in rural women,” says Mr B Jyothikumar, Executive Director of KSIDC, “KSIDC realises that now is the time to give a boost to the  rural women entrepreneurs.” As with any other entrepreneur, women too face many problems while setting up their own ventures. But the patriarchal system makes it more difficult for them. “Women entrepreneurs have to look after their family in addition to their work. Many of them work under time constraints and find it difficult to travel to expand their business,” says Ms KB Valsalakumari, Executive Director of Kudumbashree.

Getting the funds to start the venture could be especially troubling for women, as it is usually men who manage the money.  Funding is the main problem that I faced,” says Ms Maneesha Panicker, founder of SilkRoute Escapes who has set up the Kayal resort, near Kochi. “Even though government subsidies to promote women entrepreneurship are available, they are for the manufacturing sector, and not for the service sector,” says she. Kerala Financial Corporation’s (KFC) KSSEDM scheme came to her rescue though by providing her a loan of Rs 10 lakh.

 

But there were other troubles too. “It is much harder to set up a business in India,” says Ms Panicker who returned to the country after spending close to a decade in the US. “But the officials from KSIDC and KFC were very supportive,” she adds.

“Initially, during the construction phase there were some issues with the unions, and the local people. But later they became supportive as I built  a rapport with them and when they found out that I was setting up the resort on my own.”

 

For Ms Noorjahan though, it was a different story. “The main challenge I faced in running the venture was in marketing,” says she. She sells her products through the various textile stores in the area. Many of them would take the products only without bills or with fake bills.

 

Ms Beena KP, founder of Sumix Kidswear, too has gone through the grind and emerged successful. “The initial 4-5 years were very difficult and we had to put in a lot of hard work. After that it has been a comfortable business,” says she.

 

It is in this context that KSIDC has come up with the Women Entrepreneurship (WE) mission, to kindle the entrepreneurial skill of women. The Corporation aims to help women entrepreneurs in the micro-andsmall enterprises sector, scale up their operations through the mission.

 

The mission has lined up five strategies to provide women the required support to become successful entrepreneurs. ‘Meet your Mentor’ by offering continuous mentoring by successful women entrepreneurs; ‘See to Feel’ by taking women on regular exposure visits; ‘Source the Fund’ for easier funding; ‘Launch the Venture’ for incubation and infrastructure support and ‘Market Connect’ for networking for marketing.

 

“The government has come up with  several schemes to promote women entrepreneurs,” says Mr G.S.Prakash, Deputy Director, MSME – TI, Tiruvalla. “In addition to the Trade Related Entrepreneurship Assistance and Development (TREAD) Scheme, many other schemes of the government have special components for women,” he adds. The state government too has announced Special Incentives for Women Entrepreneurship Programmes as part of its efforts to boost women entrepreneurship.