Rupali, the daughter of a farmer in Maharashtra’s Satara district, was married off at a very young age. While raising her children, she also helped her husband with his leather manufacturing business. After doing this for several years, she felt a need to start an enterprise of her own, and decided to produce leather-based musical instruments. But without any financial credentials, raising funds became a challenge. She finally managed to secure a loan of INR 20,000 by Mann Deshi Bank, which provides rural women with easy and affordable access to credit.

However, despite now having the capital to start her enterprise, Rupali faced a host of other challenges. She was not proficient in the craft of designing instruments. This meant that while she had the necessary raw materials, she did not have the expertise to execute her business. Additionally, the leather-instruments business is traditionally male dominated, and people around her pressured her to give up on it. Rupali began to worry that she would not be able to repay the loan she was given, and considered reselling the raw material she had bought, and giving up on her dream.

Around that time, she attended a session held by Mann Deshi on running an enterprise. It inspired her to persevere, learn the trade, and improve her business acumen. Her enterprise gradually began to grow, and she was able to secure bigger loans. Today, her enterprise employs 10 women and is capable of supplying 2,000 orders a month.

Rupali’s story is the exception, not the norm. Women entrepreneurs in India face several roadblocks on their path to establishing a viable enterprise. To understand these barriers and learn about possible solutions, Asia Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN), with support from JP Morgan, organised a roundtable focussed on enabling greater access to finance for women entrepreneurs.

The participants included representatives from non-banking financial companies, corporate foundations, and nonprofits. Drawing from their learnings from their pilot projects and experiences in the field, they offered insights into the interrelated factors that limit women entrepreneurs’ access to finance and how they could be addressed.

  1. Managing risk at an institutional and individual level
  2. Capacity building for technical and business skills
  3. Access to markets

Read the full article about women entrepreneurs by Derrek Xavier at India Development Review.