“Male broken away from the beaten track and

“Male entrepreneurs are
motivated by the potential to earn lots of money, while women start their own
companies because they seek greater control over their personal and
professional lives”                                                                                            —Connie Glaser

Women in business are not a recent
phenomenon in India.
Small business and tiny cottage industries are the business where they have
confided themselves. With the growing sensitivity to the role and economic
status in the society, Women are increasingly becoming conscious of their
existence, their rights and their work situations. Today, women entrepreneurs
represent a group of women who have broken away from the beaten track and are
exploring new avenues of economic participation. Among the reasons for women to
run organized enterprises are their skill and knowledge, their talents and
abilities in business and a compelling desire of wanting to do something
positive.

Authors:
Paragi Shah – Faculty AES Post Graduate Institute
of Business Management – Ahmedabad
Bijal Mehta – Faculty AES Post Graduate Institute
of Business Management – Ahmedabad
 

 

Women Entrepreneurs may be defined as the women or a group of
women who initiate, organize and operate a business enterprise. Government of India has
defined women entrepreneurs as an enterprise owned and controlled by a woman
having a minimum financial interest of 51% of the capital and giving at least
51% of employment generated in the enterprise to women. A Woman entrepreneur is
no different than a male entrepreneur. Her business also demands exploring the
prospects for starting new enterprise, undertaking risks, introduction of new
innovations, coordination administration and control of business and providing
effective leadership in all aspects of business. Life for a woman entrepreneur
is not a bed of roses. Family compulsions and responsibilities make their task
more difficult than male entrepreneurs. The
individual woman entrepreneur single-handedly faces a plethora of seemingly
endless problems. But despite these numerous barriers and tangible obstacles
women are, today, entering the field of business in increasing numbers.

Women
entrepreneurs are growing every year. It is estimated that women entrepreneurs
presently occupy about 10% of the total number of entrepreneurs in India. And if
the prevailing trends continue, it is likely that in another five years, women
will comprise 20% of the entrepreneurial force. Currently there are 1.3 million
SSIs and 9.1 million registered SMEs in India, with many of them work in
the unorganized sector and are unregistered. The percentage is growing every
year (Economic times, August, 2008)

PERSONALITY
TRAITS OF WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS

Today, the corporate are eager to
associate and work with women-owned businesses. The trend of employing women in
the organizations is also increasing. Women have some unique abilities which
make them stand apart from men in the outside world. Women have an innate flair
for entrepreneurship. They are popular for their intuitions that help them make
the right choices even in situations where experiences and logic fail. They are
more likely than men to admit when they do not know something and ask for
help.  They are natural networkers and
relationship builders, forging powerful bonds and nurturing relationships with
clients and employees alike. They are also more inclined to seek out mentors
and develop supportive teams. In business this translates into establishing rapport
with clients and providing great customer service. This perhaps is the reason
that many women tend to launch businesses that are client based or
service-oriented like fashion designing, interior designing etc.  

Women typically tend to give away too
much and charge too little. Unlike men, it is difficult for women to completely
ignore family obligations when pursuing business and they can quickly lose
sight of their desire to have a balanced life in the face of a demanding new
business. Women also need to be twice as persistent and assertive to make their
presence felt in a predominantly male business world.

Women face a distinct set of
challenges that impede their entry into the world of entrepreneurship and later
the growth of their enterprises. Access to information, finance, training and
marketing are some of the areas where women need support. Typically they are
shy of self-endorsements and self promotions and most of the times reluctant of
taking credits for their achievements.

However their ability of excelling in
their chosen fields and doing whatever they do with full dedication has
established their identity in the fields which were predominantly dominated by
male. Today’s women are making their presence in the industries like food  engineering, packaging,
textiles and garments, beauty, chemical or pharmaceutical industry, and may
others as their male counterparts.
Industries that demand creativity and dedications are places where women have
outperformed males.

This
paper has focused on the fashion design industry which is dominated by women in
organized as well as unorganized sector in Ahmedabad. The factors like
background, personal characteristics, psychological attributes and traits,
social and family support at different stages of their venture have been
studied, for four decades from the 70s till now.

FASHION DESIGN PROFESSION

Fashion
is the emblem of status symbol and lifestyle. It determines what is in vogue
and what’s out. With the onset of globalization and exposure to media the fashion
scenario in India has
traveled the globe and today shares the same ramp as top designers of Milan and New
York. Thus fashion designing is an important avenue
at India.

 

Fashion
is a term commonly used in relation to clothes, dresses, garments, textiles and
so on. Fashion designing has come a long way from the mere designing of
clothing. Fashion designing has evolved into a full-fledged industry today. It
is well accepted as a career option all over the world. The fashion industry
ranks among the high growth sectors of the economy. It is labeled as a priority
sector for trade development and promotion. Both
men’s and women’s apparel industry has seen phenomenal growth in the past few
decades.

 

Fashion
designing is basically a creative field and success in this field is dependent
more on the inherent creativity and formal training. Fashion designing is a
very challenging profession but definitely with glitz and glamour. With a
plethora of local level, regional level and national & international level
fashion events like IMG fashion Week, Lakme Fashion Week etc, fashion designing
is considered to be one of the trendiest professions today. Indian designers
have made a mark in International markets.  With the onset of recognition
by International brands, the government has started taking fashion designing as
serious business. Several fashion designing institutes like National Institute
of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad, National Institute of fashion Technology, Sophia
Polytechnic etc. are some of the best Fashion Institutes in the country that
have a given a breed of new age fashion designers to India. Fashion designing in India
is a very challenging and demanding career. A successful designer is one who
processes a combination of four important attributes – creativity, artistic
abilities, visual imagination and originality. A fashion designer should have a
working knowledge of business and marketing. At Ahmedabad alone there are more
than 210 boutiques registered in the yellow pages. This is next to Mumbai where
there are 304 registered boutiques. The total number of registered boutiques in
all major cities at India
as per the yellow pages is nine hundred and ninety seven.

 

 

 

 

METHODOLOGY

 

The
study is done with a qualitative approach through personal interactions and
focus group survey with 15 women entrepreneurs in the field of fashion design
from the city of ahmemdabad. Of these, three women are in their late 50s. Seven
of the participants are in the age group of 30 to 40 years and five are in the
age group of 21 to 29 years. The diverse group is taken keeping in mind the
various generations that they depict namely the 70s, the 80s & 90s and the
21st century entrepreneurs. Backgrounds (see Annexure 1), the
enterprise and family influence on the enterprise (See Annexure 2) and personal
traits and professional outlook (See Annexure 3) of these women were discussed
during the Focus Group Survey.

 

PRIMARY STUDY OF WOMEN FASHION DESIGNERS AT AHMEDABAD

 

Following are the areas of
investigation on various aspects of women entrepreneurs of ahmedabad.

 

Background –
This focuses on their profile, mainly age, marital status,
family size, number of dependants, community, educational level, business
experience, previous occupation, and personal income. And Family profile i.e.
type of family (joint family or nuclear family), educational level of members,
women’s position in the family, and business background of the family.

 

Details of
enterprise and influence of family members on the enterprise:
Includes type of enterprise (individual or group activity), nature of enterprise
(proprietary, co-operative, and trust), capital investment, financial
assistance availed, influence of family members in the choice and the setting
up of the enterprise (in terms of its nature, size, and location), on its
day-to-day operations, management, finances, recruitment and institutional
credit.

 

Personal
traits and professional outlook – This encompasses
risk-taking and achievement motivation, psychological costs and stresses
associated with multiple roles, Family and social values, attitude to
employment of women (as against attitude to women entrepreneurship) activities
considered “women’s area”, attitudes and values relating to women’s larger
community, social standing of women entrepreneurs, child care, and family ties
and priorities, instances in which family factors assisted / inhibited the
growth and diversification of enterprises, and contribution of family and
society in the success/failure of business.  

 

THE GENERATION GAP IN WOMEN ENTERPRENEURS

Women entrepreneurs of the seventies

Sixty’s decade saw women going to schools and getting
education. However, seventies was the time when a large number of women
completed their degrees and entered the work force as professionals. These
women had aspirations and also ambitions. They wanted homes, families, children
as well as occupations. They wanted to carry forward their roles as mothers and
wives successfully but at the same time to work as successful working women or
entrepreneurs.

 This has been observed
in the participants also. All three of them started their business from home.
And also admitted that their family supported them in this task. However, as
their desire to take care of their family and children was equally strong they
saw a dip in their profession during their life stage of young kids. Two of
them could fully concentrate on their business once their kids were self
dependent and mature. These women themselves were also of the opinion that, a
lady should limit here professional aspirations up to a level, which can be
carried from their home boundaries.

Women entrepreneurs of the eighties
and nineties

 

Eighties and nineties was a breakthrough decade for women in
many fields and industries. Women entrepreneurs participated equally in both social
and occupational roles. They were more educated in technical and professional
fields. Many entered their family businesses as equally contributing partners
while others opened their own ventures. They were more conscious of their own
self identities and many times questioned the contrast between the roles played
by them and their spouse. Some from these still went through the guilt of
neglecting family and children and not being good mothers or care takers.

 

Five out of the seven designers are living in joint families
and yet the child care responsibility is on their shoulder. This may be the
reason for high stress levels, a low sense of risk taking and motivation. Dual
expectations from family are visible through financial reasons of entry into the
business. All these women began their initiative from home so as to avoid
conflicts in family. And were of opinion that, it took some years to prove
their business capabilities and achieve respect in eyes of family members. They
however also admitted that carrying forward ones work would not have been
possible without encouragement and adjustments of all members of family
including children, spouse and in-laws. One major factor of moral encouragement
for some of these women was that, their children appreciated the way their
mother was balancing work and family at the same time.

This generation is an example of vast contradictions in the
society where on one hand financial contributions by the women are welcome in
the family however the willingness to accept the lady as an individual and
professional is low.

 

 

 

Women entrepreneurs of the 21st
 century

 

Woman of this century is emerging as the bold and intelligent
force in the society. She has fewer barriers to overcome, faces less pre
conceived notions, and lesser gender agenda in the work environment. She is a
daughter who can take responsibility of her parents, a wife who wishes to
create a home and a family, a mother who can take charge of her children, at
the same time an entrepreneur who builds an enterprise and discovers the
relevance and importance of being herself. The women entrepreneurs today are a
blend of those who have carried the family legacy forward and those who have
carved their own niche without any mentor or legacy.

Level of specialized education in fashion design is prominent
in this group. They are focused about their future plans and their priorities
in life. This is the generation who sees their profession as their first
priority and aspires to be in the league of best designers nationally and
internationally, even by sacrificing their life stages and having children. For
them working in this profession is for self achievement and financial
independence more than making ends meet. Some of them started their profession
before their marriage, and the major factor for selection of spouse was of the
condition of continuing their profession post marriage also.

This generation portrays the self dependent and strong willed
women of today.

 

CHALLENGES FACED

Entrepreneurship among women has been an area of attention
across generations and societies. Women are becoming aware of their work, their
rights and their existence with every passing decade. However, women of the middleclass
even today do not wish to alter their role in fear of social non-acceptance.
The progress is more visible in women in upper class families. The following
barriers exist even today in women entrepreneurs, which reflect in the primary
focus group survey.

·        
Confidence level – as women tend to accept
a subordinate status, it results in lack of confidence and an increased sense
of dependency on spouse, children or family members compared to men. For
example all women of the focus group are of opinion to avoid any financial aid
from formal sources like banks and financial institutions as they do not want
to take high finance risks.

·        
Financial support: While the trend is
visibly changing, doing something on their own is still difficult for the women
entrepreneur. She is largely dependent on parents before marriage and on spouse
post marriage.

·        
Socio-cultural barriers: The
society still judges the women by how she is managing her personal and
professional commitments. This leads to increase in stress levels with respect
to her performance in various rolls

·        
Male-Female competition: While Male Female competition is strong across all
businesses today, in the fashion design profession at Ahmedabad, there is a
trend of female entrepreneurs and hence, the level of  male competition is comparatively low at the
local level. This however, can not be said for high-end branded fashion
businesses.

·        
Mobility: Fashion design being a
business done locally, mobility requirements are low as customers generally
travel to the boutique or home of the designer to get their work done. This is
therefore considered as a convenient business to enter into.

·        
Professional attitude and knowledge requirements:
knowledge of source of raw materials, high negotiation skills, administrative
skills, people management capabilities, and a strong sense of marketing are the
basic requirement to run a business. For the designing business negotiation
skills in areas such as raw material procurement, time deadlines with tailors,
relations ship buildings with clients are the prime requirements. As majority
of the marketing is done through word of mouth, extensive marketing through
other sources is not required. The participants admitted that these were some
of the reasons while considering this profession as the right one for them in
addition to the fact that their creativity and an innate sense of design were
their strengths.

·        
Knowledge of latest technological changes, know how, and
education level: In the sample studied, the earlier generation
lacked professional fashion design training and in some instances regrets this
fact. However, participants from the 90s and the 21st   century
either had professional fashion design degrees when they started or have acquired
them at a later date as they move ahead in their business.

 

CONCLUSION

“Women don’t want just a piece of the pie, they want to
choose its flavor themselves and know how to make it themselves. – as rightly
said by Ela Bhatt of SEWA. As per United Nations Industrial Development
Organization (UNIDO) estimates, there exist more than 350 Small and Medium
Enterprises (SMEs) clusters in India,
of which Gujarat commands a large share. The
spirit of entrepreneurship exists in men as well as women in this state.
Gujaratis are known for their business will and for their knack for strong
negotiating and bargaining power. Gujarati women, whether self employed, or
service sector employees possess a strong attitude toward work life balance and
a sense to maintain their self identity. The Gujarati society has accepted the
new women entrepreneurs and they are going places with their ideas and enterprising
nature.   The Gujarati society today has begun to
evolve to a level where the working woman is looked at with respect, admiration
and is given the freedom to excel in her chosen field of profession.