According to the WEF Global Gender Gap Report 2021, India has slipped 28 places to be ranked 140th out of 156 countries, amongst the lowest in South Asia.
The gender gap in India has widened to 62.5 percent, largely due to women’s inadequate representation in politics, technical and leadership roles, decrease in women’s labour force participation rate, poor healthcare, lagging female-to-male literacy ratio and income inequality.
Indian tech startup ecosystem has only one-woman founder/co-founder present in 12-15 percent of startups and 10 unicorns, as per a Nasscom report. However, over the past year, 42 percent of women business owners have shifted to a digital business model, and 34 percent have identified new business opportunities in response to the pandemic.
According to research conducted by Bain & Company, Google, and AWE Foundation, female-led businesses generate 12 percent higher revenues annually and use an average of a third less capital than male-led startups.
But this is not enough--- the women entrepreneurs and stakeholders in the startup ecosystem are expecting much more. In this year’s budget, they expect incentives, additional funding and encouraging schemes for women-led startups, along with a fair, gender-balanced allocation of funds for their venture.
Priyank Shah, co-founder & director, RENEE Cosmetics: "We hope to see some relief in taxation and GST policies so that women entrepreneurs can be encouraged to take the leap with a little more convenience. We can expect the government to encourage and provide funds to enable academic incubation centres in women-only colleges, which will enable more young women to not only explore entrepreneurship but also create startups as well.
Support of working capital and interest-free loans would also be highly beneficial to encourage Women-led startups. We seek easy and low-interest loans to cover the manufacturing part and provide the audience with better products. In this budget, the government should provide financial assistance to growth-oriented startups with proven capabilities to enhance their R&D."
Shilpa Khanna Thakkar, CEO, Chicnutrix: "Quite a few successful start-ups have been spearheaded by women. There is still a gap of financial support and literacy that becomes an obstacle. Efforts need to be taken to support and mentor these entrepreneurs. Investors and government bodies should allocate funding that supports sustainable businesses. With health and wellness taking center stage, there should be a relaxation of taxes on essential wellness products."
Anika Parashar, founder, and CEO, The Woman Company: "The Union Budget should emphasize Women's wellness - especially menstrual hygiene. We already have tax exemption on sanitary pads, however, this could be extended to manufacturing and production. Further, decreasing import duties for raw materials could bridge the gap between supply and demand as well as encourage more Indian manufacturers to start manufacturing biodegradable pads in the country.
There should be policy-level incentivisation for Made In India products, startups helmed by women, and ventures that focus on sustainability and solving women's issues. The Government should promote the use of biodegradable menstrual products to bring down waste produced by plastic products – a figure which currently stands at a staggering 12.3 billion annually."
Sanjana Govindan, vice president, women entrepreneurship, GAME: "Recognizing that 90 percent of women-owned SMEs still rely on informal financing, there is a need to incentivize financial institutions to think about other methods to credit check and solve the issue of collateral that plagues millions of asset-poor women entrepreneurs.
Despite leading the world in graduating women in STEM, the number of new women founders in the manufacturing or high-value sectors is abysmally low. A budget that recognises this, and takes a gendered approach to financing this type of entrepreneurs will be a huge boost to the economy."
Poshak Agrawal, co-founder & CEO, Florence Capital: "The pandemic has forced more and more women to move to casual labor – 9.3 percent in January-March 2021 as against 7.7 percent in January-March 2020. So, the Budget needs to not just reverse this trend but create the ground for better formal sector job opportunities for women.
This requires work from the ground up, including higher capital expenditure on education and health – issues that are key for women. We hope that the Budget for 2022-23 will prioritise spending on gender budgeting to help reduce inequalities."
(Edited by : Jomy Jos Pullokaran)