Panellists who attended ‘Women in Business’, Kerala’s conference of women entrepreneurs, discussed diverse issues related to women’s entrepreneurship, including building successful entrepreneurship models for women.

The event was jointly organised by TiE Kerala and Women Entrepreneurs Network (WEN).

In his keynote address, Sashi Tharoor, MP, said empowerment that is coming up with the internet and social media are bound to enhance the autonomy and safety of women. “Modern technology world needs only to get the work done, it does not care about gender, and ensures equal pay. Let women seize greater opportunities,’ he said.

Women’s career aspirations are too often not given priority by a large section of our society. There is also a problem of retention. Recent surveys suggest that when 29 per cent of women start working in a particular year, that number drops to 9 per cent after 12 months. The percentage of women reaching the corporate management leadership is also very negligible, according to the study, Tharoor said.

Untapped source of growth

Anisha Cherian, President, Tie Kerala, Maria Abraham, President WEN Foundation, and Mariam Mammen Mathew, CEO, Manorama Online, Tanvi Bhatt, Personal Branding Coach and Founder, Tanvi Bhatt International, also participated in the inaugural session.

Anisha Cherian said that entrepreneurship among women is an untapped source of economic growth. Dreaming big, we have coined the new slogan – “A women entrepreneur in every home,” she said. “There exists an unexplained lack of enthusiasm among investors and banks to invest in women-owned businesses. The capital shortage, coupled with lack of family support, especially to balance her personal and professional life, prevents women from venturing into entrepreneurship,” she said.

Speaking on the theme of the conference ‘Women Entrepreneur -Unleashing the Power,’ Maria Abraham, President, WEN Foundation, said that women empowerment is the world’s most promising investment option. “If more women could be inspired and financially empowered through networking, collaborating, training and mentoring, it can definitely change the destiny of the state and our nation,’ she said.

In the panel discussions on ‘Enabling Kerala’s Ecosystem for Entrepreneurship’, Anoop Ambika, CEO, Kerala StartUp Mission said that out of the 3,900 companies that are apart of Kerala start-up ecosystem, 178 are owned by women entrepreneurs. “Now a great amount of women participation is happening in the area of research and invention, especially in life science, biotechnology and food,” he said.

Sarath V Raj, CEO, Kerala Institute for Entrepreneurship Development, said that about 81 per cent of the MSME in the country are owned by men. Most of the challenges that women entrepreneurs face are the same challenges she faces in every facet of her life, but the magnitude of the challenges are higher when women opt for entrepreneurship as a career. The vast majority of stay-at-home parents in our country are women. But this household order is fast changing in favour of women. Women have to reach out, network, interact and work together for a paradigm shift, he said.