With more than 50 percent of India’s MSMEs being in rural areas and over 20 percent owned by women, a robust support structure can expedite the growth of rural women entrepreneurs. Despite their ambition, innovation and passion, women entrepreneurs are held back by several factors like lack of awareness and exposure to best-in-class business practices, limited linkages to markets, constrained access to finance and minimal support to scale.
To address these issues and evolving market dynamics, like consumer preference to pay digitally, Mann Deshi Foundation and Mastercard have announced the expansion of the Chamber of Commerce for Rural Women.
As part of the expansion, the Chamber of Commerce for Rural Women will add a new chapter in Kolhapur, Maharashtra and introduce a leadership academy for women entrepreneurs to conduct trainings on advocacy and provide mentorship. The expansion will increase members’ access to digital skills and knowledge, access to legal advisory services and marketing clinics, strengthen sales networks among women entrepreneurs, and launch a pathway for these women entrepreneurs to become agents of change.
The chamber already has chapters in Pune, Chiplun, and Satara in Maharashtra through which 10,000 women have been benefitted since 2018. Through this expansion, it aims to empower over 20,000 small businesses to tap into digital networks for sourcing and selling, with a focus on:
- leveraging technology to facilitate business operations and to scale skills trainings including introducing women business owners to low-cost technology for digital bookkeeping, virtual networking and online classes;
- providing hands-on demo workshops to enable small business owners to test and learn about time-saving machines, e.g. dal mills, solar dryers, packaging machines that can help scale up their business;
- retaining existing members through continued provision of monthly services ranging from legal aid clinics, financial education workshops, exposure visits to market opportunities; and
- adding new services to the monthly roster, such as digital marketing clinics.
Chetna Sinha, Founder, Mann Deshi Foundation, said, “Women entrepreneurs are keen to expand and grow their businesses, realize their ambitions and dreams, and build a secure future for themselves and their families. They need access to affordable finance, supportive networks, and the latest market information.
“The Chamber of Commerce for Rural Women recognizes that connecting women to knowledge, markets, skills, financial services, technology and networks is essential to helping women-owned businesses grow and thrive. And, our vision is to empower women to make their own choices and to be celebrated as equal and valuable members of their families and communities,” Sinha said.
Shamina Singh, founder and President of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, said, “Our collaboration with the Mann Deshi Foundation to expand the Chamber of Commerce for Rural Women is part of our ongoing commitment to build a more inclusive and sustainable economy.
“Through innovative and trusted partnerships, we are empowering women entrepreneurs with the digital skills and resources necessary to operate more efficient and productive businesses. By providing female entrepreneurs with opportunities to scale their operations through increased leadership, sales, marketing, and networking, we are creating a world that works better for women and creates opportunities for everyone,” Singh said.
The expansion is in line with Mastercard’s commitment of Rs 250 crores (US$33 million) to help reboot Indian SMEs and enable business recovery amid the Covid-19 outbreak. As part of the commitment, Mastercard has launched multiple initiatives in India to help small businesses go online, drive inclusive growth and empower women entrepreneurs.