Lack of information on businesswomen

Response received ranged from 'no such data available' to soft copies, hand written hard copies to CDs.

Women’s Entrepreneurship Day is being celebrated for the first time today. Karnataka has led the way in women entrepreneurs’ movement in the country.

The state perhaps has the highest numbers of ‘Women-Owned Businesses’ in the country, among MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises).

Policy and programmes can be shaped based on the choices, demographic profiles, overall or sectoral trends, challenges, aberrations and opportunities.

They help initiate appropriate interventions. However, the significance of such an exercise and creation of a vital management information systems (MIS) has totally gone unappreciated. 

The state’s Department of Industries and Commerce is the only department that can provide the basic data readily.

However, this pertains to only those registered with them, largely from the manufacturing sector. This does not represent the complete spectrum of businesses like trading and service, other tertiary sectors.

For instance, maximum number registration happens with the Commissioner of Commercial Taxes for VAT and the Department of Labour which mandates registration under Shops and Establishments Act.

Though Government of India carried out a census of Small Scale Industries in 2001-2002, of the 13, 74,974 total number of SSIs registered, 1,37,534 (about 10 per cent) of them were of women entrepreneurs. Perhaps, the banking sector may have correct figures on number of women entrepreneurs receiving credit and other assistance.

No insightful analysis

Margaret Alva as the then Union Minister of state for women development (1984-85), took the initiative of defining women’s enterprise as an enterprise with 51 per cent share being that of a woman and 50 per cent employees being women.

While media has played a key role in projecting women entrepreneurs and their innovative ideas, it is confined to magazine pages.

Women entrepreneurs belong to mostly non-manufacturing sector, boutiques, eateries etc. There has not been any insightful analysis, in depth study or feature on women entrepreneurs and related issues.

As one of the strong proponent of women entrepreneurship, I have been urging the policy makers and administrators, as also related agencies, for decades, to create a management information system of disaggregated data in the state and the country.

A report of 2014 of the Majority US Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship’s 21st Century Barriers to Women’s Entrepreneurship states that since the enactment of the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988, women’s business-ownership grew from 4.1 million in 1987 to 8.6 million in 2013 in the US.

Nearly 30 per cent of American businesses which are the women-owned businesses, had an economic impact of nearly $3 trillion, creating 23 million jobs and 16 per cent of US jobs.
Can we speak of these numbers for India? Despite repeated requests made over two decades to authorities, nothing has changed.

In Karnataka, it was referred to the DIC. Some 10-15 other departments such as Commercial Tax, Labour, Forest, Horticulture, Agriculture, IT & BT, Tourism, Women Development etc play statutory roles. None of the departments have systems to capture this vital gender data.

As a pilot, RTI notice was issued to the above mentioned 14 departments in Karnataka seeking information on women-owned businesses from registered with them and PSU and other agencies under the purview of the department.

UK believes that only by having accurate gender data across all providers (public and private) can we measure progress and demonstrate the value of women-owned businesses to its economy.

The Women's Enterprise Task Force of UK lobbied for gender disaggregated data to become available systematically through VAT Returns in the Inter Departmental Business Register (IDBR). 

Response received ranged from: ‘no such data available’ to soft copies, hand written hard copies to CDs. Apart from the DIC, Commercial Tax and labour departments provided large list of women owned enterprises, however not all department and districts have responded, 30 per cent or less.


As such, the data available now is very minimal and limited to those departments, only a few districts have responded. No department has made available the complete data from the entire state, while some have even taken easy recourse to state that no such data or scheme is available with them.

However, a beginning has now been made to draw attention to the crying need for capturing gender disaggregated data in all registries relating business/ enterprise. Perhaps, this is the first ever attempt to generate gender dis-aggregated data on women owned businesses in the country.

Under these circumstances, Can we expect MIS in place to capture accurate gender data, only then can we highlight the sector specific numbers of women enterprises and achievements of women entrepreneurs in the state to celebrate the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day in 2015?

(The writer is Trustee Honourary Director, Asian Centre for Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Bangalore)

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