Empowering women to become entrepreneurs

Project description

Title: Economic Empowerment of Women Entrepreneurs and Start-ups by Women
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: India
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship
Overall term: 2018 to 2022



To achieve sustainable economic growth in India and create jobs, women must play a greater role in the economy as employees and entrepreneurs. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), only 27 per cent of women in India are currently employed. Barely 14 per cent of Indian businesses are run by women. Most of these are in the informal sector, which means that they are not officially registered. The United Nations reports that women currently contribute only 17 per cent of India’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Various socio-economic factors are at the root of the low participation rate by Indian women in the labour force. The labour market has shifted in recent years from agriculture to primarily male-dominated sectors. Social norms and traditional views on the role of women with regard to marriage, work and household duties present additional challenges. These barriers apply to the place of work, mobility, time, safety, unpaid care responsibilities, family support and social attitudes to women’s economic participation.

For women entrepreneurs in India, these gender-based barriers pose significant obstacles to founding start-ups and growing their own businesses. It is difficult for them to obtain financing, as banks and investors frequently rate a business run by women as more risky. In contrast to men, women often have less contact with business networks. This significantly restricts their market access.

The International Monetary Fund estimates that equal participation by women in the labour market would increase India’s GDP by 27 per cent. Entrepreneurship represents an important opportunity to increase the participation of women in the economy and to realise India’s growth potential. 


The framework conditions for businesses managed by women in India are improved.


To this end, the project is active in three areas.

  • Incubation and acceleration programmes for women entrepreneurs: Together with five regional partners, a support programme geared specifically towards the needs of women has been developed and piloted. The partners are Dhriiti in the North Eastern Region, Empower Foundation in Uttar Pradesh, Mann Deshi Foundation in Maharashtra, Startup Oasis in Rajasthan and WE Hub in Telangana. A seven-month incubation programme helps women in India found new start-ups. A six-month acceleration programme helps existing enterprises run by women to grow. The programmes are targeted at women in smaller cities. 
  • Policy proposals for the Indian Government: The project advises the partner ministry Indian Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MOSDE) as well as other state institutions on designing and implementing important Government support schemes for entrepreneurs in a gender-sensitive manner. It utilises the experience from the pilot support programmes in order to target these support schemes at women entrepreneurs.
  • Film and media campaign: A film and media campaign under the name ‘Her&Now’ encourages public debate about the great potential of businesses run by women, with the goal of transforming traditional norms and mindsets in India. The project has produced four short films, which are screened across India accompanied by moderated discussions. Stories of successful women entrepreneurs are shared on social media to promote visible role models for women.


  • By August 2020, 141 women entrepreneurs had been supported during the first round of incubation and acceleration programmes. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 37% of women participants in the incubation programme started their own companies. Ninety-four per cent of women participants in the acceleration programme managed to grow their enterprises.
  • Up to 6,000 entrepreneurs and stakeholders from the Indian business sector have participated in events which strengthened their skills or provided initial access to support programmes.
  • The media campaign has reached almost 300,000 people so far, raising awareness of the economic and social potential of women entrepreneurs in India. Over 4,700 people have seen the short Her&Now films.

Last update: March 2021

Additional information