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MC ExpertEye: Has the COVID-19 pandemic levelled the playing field for women entrepreneurs?

The number of women taking the entrepreneurial route has increased over the years. From a medium- to long-term perspective, the pandemic has also created opportunities thereby levelling the playing field for women entrepreneurs significantly, says Saroja Yeramilli, Founder and CEO, Melorra.

March 05, 2021 / 03:21 PM IST

Women end up losing out on a lot of opportunities in the workforce with many employers believing that they are not meant for jobs that require lots of travelling or late night shifts. This women's day, we ask a bunch of women entrepreneurs how COVID-19 changed this phenomena when neither men or women could actually step out of their homes. Did the pandemic levelled the playing field for women entrepreneurs or made it worse? Take a look at what they have to say.

Radha K, partner, Unitus Ventures

Women entrepreneurs are super humans. Balancing responsibilities at home and building a company, both of which demand more than their 100%, is not for the lighthearted.  As an entrepreneur, you are constantly meeting and interacting with customers, employees, investors, partners etc. Pre-pandemic this meant a fair amount of travel, informal and formal networking. While some of us are fortunate to have a lot of support at home, this is not easy for most. It means constant trade-offs and prioritising leading to lost opportunity – lost business or loss of precious moments with family. The pandemic changed this - every stakeholder was forced to connect digitally levelling the field for women entrepreneurs. The big bonus was that with everyone in the family at home, this meant more quality time with family as well.

Meena Ganesh, MD and CEO, Portea Medical

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly levelled the playing field for women entrepreneurs. The three major contributing factors for this include greater acceptance of remote working, increased use of digital channels, and better adoption of technology. In fact, a recent study conducted by Bain & Co. has pointed out that women have responded very fast to bounce back from the pandemic effects in the medium term.

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Archana Jahagirdar, Managing Partner, Rukam Capital

The impact of COVID-19, negative or positive is more a function of what business you are trying to build as a founder. Anyone who is, let’s say building a business in FMCG with a skew towards offline retail, you will need to be out in the market physically to interact with your customers, retailers and distributors. If as a founder, you are building a tech business, the possibility of doing so from your home is entirely doable. During the lockdown, household and child care responsibilities were overwhelming as traditional support systems weren’t available. As India has opened up but with educational institutions still not fully operational, I think child care is still a challenge for those women founders who have children.

Saroja Yeramilli, Founder and CEO, Melorra

The number of women taking the entrepreneurial route has increased over the years. From a medium- to long-term perspective, the pandemic has also created opportunities thereby levelling the playing field for women entrepreneurs significantly. This is driven by greater acceptance of online working, usage of digital systems of demand and supply, among other things. This shift towards technology-driven operations has given greater flexibility to women business owners. Add to this the fact that women are capable of thinking laterally, making the best use of available resources, and innovating in the unlikeliest of circumstances. Today, women-owned businesses offer direct employment to more than 20 million people. However, the favourable environment for women entrepreneurs in the post-COVID world has the potential of creating 150 to 170 million jobs within a decade.

Ahana Gautam, cofounder and CEO, Open Secret

I think it is the other way round. Covid has had a profound impact on us all, but there is no doubt that this pandemic has a disproportionate impact on women, and therefore women entrepreneurs, especially mothers. Driven by closing of schools/day care and increased household burden, it has been more challenging for a woman to balance the demands of work and home. We are building a brand for mothers and we hear her very closely and it is clear that pandemic has added greater burden to the women of the country.

Rituparna Chakraborty, Co-Founder, Teamlease Services

While COVID-19 has posed many challenges for women, it has also created opportunities on account of amplified trends like remote working, accelerated usage of digital to spur both demand and supply, distance (often a barrier for women) and need for physical proximity negated by the digital revolution. While in the short run, most women entrepreneurs have experienced or expected to experience set back in their pre-COVID business models; however, with a little bit of investments in tweaking their business models in line with the above three changes in the environment, it is possible for women entrepreneurs to not only recover their pre-COVID levels, but also help them grow their business at a faster pace.
Priyanka Sahay
first published: Mar 5, 2021 03:21 pm

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