How 400 Women In India Are Restarting Their Small Businesses

By FedEx | February 11, 2021

Some of India’s most adversely affected female-led SMEs are learning to bounce back from a global pandemic.

The pandemic has had a major impact on individuals, families, communities and businesses globally – and it’s been widely reported that women have been disproportionately affected. But what if you’re female, in a low-income group and struggling to keep your business afloat? Chances are you’ll need even more support and guidance to get you through tough economic times.
India is home to 1.3 billion people; around 110 million of these are working for SMEs. And there’s been a rise in female SMEs in recent years, thanks to government support. But with only around 14% of MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) majorly owned by women, they still have a long way to go. Many of the businesses cover the range from modest, lone owner-operators selling street-food, fruit, handmade jewelry or incense to larger enterprises aimed at serving women – from beauty services to tailoring, dressmaking and tutoring.

For these small, self-starting SMEs, reliance on regular cash flow, access to steady custom and the ability to offer uninterrupted services is crucial. There’s a delicate balance between operating successfully and struggling to stay afloat – and it can be threatened by even the most minor setbacks.
Huge disruptions to global supply chains and a national lockdown? A recipe for disaster.
At FedEx, we recognize that it’s a social and economic priority to commit to providing women and minority entrepreneurs with the tools they need to succeed in times of uncertainty. We recently teamed up with community NGO facilitator United Way Mumbai to ensure that 400 women from lower income groups in India will receive essential support. To help safeguard vulnerable female-led SMEs, we’re issuing “Saksham” (meaning ‘able’ or ‘capable’ in Hindi) kits, supplied with relevant products to galvanize small businesses impacted by COVID-19. Together, we’re working to identify beneficiaries who have recently been operating a small business and need tools and support to re-start their enterprises and bounce back.
These businesses include home beauty services, tailoring, homemade products such as pickles, dyes, incense sticks and other skills and services. As these women re-establish themselves, raw material suppliers across some of the most impacted communities in India will also benefit from this program. This collaborative approach will have a positive impact on the livelihood of the recipients and their families, helping them to recover from the pandemic.

One of our beneficiaries, Madhuri Vishwakarma, provides home beauty services, and was facing financial difficulties after having to stop home visits during the lockdown. She’s now ready to begin her business anew.
“I am feeling empowered to resume my business. The Saksham kit will help me increase my customer reach.”

Samina Parbez Shaikh, another beneficiary, is the only earning member of her family. She was confronted with overwhelming business challenges arising from lockdown restrictions. Samina’s now on the up:
“I am feeling empowered to resume my business. The Saksham kit will help me increase my customer reach.”

Those impacted by the pandemic across Asia and beyond are too numerous to count. But with tight ties to community support and the right guidance, the region’s SMEs are proving nimble in adapting to a new normal.
Looking for guidance for your female-owned business? Check out 3 steps to overcoming the ‘she-cession’ here!
SMEs can also visit our dedicated COVID-19 support hub for guidance on business recovery throughout the region. And finally - don’t forget to follow us on LinkedIn for tips, advice and best practices on how you can create new possibilities for your business in the new normal.

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