Ever since the launch of the ‘International Women’s Decade’, the subject area of ‘women entrepreneurship’ has gained significant attention in both academic and policy spaces. However, the organic relationships that explain the subject area has not gained adequate attention so far. An integrated approach to development need to be designed and taken forward, wherein , both analysis and policy need to lead to a meaningful strategic approach. This makes an excursion into this neglected terrain of ‘gender and entrepreneurship’, essentially from an analytical point of view, a major imperative..
India has a number of public programmes, designed and implemented with the involvement of women and their associations. It is important to examine their present status and potential from the point of view of better planning and, targeting and, if needed , corrective action. It is generally perceived that, impacts are much less than the potential, mainly because of lack of convergence of such programmes. How can convergence happen? There can be divergence of opinion on this issue. Such a discussion need to be initiated against a review of the various existing programmes.
In the agenda of entrepreneurship development, institutional finance, undoubtedly, has a key role to play. However, the way this role is performed, is dependent on the objective situation prevailing in each country. Institutional structures are a dominant factor. India has a strong network of public sector banks that play the lead role. Against the regulatory and promotional framework in the country, this paper looks into the role of institutional finance in taking forward the agenda of women entrepreneurship development. The debates on the subject today remain largely partial. On issues relating to flow of institutional credit, there are often arguments on fundamentalist grounds. Such arguments are not likely to help in evolving pragmatic solutions. The situation, as it remains today, is that institutional finance for women entrepreneurship development is, in practice, a divided house. The public financial institutions generally do not find a business case for women entrepreneurship development. Similarly, the financial institutions generally do not find gender as an area of opportunities, but at best, as an area where commitments have been forced upon them.
Most progressive governments, across the world, have come out with some basic law that governs SME policy and practice. While such a basic law is a reference point, it needs to have dynamic elements that can help to capture the emerging realities of future as well. In India, though the MSME Development Act was passed in 2006, against the felt needs as articulated by the MSME associations, and other stakeholders. However, significant changes have since taken place in the overall MSME environment, thereby demanding a review of the legislation. The Act essentially provides for four key subjects that are of importance to sustainable development of MSMEs in the country: 1. Promotion; 2. Development; 3. Enhancing competitiveness; and 4. Other incidental matters. Beyond the above vision and objectives, rapid changes have taken place in the economy in several ways. Many of the routine functional areas of MSME development and practices have got decimated. The growth of e-commerce, and the escalated phenomenon of globalisation induced market distortions are issues that demand innovative solutions.