Tejaswini: Funding Women Entrepreneurship

Empowerment through informed choices, moving beyond tradition
Tejaswini: Funding Women Entrepreneurship
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The essays and articles about ‘women empowerment’ we have been reading over all these years always appear ideal, encouraging and promising. But when it comes to making actual difference at the cutting edge level, things tend to be different and challenging. Funding women entrepreneurship is one among basic tenets of women empowerment, however, things do not take off merely with offering an opportunity or a set of avenues. The real challenge lies in effective communication- reaching out to the target group, support to make informed choices, broadening the horizons of opportunity basket, familiarising with market options, support to build capabilities, making technology available and most importantly providing a legal knowledge about all the aspects of financing and contracts.

The development policies focussed around Women empowerment initiatives need to account for not only offering financial support for entrepreneurship but also enabling the women to make informed choices based on information about opportunities, economics of business, market and business basics apart from a very carefully planned skill developed ecosystem linked to self-employment. Data is often a missing link between welfare schemes and actual demand.

The policies have to allow flexibility at implementation level to accommodate the same.Mission Youth, a flagship initiative of Jammu and Kashmir Government driven by the youth aspirations has been crafting various opportunities for youth in different sectors ranging from education, sports, skilling to entrepreneurship, with gender budgeting or gender parity as key planning factor. Tejaswini scheme launched by the Chairman, Governing Board of Mission Youth, Lieutenant Governor J&K few months earlier offers a much awaited platform for women aiming to set-up their own enterprises.

The scheme is reflective of a firm resolve to fund women entrepreneurship aimed at generating avenues of self-employment.Tejaswini endeavours to support women, 18-35 year old, a financial support of Rs 5.00 Lakh to begin their journey of entrepreneurship. The Mudra finance provided by bank is supported with 22% investment by Mission Youth which includes 10% upfront subsidy and 12% of approved project cost towards interest repayment, i.e. 1.10 Lakh for a Mudra finance of Rs 5.00 Lakh.

The applicants under the scheme are also offered customised skill-development courses, value addition and market-linkage, converging different schemes. The support provided by Mission Youth and lower interest rates are sufficient factors for economic viability of enterprises planned by the women.More than 400 women received a grant of Rs 10.00 Cr including Rs 2.20 Cr financial assistance by Mission Youth, on 24th and 25th October 2021 during the ceremony organised for roll out of various schemes with Union Home Minister as chief guest.

The scheme with target of supporting 200 women enterprises this year is bound to reach numbers multiple times of that which can been seen in the overwhelming response of applicants. Awareness and skilling about various trades and sectors is also being offered to the applicants under schemes.The analysis of entrepreneurship preferences received under Tejaswini scheme suggests there is a lot of scope for improvement viz a viz creating awareness about various entrepreneurship avenues in different sectors, particulalry the emerging ones.

Banking and Financial institutions would readily offer financial backing to any profitable plan and the Government schemes, like the ones offered by Mission Youth are available to be dovetailed for desired outcomes and to offer interest subvention and upfront subsidy to make the business financially viable.Sector preferences of 400 sanctioned cases under TejaswiniNearly 25% applicants under Tejaswini have preferred to opt for retail outlets, followed by boutiques, tailoring, salon, dairy and poultry, hardware, IT services and garment stores 6-7% each, and a few opting for stationery and paper work, food, educational services, handloom, medical stores and cafes.

All these business proposals are both viable and profitable. However, at the same time it makes us to reason about the need for diversification of sectors particularly in view of the market demand. The skill gap or non-availability of reports on customer choices or such related database should not become a silent retarder in our endeavour to empower women.

There are many other entrepreneurship opportunities which include educational services (online and in-person), architecture, design business, event management, book-keeping, accounting, agriculture, food products, polyclinic, home solutions, app development, professional services, health and fitness centers, laundry, creche, photography, food and catering, digital economy, IT services, online store, skilling and so on. Availability of a diverse market in both rural and urban areas coupled with incentives offered under the scheme would make any of these enterprises profitable.

Women Entrepreneurship: Other sectors with emerging demandThe previous census presented a dismal picture of work participation rate of women, reported to be 20.08% in rural areas and 14.5% in urban areas of Jammu and Kashmir which, however, has improved to a great extent over all these years but still much below the desired levels. The census also recorded mere 5.9% of women as wage-employed or salaried. It is here that self-employment or entrepreneurship schemes like Tejaswini can do wonders to offer gainful employment to women in sectors of their choice and create a chain reaction for further generation of employment as the business opportunities grow.

Women participation in economic activities is a direct indicator of low prevalence of poverty, improvement in economic development and certainly, the most vital aspect of empowering women in a society. These schemes are actually devised to reduce, rather eliminate the gender gaps prevalent in economic opportunities framework. The women owned enterprises as on date are much lesser than 20% of all the registered enterprises under various schemes.

Tejaswini is a specially crafted scheme for women to bridge such gaps. However, the aspiring women entrepreneurs need to explore the the opportunities in sectors beyond the traditional ones.Access to banking and financial institutions remains a key factor in endeavours to offer financial independence to women. The concentration of most private banking institutions in urban areas and low CD ratio in rural areas banks is often discussed as a concern in this context.

Such factors are being eliminated by Mission Youth adopting a convergent single-window approach of having the projects sanctioned by the District Level Task Force (DLTF) headed by Deputy Commissioners and the Jammu and Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute (JKEDI) serving a single contact source for readily available services to formulate Detailed Project Reports, financial viability reports and business-cum-marketing plan for the sectors or units opened by the women under this scheme.Jammu and Kashmir Bank has established a centralised monitoring and coordination cell for real-time resolution of financial issues and extending support to district level teams for sponsoring cases and effective coordination with Mission Youth on various policy matters aimed at outcome based investment in funding women entrepreneurship.

The bottom-line remains that mere availability of schemes is not sufficient for economic independence of women and their empowerment rather every single endeavour of a women to establish an enterprise or start a business need to be supported by custom-tailored solutions.

It is here the Mission Youth is attempting to make difference by offering end to end solution to aspiring women under this scheme and multiple other offers. At this juncture it is important to explore the options and avenues availble in emerging markets and new economic opportunities.Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, IAS, is Chief Executive Officer, Mission Youth, and Secretary to Government, Tribal Affairs Department

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