An Attempt towards Identifying Entrepreneurial Opportunities
for Women in Rural India


Mrs. Shaili Vadera
Asst. Professor
Amity Business School
Amity University
Lucknow Campus


India is still a male dominated society and there is a lot of discrimination against the female citizen. It is no wonder that India has a long way to go in improving women's education, financial independence, and entrepreneurial abilities. The literacy rate for women is 22.7%, which is less than half the rate, 51.6% for men. The women in rural India have inherent skills and expertise in making beautiful handicraft items with locally available raw materials like thread, beads, jute, straw, wood, paper, etc. However, they live in remote areas, below the poverty line, earning less than a dollar a day, with no reliable source of a steady income.  There is no regulated agency that can provide microcredit to this illiterate and fiscally weak section of the population.

The table shows male and female population of India and Uttar Pradesh in 2001. It also shows the percentage of urban population in India.



Percent urban








 Uttar   Pradesh





The table shows that almost 70% of the Indian population still lives in rural areas and is sustaining on traditional agricultural practices.

Labor in India is very cheap and the main reason behind exploitation in terms of wages is concerned. We have to channelize this 70% of the workforce towards undertaking small business activities taking into consideration their skills and expertise like carving, embroidery, making textiles. About 60 million women in India are involved in agriculture and contribute 55-66% of the total labor required for various agricultural operations. If a country like India has to show a significant level of development then it has to provide employment opportunities to the women in rural India. 


Reason for having less number of women entrepreneurs is related to the literacy rate in India.

Census 2001. This figure shows the female literacy rate since 1951 till 2001 as compared to males. The literacy rate in the country is 64.84 per cent, 75.26 for males and 53.67 for females. The difference is because males are the bread-earners of their families whereas women are not given formal education, confined to their homes to do the daily house-hold chores. The situation is even worse in rural areas. The  Rural India accounts for roughly 70% of the population located in almost 6, 27,000 villages. A survey shows that only 31% of  rural population has received credit from banks and financial institutions. The other 70% of the rural population has borrowed money from the so-called local moneylenders and are under debt.


Small-scale sector in India over the past 50 years has made significant contributions towards building a strong national economy.

The government has also started taking initiatives by providing various types of incentives and subsidies to the small scale industries for improving their economic condition and also providing employment, thereby increasing the standard of living of the rural masses. The women in the rural sector have immense potential and expertise in art and craft, handloom, food products like papad, pickles, spices, clay utensils, bamboo baskets etc. Small scale units create more self- employment opportunities with less capital investment requirements, the raw materials are locally based and there is less environmental pollution. Small firms require simple technology and low managerial skills. Export promotion of products developed by small scale industries help to earn valuable foreign exchange and preserve the balance of payment status. There were more than 2,95,680 women entrepreneurs in India during 1995-96.

4. IDENTIFICATION OF INHERENT SKILLSETS OF WOMEN IN INDIA Business opportunities for womenfolk comprise of using metals, wood, stone, and metals like bronze, iron, steel to create handicrafts and handcrafted gift items, such as metal items, bangles, glass, utensils, cane and bamboo for making furniture, clay for making statues of Indian deities, pots, vessels, other decoration pieces, making baskets from straw, embroidery from thread called chikankari, carpet making, etc.

Here is a list of Business opportunities for women in Rural India:

* Floriculture
* Integrated pisciculture
* Tissue culture banana cultivation
* Seed production
* Mushroom Cultivation
* Bee keeping
* Processing of milk / dairy products
* Agro - processing (dal, papad, badi making)
* Pickle, sauce, jam, jelly, squash etc.
* Coir work (preparation of yarn, door mats, rope, toys)
* Vermi compost
* Tailoring & Embroidery
* Toy - making with different types of raw material
* Leather handicraft
* Agarbatti / Chalk / Candle / Phenyl preparation
* Handicraft
* Puppet making
* Plates and cups of Areca leaves
* Jute Bags, Baskets, Hats

5. Opportunities Related to Herbal and Medicinal Plants Sector.

According to World Health Organization the demand for medicinal plants based raw materials is growing at the rate of 15 to 25% annually is likely to increase more than US$ 5 Trillion in 2050. The annual turnover of three of the major Indian systems of medicine Ayurveda, Unani and Sidha is estimated to be more than a billion dollar. The gap between demand and supply is estimated to be 200,000 tons, which is expected to rise to 400,000. Collection, simple processing and trading of medicinal plants contribute significantly to the cash income of the women in impoverished hills, mountains and rural interiors of India. The medicinal plant resource base  sustain million of resource for poor. There is tremendous potential for rural women to grow herbal and medicinal plants. Around 7,500 plants have been identified as to contain properties for treatment of various types of illness and ailments. Medicinal and herbal plants need less water and fetch steady returns in the current market scenario. Institute like CIMAP, NABARD, NBRI, provide entrepreneurs specialized training, technology, seed material, financial assistance and also contacts of   buyers who will purchase the produce if they switch to cultivating medical plants. Aloe vera, among several other species, is grown abundantly


Another option that rural women have is Rolling Bidi's where there is lot of exploitation in which workers get only Rs. 33 for rolling out 1000 bidis. But the women have no choice because this is the only alternative source of income available to them otherwise their families will have nothing to eat. About 76% of the bidi makers are women engaged in plucking and sale of tendu leaves.


Another area which is full of opportunities for rural women is selling low cost economical branded products in rural areas so that branded products can reach remote places. These women know the local language, identify the needs and  requirements, taste and preferences of rural population. A good example is Project Shakti launched by Hindustan Lever Limited in Andra Pradesh with the help of NGO's and state government because of which around 2,810 rural women have become entrepreneurs. The objective of the project was to create sources of income for underprivileged rural women thereby improvement in their standard of living, better education for their children, better health.



6. Economic Survey 2004-05.
9. -
10.  women-study.html

Mrs. Shaili Vadera
Asst. Professor
Amity Business School
Amity University
Lucknow Campus

Source: E-mail January 25, 2010


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