Is the increasing number of women farmers now driving rural consumer demand? While the female workforce in the all-important agriculture sector comprises 62.9 per cent, a large number of them are toying with the idea of setting up at alternate income sources with easier credit access from formal channels. More than 95 per cent of the rural households now have bank accounts, which makes it easier for them to handle their finances while tapping into the opportunity to access credit through the formal channels even as informal channel lending continues. This also makes them key stakeholders in spending decision making.
An India Today survey recently revealed that 50 per cent of the startups in Uttar Pradesh today are headed by women. “Though many of these enterprises may actually be run by men—women may have been just been the official borrowers for businesses that their spouses or fathers run—this trend of increasing number of women loanees is encouraging as eventually it opens up an opportunity for them and they gain a voice,” a woman entrepreneur in Uttarakhand’s Mukteshwar who has just started her own business of selling local produce of the region, told India Narrative.
“I run my own small business of selling local produce to tourists, my husband plays an active role in running the show. But the fact that I have got the credit and it is my bank account, I have an equal voice,” she said, adding that the socio-economic changes in the rural landscape are underway.
The rapid feminisation of Indian agriculture has actually led to growth in the number of women farmers choosing to become entrepreneurs naturally as well as strategically, Reality+, a sister publication of Exchange4Media said.
Bain & Company that prepared a report for Google on Women Entrepreneurship in India estimated that the number of women-owned enterprises would be between 13.5 and 15.7 million—accounting for 20 per cent of all Indian enterprises, providing direct employment to about 22–27 million people.
The Niti Aayog in a report said that empowering and mainstreaming rural women workforce in agriculture can bring paradigm shift towards economic growth. “It will enhance food and nutrition security and alleviate poverty and hunger. It’s a win-win strategy for achieving Sustainable Development Goals by 2030,” it said.
Meanwhile, Motiwal Oswal’s report Ecoscope noted that rural spending expanded by 5.3 per cent year-on-year (Y-o-Y) in the first nine months of the current financial year compared to 0.6 per cent in the corresponding period of the previous financial year. Though rural consumption has eased during the third quarter of the current financial year to 4.6 per cent after rising 6.5 per cent in the April to June quarter and 5.5 per cent in the July-September quarter.
(This article was first published in India Narrative)