Redefining Women's Roles: The Impact Of E-commerce On Empowering Economic Development

The growing dominance of e-commerce in the digital revolution has created numerous opportunities for empowering women, fostering their economic independence, and encouraging their active participation in the nation's growth
Redefining Women's Roles: The Impact Of E-commerce On Empowering Economic Development

As we celebrate the International Women’s Day, it’s important to realise how the various initiatives driven by the Govt of India and the private sector, has led to the social and economic emancipation of women in India.

The digital revolution fuelled by the consistent rise of e-commerce has opened many new avenues for empowering women, foster their economic independence, and make them an active contributor in the nation’s growth journey. 

Initiatives like Beti Bachao Beti Padhao have promoted education and financial inclusion, NITI Aayog's Women Entrepreneurship Platform has provided women with digital skills and business expertise. This groundwork has set the stage for e-commerce to truly empower women. 

E-commerce: A Gateway to Innovation and Growth 

E-commerce is a catalyst for innovation and growth by offering businesses with expanded reach, reduced operational costs, valuable customer insights, and a level playing field in the online marketplace. This fosters innovation in product development; marketing strategies, and customer experience, while also improving overall supply chain management. It is also helping businesses to transcend geographical limitations and helping them to expand their reach to various markets in India and beyond. 

No longer limited by distance, skilled artisans and passionate home cooks are showcasing their creations – from handcrafted goods to delicious delicacies – not just across India, but to the world. 

With 63 million micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in India, around 20 per cent are owned by women. This indicates that there is a potential to employ 22 to 27 million individuals. By promoting women's entrepreneurship, India could witness the establishment of over 30 million women-owned enterprises, potentially creating 150 to 170 million jobs.

Over the past five years, 83 per cent of Indian small businesses have transitioned to online platforms, with 65 per cent of them generating up to half of their revenue from online sales. 

Women-led e-commerce: A driving force in India's digital transformation 

E-commerce is changing how people start businesses, especially for underserved communities and women entrepreneurs, empowering them to attain financial independence and respect.

Home-grown brands like Jivisa, House of Vipa, Astitva Homes, and Himalayan Origins showcase how female-led businesses not only empower their founders but also create employment opportunities for other women. 

Global e-commerce marketplaces such as Amazon provide virtual platforms and adaptable technologies, enabling women entrepreneurs to establish and grow their businesses.

In India, e-commerce is tearing down barriers for small sellers, promoting a fair environment that values skills and innovation over gender. This digital space offers flexibility and scalability, allowing entrepreneurs to adjust to changing market conditions and reach a diverse global audience. 

E-commerce transcends societal norms and limited mobility, particularly benefiting women who can now work from home, balance household duties, and achieve financial independence. This flexibility is especially critical in rural areas where women often bear heavier household responsibilities. 

With access to real-time data and customer feedback, women entrepreneurs can innovate, improve their products or services, and broaden their customer base.

According to a 2022 Bain & Company report, women-led businesses contribute more than 17 per cent to India's e-commerce Gross Merchandise Value (GMV), with expectations for continued growth. E-commerce platforms enable small businesses to connect with customers 

locally, nationally, and internationally, reshaping the entrepreneurial landscape while promoting inclusivity and empowerment. 

Women entrepreneurs in India are making significant strides, showcasing their talent and potential. However, there's still room for further empowerment to unlock their full capacity and contribute even more to the nation's economic landscape.

One of the key challenges they face is access to funding. Dedicated loan programs with relaxed requirements and mentorship initiatives could guide them through the application process.

Additionally, raising awareness of existing government support programs, currently utilised by only 3.4 per cent of women entrepreneurs, can bridge this gap significantly. Fostering collaboration through dedicated platforms is another key step.

Connecting women entrepreneurs with mentors, investors, and each other would facilitate knowledge sharing, address challenges collectively, and build a stronger support network. By implementing these solutions, we can create a more enabling environment, empowering women entrepreneurs to thrive and become even greater contributors to India's economic growth. 

A bright future beckons 

The government acknowledges the potential of e-commerce to empower women, exemplified by initiatives like Lakhpati Didi in Madhya Pradesh, which provide financial aid and training to rural women entrepreneurs. These efforts, in tandem with e-commerce platforms, foster an environment conducive to women's success. 

With e-commerce as their ally, women entrepreneurs can transcend boundaries, reaching a wider audience and realizing their full potential, thus transforming the business landscape. India's e-retail market has witnessed remarkable growth, serving almost every PIN code in the country and uniting diverse regions, languages, and communities. 

This shift in consumer behavior, particularly in tier 2 and tier 3 cities, towards online product comparison, digital payments, and hassle-free returns, has opened doors for rural women entrepreneurs and those affiliated with self-help groups (SHGs), creating new business opportunities and job prospects. 

As India aims to become a $5-trillion economy, supporting the digital transformation of MSMEs, especially those led by women, is crucial. The vision of 'women-led development' can propel India's progress, empowering women to shape the country's growth story through e-commerce. 

The future of women's entrepreneurship in e-commerce holds promise, with dedicated incubators providing funding, mentorship, and networking opportunities. As digital literacy and infrastructure improve, more women will embrace the power of e-commerce, paving their paths to economic success and redefining societal norms. 

This International Women's Day, let us celebrate the women who are reshaping their roles, empowered by e-commerce. The journey has just begun, and the future looks brighter than ever for women entrepreneurs in India and beyond. 

Authored by Gaurav Bhatnagar, Head, Seller Acquisition and Development, Amazon India

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