Audity Falguni

Divisional Editor,

Role of Women Entrepreneurs in SME sector of Bangladesh - Episode-03

There is no doubt about it that women entrepreneurship can be a viable weapon to make them involve in economy of Bangladesh. Very simply, the concept women entrepreneurship can be defined as “engagement of women in the  process of either creating something new, imitate or adopt a business activity with value by devoting the necessary time, resources and efforts assuming the accompanying risks and rewards”. Women entrepreneurs can be classified into rural women entrepreneurs and urban women entrepreneurs. Women have strong multitasking capabilities and that should be utilized in proper ways.

In this case, positive social and family supports can play a vital role in engaging women in entrepreneurial activities. Government and non-government organizations should take some measures to create awareness among the society and unemployed female graduates to involve in entrepreneurship which will gift us a sustainable economy (Developing Women Entrepreneurship in Bangladesh by Shah Alam Kabir Pramanik, The Independent- 19 November 2018).

2) Women entrepreneurship in the rural industries is a new arena in the socio- economic environment of Bangladesh. Women have achieved good prospects in industry, especially the small and cottage and micro-home-based ones. Their present involvement in manufacturing and in the recent trends of their involvement in construction activities in growing numbers is likely to continue. Women have emerged as exporters and their control of export- oriented industries, are promising areas for enhanced female participation and employment.

Types of Production Units and Trades include the common small scale production units such as Handicrafts with various types of raw materials, Handloom Weaving & Spinning, Basketry, Mat making, Manufacture of Coir products. Fishing Net making, Paddy husking by Dheki, Oil production by Ghani, Jute production and sale, Jute goods production. Pottery, Cane and bamboo products, Seri culture, Silk weaving, Honey Making, Screen print & Batik, Embroidery, Dressmaking. Tailoring, Puffed Rice Making, Food production( packed or retail sale of dry food), Food Processing, Wood craft & Furniture, Molasses making, Biri( indigenous cigarette made with special leaves) production, Milk production units, dairy and milk products, Dyeing and printing, Book Binding, Confectionery, Urea Molasses Block( cattle feed) etc., Nursery and Horticulture production. Kitchen gardening, poultry rearing (sale of eggs, poultry, chicks), goat and sheep rearing, cattle fattening are common agro- based occupations.

The major impediments for women entrepreneurship in Bangladesh are limited resources, societal outlook to perceive women as reproductive machine, lack of infrastructure development etc. (

3. Women’s economic empowerment is a critical factor to move a country forward towards sustainable development. There is no denying their participation in labor force. As a result, labour force participation rate of women (percentage of women aged 15 years and above who are part of labor force) has increased from 15.8 percent in 1995-96 to 35.6 per cent in 2016 (LFS, 2016). However, a large proportion of women still remain outside the labour force. Out of 53.6 million (5.4 crore) women aged 15 years and above, only 16.9 million are part of labour force. Among them even very few have emerged as entrepreneurs.

Women entrepreneurship development in any country is associated with that country’s government policy, support from financial institutions and other supporting organizations. Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are considered as an important arena for women to be actively involved in development of SMEs and making them more women friendly, could go a long way to overall development of the country. According to the Economic Census of 2013, there are 7.8 million enterprises (economic activities) in Bangladesh of which 7.3 million are male-headed and 0.6 million are female-headed. Thus only 7.2% of the total enterprises are female headed. Though these enterprises include large enterprises, the picture is true for SMEs as 99 percent of these enterprises are micro, small and medium in size.

Photo: Internet.

Various studies have revealed that the constraints faced by women entrepreneurs include inadequate access to finance, lack of start-up capital, small size of capital, lacks in availability of training programs, lack of information and managerial experience, complexities in access to formal credit, complexities in legal and regulatory framework, inadequate training facilities, various family and social barriers, lacks in access to market, lacks in skills, women unfriendly transport and working conditions etc. While starting own business is a big challenge for most of the women, expansion of the business is also difficult for many of them. In most of the cases initially the business grows fast than the growth becomes difficult as access to finance is still complicated for women entrepreneurs, they lack technological knowledge to perform large scale business, limited knowledge about market demands and lack of skilled workers.

Traditionally in Bangladesh the women entrepreneurs start their business by their own savings. In a recent study by Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), supported by SME Foundation, has revealed that women entrepreneurs start their business with a very limited capital from their own sources (63.38%). When business grows they borrow fund from relatives for short period of time with interest or without interest. This is a challenge for women entrepreneurs to maintain consistency of their business because the fund they borrow from personal relation has to be given back at any time. Such kind of short loan cannot help them to grow their business. Only a small proportion of women entrepreneurs go to bank (government bank- 1.17% and private bank 2.98%) for taking loan. There is a myth among the women entrepreneurs that bank loan is not very benefitting for them as there are lot of hassle in obtaining the bank loan. Women who have already become entrepreneurs either do not face much constraints from their family to expand their business or they have already learnt the ways to manage such problems. It was noted by 59% of surveyed entrepreneurs that they do not face any problem from their family to run their business.

The main obstacle for expanding their business is capital. Many women start their business information while borrowing from banks requiring formal documents (trade license, transaction records in own bank account, tax identification number etc.), good business records (including proper accounting) and guarantors (both from family and outside). Women entrepreneurs are often not ready with such documents and hence find it difficult to borrow from banks. Those who are considered to be eligible for loan, are often offered with insufficient amount. Women also face delay in loan processing and they are not served with any explanation from banks when a loan is denied. Women also need collateral bigger loan, which is difficult for them.

Lacks in knowledge of modern technology also make it difficult for women to expand business. Doing business in a broader scale would require use of computer software for keeping accounts, inventory etc. It was noted from the above mentioned survey that only 35% women entrepreneurs are capable of operating computers. Similar situation is also observed for women entrepreneurs having internet connection (14%) or having e-mail account (28%). It is also noted that a large number of women entrepreneurs have high demand for training on methods of sales and marketing (Business expansion by SME women entrepreneurs: Way forward by Ms. Nazneen Ahmed, PhD). (To be continued)

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নারী'তে প্রকাশিত প্রতিটি লেখার বিষয়বস্তু, ক্রিয়া-প্রতিক্রিয়া ও মন্তব্যসমুহ সম্পূর্ণ লেখকের নিজস্ব। প্রকাশিত সকল লেখার বিষয়বস্তু ও মতামত নারী'র সম্পাদকীয় নীতির সাথে সম্পুর্নভাবে মিলে যাবে এমন নয়। লেখকের কোনো লেখার বিষয়বস্তু বা বক্তব্যের যথার্থতার আইনগত বা অন্যকোনো দায় নারী কর্তৃপক্ষ বহন করতে বাধ্য নয়। নারীতে প্রকাশিত কোনো লেখা বিনা অনুমতিতে অন্য কোথাও প্রকাশ কপিরাইট আইনের লংঘন বলে গণ্য হবে।