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Facebook Launches New Initiative to Support Women Founded Start-ups in India: SheLeadsTech

March 6, 2017

To help women in India with the right tools and support needed to achieve high career goals in different occupations and businesses, Facebook has launched a new initiative to support women-founded or co-founded start-ups with SheLeadsTech.

This announcement ahead of International Women’s Day is intended to bring women onboard India’s digital revolution in a bigger way. “Technology is an enabler for entrepreneurship. It is small and medium business that will create growth if India has to grow along with jobs in the next few years…We want to ensure we help this growth,” Ritesh Mehta, Facebook’s head of economic growth initiative, India and South Asia, told Mail Today.

According to a study, conducted by Development Economics and YouGov on behalf of Facebook, reveals that at least four in five women in India would like to start a business. If 52 percent were empowered to start a business today, the figures can be achieved by the end of 2021, it said.

Secretary to ministry of electronics and information technology, Aruna Sundararajan, said India’s startup incubators are women unfriendly. “We are trying to put together a small start-up programme for women in technology. I’m trying to see whether we can have women interfacing this so that you actually feel valued,” Business Today reports.

“Facebook, with its two powerful initiatives #SheMeansBusiness and the new #SheLeadsTech programme, has opened up lot of opportunities for young woman entrepreneurs whether in small towns (with access to internet) or suburban areas — with or without access to financial resources,” Sundarajan was quoted by PC Mag.

The year-long #SheLeadsTech programme will include access to “FBStart” which grants access to FBStart tools and resources and mentorship through a regular cadence of interactions with a pool of mentors. Facebook will have monthly sessions for the women founders, along with meetings with Facebook team and will help them with networking. It will also help the women-founded startups build up their brands.

According to the findings, the most commonly cited reason that prevents women from setting up their business in India is the constraint of family responsibilities or commitments (38 percent), lack of access to finance (29 percent), worry over personal financial security (30 percent), and having an idea but not knowing where to get started (30 percent).

See: Facebook Gunning at LinkedIn, to Allow Employers to Post Jobs on Their Company’s Facebook Page

“The barriers in India are substantial. There are, of course, cultural barriers, and we need to challenge our own beliefs. Men and women both believe women don’t have the confidence to succeed in a business. There’s a lack of investor confidence along with gender bias. We see that women are asked a lot more personal questions when they try to raise funding,” Namrata Kohli, Manager Strategic Product Partnerships at Facebook was quoted by Indian Express.

The SheLeadsTech programme aims to change some of this scenario, such as to kick-start this movement a woman who is a start-up founder can apply for the program online. The startup will need to have either a bot on Facebook Messenger or a native mobile app in the Google Play or Apple app stores related to their core business idea.

However, interestingly SMB pages on Facebook tell a different story. There are more than two million active small businesses pages on Facebook in India — and an increasing number of women are using this community to start and grow successful businesses. In the last five years (between 2012 and 2016), the number of new women-owned SMB Pages on Facebook in India has increased seven-fold, growing 85 percent year on year from 2015 to 2016.

Nearly 87 percent of women surveyed also agree that having access to the right digital tools and support would help them get their business off the ground.

The #SheMeansBusiness initiative was launched by Facebook on International Women’s Day in 2016. Through this initiative the social media giant has visited  18 cities across six states in India, providing skills training to more than 14,000 small business and self-help groups including 4,500 women entrepreneurs across the country. This year Facebook is targeting eight new states to include Jammu and Kashmir.

Also the government is trying to forge deep partnerships with platforms such as Google, Facebook Intel and Cisco to see how women progress and development in careers can be bettered with technology.

If untapped potentials of women are harnessed to support women entrepreneurship by providing them with greater support system, then it could help create more jobs, support economic growth and strengthen the small business sector in the country.

With India having one of the largest Facebook users at 168 million of the 1.86 billion global users and 200 million to WhatsApp’s 1.2 billion monthly active users, there is tremendous untapped potential to be harnessed.

Also read: Facebook at Work “Pilot” Project Moves to Introduce ‘Workplace’ Officially

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