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Women-run businesses deserve morale boost

Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Mon, September 7, 2020  /  12:08 pm
Women-run businesses deserve morale boost

A mother runs her business from home while caring for her toddler. (Shutterstock/Evgeny Atamanenko)

While many of the country's micro, small and medium-sized enterprises are owned by women, not all of them are growth-oriented.

According to Dian Onno Wulandari, cofounder of the business accelerator and incubator Instellar, women face a range of challenges in running their own businesses.

“When we look at it from an urban perspective, there seem to be no visible barriers for women entrepreneurs regardless of the size of their businesses. But overall, access to education and funding could be a challenge for women entrepreneurs,” she said in a recent online discussion themed Empowering Women held by Food Startup Indonesia.

Hosted by Meika Hazim, the CEO of Yogyakarta-based confectionery company Cokelat nDalem, the discussion touched on issues faced by women in upscaling their businesses.

Dian said women in rural areas were trapped by societal beliefs that women had their own domestic responsibilities as a wife or mother, and not as a breadwinner.

“To attend a workshop or business coaching, they have to leave home for days and head to big cities where the short courses are usually held, so they are often reluctant to do so,” she added.

This circumstances that prevent women from realizing their full economic potential partly contribute to the fact that most women-led companies are still unserved or underserved by financial institutions.

“From the investor's side, women entrepreneurs are actually more trustworthy in achieving their business targets and goals,” said Dian, citing studies by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Kauffman Foundation.

A market research study completed in 2016 by IFC titled Women-owned SMEs in Indonesia: A Golden Opportunity for Local Financial Institutions reported that women-owned businesses made up almost half of Indonesia’s small and middle-sized enterprise market. The study found that women entrepreneurs would borrow more to invest in their businesses and typically recorded lower default rates than their male counterparts.

In the startup world, according to a report by the Kauffman Foundation, women-led businesses are more capital-efficient. The study found that private technology companies led by women achieved 35 percent higher return-on-investment, and, when venture-backed, 12 percent higher revenue than startups run by their male counterparts.

To boost the growth of women entrepreneurs in Indonesia, according to Dian, there have been opportunities for women to access technology to develop their companies, such as the incubation program for culinary businesses Food Startup Indonesia (FSI) organized by the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry.

“In this day and age, everyone has to use technology to improve their lives. In India, for example, the government provides digital access for women in rural areas by sending people on bicycles to bring computer tablets for housewives to get information on child-rearing or preparing healthy food for their children,” added Dian, one of the mentors at FSI.

Supervising the FSI program, Hanifah Makarim, the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry’s director of financial access, said the technological interventions introduced at FSI had helped the alumni to develop their businesses.

“Many women-led companies have graduated from the program, but most are companies led by married couples in which the wives also take active roles in running the businesses. And all these businesses perform well,” she said in a separate interview.

Dian said that while women entrepreneurs in Indonesia had opportunities to grow, the most difficult barrier to tackle lay with themselves. 

“They lack motivation and self-confidence, unable to separate personal time from work, and always take a step back when it’s time to scale-up the business. Even when they’re successful, they won’t take the credit for themselves,” she added.

“What women entrepreneurs need is to break the nurtured unconscious bias about the role of women and to empower each other.”

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