Panelists Call for Support to Women Entrepreneurs Hit by Covid-19

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Panelists Call for Support to Women Entrepreneurs Hit by Covid-19

Business leaders have urged the government to provide support to women entrepreneurs affected by Covid-19. In a panel discussion moderated by Madan Lamsal, Editor-in-Chief of New Business Age and organized as part of the NewBiz Business Women Summit and Awards 2022 by New Business Age Pvt Ltd, the publishers of New Business Age monthly magazine and Aarthik Abhiyan National Daily, panelists also highlighted the post-pandemic opportunities available for women entrepreneurs. Excerpts:

Mahalaxmi Shrestha
Managing Director-Nepal Agro-Inputs General Secretary-FWEAN

The pandemic was a major setback to most of the businesses. Many businesses were on the verge of closure. However, some entrepreneurs took this challenge as an opportunity. Digitalisation played a vital role in it. Digital platform was the medium through which goods produced were sold in the market. Digital marketing flourished during the period.

Digital marketing requires good photos of the product and the product’s packaging must also look good.

The government had announced concessional loan amid the pandemic. However, there was information gap as many women were unaware of such concessional loan. There women were unaware how to access those concessional package.

Another issue is the collateral free credit for women entrepreneurs. Many women affiliated to our association complain that banks seek collateral with them against the government policy. Therefore, this programme needs to be re-evaluated.

Pradyuman Pokharel
President-Development Banker's Association

When we talk about women entrepreneurship, we need to consider three things, access to finance, access to knowledge and access to the market. It is not enough to just give loans and invest. It is necessary to give knowledge to women on how to do business, problems associated with their field of engagement, source to get raw materials, dangers surrounding the manufacture of products, how to sell the finished products, and if the business can be done with cash or credit as well.

After all this, it is also mandatory to educate them about marketing of the products. Although the Covid-19 pandemic reduced the growth of credit extension this year, digitisation came forth as its positive impact. In addition,  the creativity got sparked during the lockdown period and now people are able to think in a wide domain. As a result, we witnessed the widespread food delivery business with women's involvement.

Digitisation is difficult in the rural areas of Nepal as women in rural areas are not well aware of technical issues. Women in rural areas are not as aware as the women in urban areas. In addition, awareness is extremely crucial because women are unable to speak independently. With the facilitation of policies, and proper awareness, the ecosystem will be more favourable for women entrepreneurship.

Dr. Narayan Prasad Regmi
Joint Secretary
Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies

Since women entrepreneurs were at the forefront of bearing the brunt of Covid-19, the government took three initiatives at the policy level. First, we brought refinancing and subsidized loans facilities for women entrepreneurs hit by the pandemic. We also introduced targeted programmes for women entrepreneurs to help them in finding and accessing markets and export their products by helping them register trademarks and patents.

We also designed growth modality programmes for women enterprises. We took the Micro-Enterprise Development Programme (MEDEP) to all 753 local units toward helping women-led micro enterprises.

Women entrepreneurs need support in every step of their overall entrepreneurship or business cycle. For that, the government is ready to provide such support. The priority should be on boosting mass production in the country.

We are focused on promoting women entrepreneurs also in rural areas. The government has been providing a waiver on revenue for women entrepreneurs or registration of properties. But, that has not helped in increasing women’s role in decision making. We have taken the registration process of business to online system. There is a one-door system for registration of businesses. So, women do not need to visit the Department of Industry to register their businesses. Now, local-level governments register enterprises of certain capital.

Pranu Singh
Head of Corporate Affairs,
Brand and Marketing
Standard Chartered Bank Nepal Limited

There are separate policies and regulations for women entrepreneurs. Especially, the new financial literacy framework introduced recently is really impressive and we have already started working on it. But since there are many gaps in implementing the policies and regulations, making women entrepreneurs aware will of course fill up those gaps, but it is going to take some time.

Digitisation has definitely occurred but there are challenges everywhere. The beginning of everything starts from a family or community. When a woman expresses her interest towards entrepreneurship, the way her household treats is what matters most. But there is the issue of mindset. For years the mindset has been shaped by the stereotype that men should go out to work and women should make a home. Not only in the rural areas, there are such gender biases in urban areas as well. It is a long process to change this mindset, but it is possible. It is necessary to start at the basic level and move step by step towards spreading awareness to the family on how to remove such biases. Women entrepreneurship is basically financial independence and hence awareness should be raised from the family level and organisation level itself.

Dr Neelam Dhungana Timsina
Deputy Governor-Nepal Rastra Bank

The entire economy was impacted due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In the meantime, Nepal Rastra Bank brought different policies to encourage women entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, the central bank did a survey to study the impact of the pandemic in which it was found that only four percent of businesses were fully operating and 80% were partially closed. After the impact of coronavirus declined, around 82% of businesses have revived and this rate is increasing.

The concessional loan scheme that the government and the central bank had brought to encourage women entrepreneurs, problems such as seeking collateral, target group not receiving the loan, men taking loans in the name of women were seen. Since the loan was not received by the target group, the objective was also not met. We have a high level coordination committee and we have concluded that the concessional loan procedure should be amended.

Lack of ownership in the property is still a major problem for women entrepreneurs. As per the data of ministry of land management, women with land ownership has increased to 43% from 20%. However, it is very difficult for a woman to take loan even if she has land. So, women cannot take decisions, and it is men who ultimately take the decision.

Besides, the troublesome and lengthy documentation process discourages women entrepreneurs. They also do not know how to write an effective business proposal, which is also a problem. In some cases, men have been misusing the loan in the name of women. The upcoming concessional loan procedure will address all these problems and work accordingly. Women entrepreneurship is about financial independence. 

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