Dr. Bhide began by highlighting that today there was a strong movement to bring women into the sphere of international trade, and said that her talk would focus on how this could be done in an effective way. She noted that despite being a signatory to the United Nations’ SDGs, India had done poorly on gender equality and only managed to close 62.5% of the gender gap. This should be cause for concern. In her talk, Dr. Bhide focused on women-owned small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as well as self-help groups (SHGs). The latter, she said, merited focus as they were enterprises run by women below the poverty line or from lower socio-economic classes. She noted that women faced several hurdles even as owners of a business or asset, as they faced harassment from officials, lack of support from financial institutions and did not receive social support or from the administration. She provided the example of the women-exclusive industrial/economic zone, which was set up based on the model provided by the Association of Lady Entrepreneurs of India (ALEAP), which has served as a success story in terms of development of a ‘green industrial park.’

June. The session was moderated by Dr. Sangeeta Kale, Member, PIC who welcomed and introduced the speaker.thFor the latest edition of PIC Adda, PIC was pleased to host Dr. Sheela Bhide, Chairperson, Women Entrepreneurs International Trade and Technology Centre for a talk on “Empowering Women Entrepreneurs: Exploring New Horizons” on 19

After describing some more of ALEAP’s achievements, Dr. Bhide went on to talk about SHGs. She explained how certain changes and reforms to the formal banking system in certain regions, specifically in the South, led to easier access to banking services, micro-loans and credit for the BPL women running SHGs. She noted that NPAs were quite low (only about 5%) among these groups. She said that ALEAP’s We Hub encouraged women-owned enterprises to conduct R&D and to branch out into other sectors like biotechnology, food-processing, electronics and engineering. It also served as an incubator and sandbox. In conclusion, she said that South Asia had a very low level of intra-regional trade, which must change if the region was to see sustained and green growth. This could only be done when women were given a place at the table and allowed to bring new ideas and thoughts to mitigate the issues that South Asia faced in terms of trade integration.

The talk was followed by a round of questions and answers.