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Kerala, TN have high female literacy - and most women entrepreneurs

Kerala, TN have high female literacy - and most women entrepreneurs

The five states with the largest proportion of literate women -- Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Maharashtra -- account for 53 per cent (4.3 million) of all business establishments owned by women nationwide, although no more than 33 per cent of India's women live in these states, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of data released by the Economic Census 2012.

With 73.4 per cent of its women literate, Tamil Nadu -- third among larger states after Kerala and Maharashtra -- has India's largest number of establishments run by women, one million (13.5 per cent of all businesses), according to the Economic Census 2012.

Tamil Nadu is followed by Kerala -- with 90 per cent female literacy, India's highest rate -- where 11 per cent of all businesses are run by women.

The two leaders are followed by Andhra Pradesh (59.1 per cent female literacy rate and 10.5 per cent businesses owned by women), Bengal (70.5 and 10.3 per cent) and Maharashtra (75.9 and 8.2 per cent).

While the female literacy rate was 65.5 per cent nationwide, the female work-force participation was 25.5 per cent, according to Census 2011.

Female participation in India's workforce has declined from 34 per cent in 1999 to 27 per cent in 2014, IndiaSpend reported in August 2016, the worst rate among BRICS nations and lower than Bangladesh (57.4 per cent), Nepal (79.9 per cent) and Sri Lanka (35.1 per cent).

The five states with the largest number of women entrepreneurs also have higher-than-national average literacy among women.

Lack of financial education can also limit women from gaining access to and benefitting from financial services, according to a 2014 World Bank report.

The top five states have the largest number of women who have completed 10 years or more of education. Maharashtra, which has the fifth-largest number of businesswomen, also has 77.4 per cent women who have completed 10 years or more of education.

Bihar, for example, has 153,610 establishments run by women (accounting for 1.9 per cent of businesswomen and ranked 14th among states) and only 56 per cent women have completed 10 years of education.

Women own/run 8.05 million of India's 58.5 million establishments (13.7 per cent), as reported in May 2016, providing employment to 13.4 million people. About 89 per cent of these were employed in establishments hiring less than 10 workers.

India was ranked 70th of 77 countries in the Female Entrepreneurship Index 2015 released by London-based Global Entrepreneurship Institute.

Building a small business, step by small step -- A woman's story: Archana Angre (43), who runs a tiffin service and a small restaurant in Chembur, an eastern suburb of Mumbai, studied till class nine.

Angre started the business in 1997 when she worked as a cook, despite opposition from her in-laws who warned her that business was risky.

The initial investment of Rs 2,000 was done by Angre and her husband Ashok Arjun Angre. She employed three family members (daughter, son and husband) in the beginning.

Within a year of starting business, Angre received help from patrons who helped her with capital and equipment (gas cylinders and stove). Within two years, her business increased from 10 tiffins to 100 tiffins.

Some of Angre's clients helped her get a loan of Rs 50,000 from UCO Bank. The business expanded from making tiffins for office-goers to preparing meals for parties and company events.

She received a loan of Rs 2,95,000 under the Pradhan Mantri Rozgar Yojana (Prime Minister's Employment Programme) in 2010, which she used to buy utensils and other items required for the business.

Nineteen years later, Angre employs six people (three from her family and three hired workers).

Angre is now planning to open a fully functional restaurant. She has also been able to fund her daughter's studies in hotel management.

"There is a need for change in attitude from being safe with a job to the ability to take risks to start a business," Angre said.

(In arrangement with, a data-driven, non-profit, public interest journalism platform, with whom Prachi Salve is an analyst. The views expressed are those of IndiaSpend. Feedback at

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