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A digital revolution unleashing the potential of women-owned SMEs

Published : Saturday, 20 April, 2024 at 12:00 AM  Count : 881

A digital revolution unleashing the potential of women-owned SMEs

A digital revolution unleashing the potential of women-owned SMEs

Nawshin (pseudonym) resides on the outskirts of Savar with her husband, children and in-laws, at a home surrounded by lush greenery that serves as her muse. Her narrative unfolds in this serene setting, where she cultivates inspiration that would soon touch the lives of many.

Her husband works full-time, but the income falls short of meeting the familys needs. Determined to contribute, Nawshin seeks supplementary income while managing household responsibilities. Her primary goal is to work from home without having to go out and leave her duties at home. Venturing into online reselling, she explores various products on online marketplaces. After 3-4 months of trying to bring sales, she faces disappointment as her efforts fail, leaving her demotivated.

One day, while scrolling through her phone, Nawshin discovered a "Marketplace" feature on imo, a communication app renowned for its clear audio-video calls, even on weak networks. With a spark of curiosity, she uploaded pictures of her vibrant sarees and intricate salwar kameez sets without much expectation like other apps. The convenient uploading process and user-friendly interface of imos marketplace ignited a glimmer of hope in her, offering a fresh avenue to showcase her products with ease and convenience.

To Nawshins amazement, the response was immediate and overwhelmingly positive. Customers were not only captivated by the quality of her products but also by the personal touch she provided through the apps seamless communication features. They could see the vivid colors and delicate patterns in vivid detail, and speak to her as if they were right there with her. The apps user-friendly interface and robust features allowed Nawshin to showcase her products more effectively, reaching a wider audience.

The success has significantly boosted her entrepreneurial spirit, as the platforms effectiveness in generating sales and positive responses has instilled a newfound sense of optimism in her. Initially skeptical, Nawshins husband now takes pride in her achievements. The additional income has alleviated their financial pressures, allowing them to envision a brighter future for their children.

In recent years, women-owned SMEs in Bangladesh have shown remarkable growth and resilience. Female entrepreneurship is increasingly growing in the country, signifying a shifting narrative towards empowerment and economic independence. The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) said that the number of women entrepreneurs has more than doubled in a decade. The results of the organizations Wholesale and Retail Trade Survey-2020 revealed that the number of women entrepreneurs in the financial year 2019-20 was more than two lakhs, which was only 21 thousand in the financial year 2002-03.   
But what is it thats actually causing the rise of female entrepreneurship The power of digital platforms.

The rapid progress of digital technologies is creating new opportunities for growth and development, especially for women. Digital technologies offer women the liberty to work from home while expanding a business in the digital space. Women can now conveniently use Facebook, imo, and Telegram from the comfort of their homes and launch businesses. From cosmetics, clothes, and groceries to baked goods and ready-to-cook food items, the involvement of women in the economy is increasing day by day. These women access new markets and make efficiency gains with the benefits of digital platforms diversified scope and increased geographical reach.

Female entrepreneurs not only lead to success themselves but take other women towards their goals as well. Many women are now interested in entrepreneurship seeing the active participation of other women in the entrepreneurship field. These women are not only creating more jobs but also driving innovation and long-term growth across diverse sectors like technology, agriculture, manufacturing, e-commerce, and services.

Despite the growth of women in SME sector, more efforts are required to minimize their struggles and obstacles. Nine out of 10 people in the world hold fundamental biases against women that span across regions, income levels, and cultures, according to the UN Gender Social Norms Index (GSNI) by the UN Development Programme.  The persistent gender bias reflects the recurring underlying disparities and hinder the economic growth by limiting the entry of potential talent in the economy. Gender gap in entrepreneurship can be explained by a range of factors, such as social attitudes towards women in the labor market, lack of access to finance and networks, lack of access to digital training and education, and greater barriers to business creation as a whole. Most importantly, women are also less likely to master advanced technology and digital skills -- this shows the necessity of leveraging digital tools for women entrepreneurs.

As women explore entrepreneurship options on social media and other digital marketplaces, joint efforts are required from the government, organizations and other stakeholders to further increase their participation in the SME sector. Digital marketing training programs and freelance training sessions need to be made available to all women in both urban and rural areas in support of aspiring women entrepreneurs. Women also require more awareness surrounding security and safety in the digital space since the scope of effective communication as well as cybercrimes is widening. With the right digital skills and access to better opportunities, more women like Nawshin can live, learn and work in the modern society and add value to the economy.
The author is a freelance writer






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