Marketing as a Stimulant for Rural Women’s Enterprises

Marketing as a Stimulant for Rural Women’s Enterprises

By Wamiq Zia


Promoting women’s entrepreneurship and gender equality helps to create employment as well as to empower women in the family and wider community[1]. However, one of the major issues faced by the women in undertaking entrepreneurial activities is the lack of understanding of marketing of products, including weak business associations and lack of networking. (Barwa, 2003), K.A Manjunath, in her paper titled “The rural women entrepreneurial problems” says that the rural women entrepreneurs are completely oblivious towards marketing of their products. Moreover, literature has also established that marketing acts as a major bottleneck for the rural women who want to start their business, as lack of it leads to them becoming vulnerable to the intermediaries’ intervention, which hampers their competitiveness[2].

In this context, Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and Mann Deshi Foundation collaborated to launch a two-year project “Driving Women’s Business Growth in India project” to encourage woman entrepreneurship in Pune and Satara districts of Maharashtra. The project aimed at providing training to the rural women entrepreneurs in the form of a Deshi MBA program to enable them to learn management lessons for expediting the growth of their micro-enterprises. Grameen Foundation India was the monitoring and evaluation partner for the project and used mixed-method research design for the project’s evaluation.

The course curriculum includes regular topics from traditional MBA curriculum such as financial management and vocational trainings, though the novelty was brought into the program by inclusion of marketing management as the key course content. The topic was received very positively by the participants of the program and was found to be best suited for their needs.  Other key components of training were self-management, managing working capital and supply chain.

“Many solutions provided during the training were new to us as a concept but opened a lot of new avenues and market that were beyond our thoughts before participating in this program.” ~  Reshama Jamir Shekh, Vada Pav Seller, Pune


Marketing Solutions Offered and its Impact

The curriculum adopted a multi-pronged approach to deliver complete marketing solutions to these micro-entrepreneurs by training them on concepts as well as providing them resources. Results from this carefully designed curriculum were evident as the participants revealed that marketing solutions helped them increase their customer base through the improvements in two areas- firstly, the marketing behavior and secondly, the marketing kits as revealed in the Table 1 presented underneath. The marketing strategies shared during the program helped the participants in increasing their client outreach and also access to newer networks that gave the participants newer geographies as well.

Table 1: Growth In Business

Area of Growth Magnitude of Growth
Increase in number of customers 15%
Sales through wholesale sellers 7%
Sales through Daily Markets 14%
Selling through own shop 7%
Took Business to new markets 82%
Used Marketing Kits profitably 56%


 “Visiting cards gave our business an identity. People from far off areas have started contacting her for bulk orders and participating in local fairs.” ~ Savitri Shinde, Pickle seller, Vaduj

80% of the participants who had seen the growth in the networks and markets mentioned the role the marketing kit played in improving the marketing behavior in order to expand their markets.

“Marketing is simply about where and how I can sell my produce. I learned this in one of the workshops. Now all of us here need to be able to find new markets outside of Satara, it will help our business grow.” ~ Surekha Jadhav, Spice seller, Satara


Marketing Management and Sustainability

Marketing has always been touted as key driver for sustainability of any business. With access to new markets, product diversification and channel innovation, businesses increase their customer base and revenue. Case for micro-businesses are no different, efficient marketing management has led to sustainability and is often the major stumbling block in their growth trajectory.

Effectively, the techniques of marketing helped the entrepreneurs break the limits to growth that were imposed by the inaccessibility to newer market for the businesses and the limited reach to the local population that these businesses catered to. The perspective of the marketing solutions to the course added that additional paradigm to mitigate the issues that women have traditionally faced in marketing their products due to lower social capital, mobility and literacy levels.

The project is an ultimate testimony of importance and impact of better marketing management for rural women micro-entrepreneurs. Addition of modules of marketing not only enhances output garnered from other simultaneous processes that are a part of the training but also increases synergy in the whole business process.

[1] ILO:—ed_emp/—emp_ent/—ifp_seed/documents/publication/wcms_175471.pdf

[2] “Microenterprise Development and Rural women entrepreneurship: Way for Economic Empowerment”, Ajay Sharma, Sapna Dua, Vinod Hatwal.

Grameen Foundation India


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