Success Stories


Issue no 16, 17-23 July 2021

                    Women-Led Rural Start-Ups and Enterprises: Emerging Opportunities     

Rai Sengupta

Accounting for nearly half of India's 833.8 million-strong rural population, women are key agents in charting New India's growth story. Over the last few decades, India's rural development scape has witnessed incredible innovations in gender mainstreaming and women's empowerment - from gender-sensitive interventions being implemented since the 1990s, to the 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution which have enabled more than a million women to get elected to lead grassroots governance. In the present times, rural innovations lie in a rapidly expanding space: women-led start[1]ups and enterprises.

Any discussion on rural innovations in the livelihoods space inevitably circles back to the institutions that have pivotally enabled them - Self-Help Groups (SHGs). Formed under various government schemes including the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM), SHGs are informal groups of people (generally women) who come together to forge livelihoods and pool in savings. Currently, India fosters a network of over 7 million SHGs - each of which represents a gender-sensitive institutional structure that empowers women economically and socially

As the SHG network has grown and developed, its mandate has expanded as well - to serve as an enabling eco-system, to garner pro-poor investment, and to strengthen linkages with training and skilling (through the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gramin Kaushal Yojana and Rural Self Employment Training Institutes). Alongside these avenues, the Start-Up Village Entrepreneurship Programme (SVEP) - a sub-scheme of the DAY-NRLM Programme has enabled women entrepreneurs to set up their own businesses while addressing the three major pillars of rural start-ups namely - finances, incubation, and skill ecosystems.

As of August 2020, SVEP supports over 100,000 rural start-ups. Further, a 2019 Mid-Term Review of the SVEP Programme by the Quality Council of India (QCI) revealed that 75 percent of the enterprises formed were owned and managed by women, exemplifying the women-led nature of India's rural start-up transformation. With the QCI study noting that these rural enterprises accounted for 57 percent of the total household income of the entrepreneurs, it is certain that India's rural start-up system pivotally enhances the voice and agency of women within their families and households as well.

Apart from these, other initiatives to foster entrepreneurship across women include the flagship programmes - Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana (which ensures financial inclusion for 231,226,199 female account holders, as of January 2021) and the Stand-Up India Scheme (which has ensured the entrepreneurial development of 90,185 women, as of January 2021). All these programmes create a multi-sectoral even the promise of gradual progression. People can choose the subjects that have always interested them and work towards achieving excellence in such subjects. Even though academia is largely about theory, these days the inputs given by academicians are used for several practical purposes including supplementing new legislations and delivering judgments. Academics are also often invited to carry on research initiatives and projects to help those in power to understand the lacunae in various initiatives, and the practical changes that could be brought about to make a difference to all concerned.

While the field of academia can be strewn with benefits, it is a very competitive field. At the very outset, one would need to have various qualifications to pursue a career in academia. A Masters in Law (LL.M.) along with a doctorate degree (Ph.D) are at some places viewed as a 'must have' qualification for the start of a career as an academician. Moreover, even though the profession entails a stable income and professional growth, academicians have to constantly continue their research and publication work in order to excel and increase their reach.

Law students who choose academia must ensure that they are ready to pursue the chosen subject and engage in-depth research on the subject. If law students choose to teach then, it is important for them to understand ways in which they can communicate their ideas well to the student body. While this career path is rewarding and stable, it involves long[1]hours of study and dedication, the fruits of which will only become apparent at a much later stage in one's career.

Unconventional Alternate Careers to Law

At times, unconventional alternatives require students to acquire further qualifications in addition to that of law. At other times students can opt for such alternate careers directly after completion of law school. Needless to say, the skills one acquires while studying law play a vital role in suceeding in such unconventional alternate careers.

1.       Financial and Commercial Management

The term is broad as the field of management is rippling with several diverse prospects. The reason management roles differ from administrative positions is primarily because administrative positions involve making overarching decisions about where the future path of the organisation would be headed. It involves amongst others, making decisions on allocation of resources and policy development. While the administration lays down the objectives that are to be achieved, it is the the management that is responsible for achieving those objectives. Also, the spehere of financial and commercial management, like many other work specialisations, amongst others, involve dealing with employees, fostering an environment of productivity, coming up with optimal solutions and completing deliverables under strict deadlines.

a.      Financial Sector

 This is an inclusive and niche sector. In the financial sector, law students may be hired by accountancy firms and insurance companies where such students could routinely become involved in performing tasks like underwriting, due diligence and audits. Law students keen to pursue such careers in the financial sector would do good to add further qualifications to their cap by undertaking finance-related courses, or appearing for the chartered accountancy examination.

b.      Managerial Sector

In some places where students in law schools study management related subjects along with their law degree, they can productively apply for managerial positions straight after law school. Many organisations do not prefer law students who have recenty graduated from law school to directly apply for managerial positions. Such organisations in the managerial sector instead prefer students to have qualifications in the managerial sector and therefore students wanting to make a shift to the management sector, must carefully evaluate and identify the set of organisations that they may want to work with.

 

While some large management consulting companies, may directly hire law students from law-schools, such jobs are often viewed by the new hirees as interim jobs. Students who get hired by such firms would do good to pursue a masters degree in business adminis[1]tration at an appropriate stage of their career and then with the added skill-set of a degree in business administration can perhaps strenghthen their stability in such jobs. The managerial sector also provides options to law graduates to keep an eye out for other managerial positions as a recruitment personnel or in the client management business sector. These jobs require excellent communication skills and an eye for detail which law students are trained to develop early on in their law-school years

 

Students could also start preparing for a management degree or course immediately after law school or while in their final year of law school along with pursuing internships at management consultancy firms. This would enable students to gain firsthand experience of a management firm and help them to make an informed decision on which specific area of management they would be keen to pursue as a long-term career. It is also advisable that students keen on pursuing a career in management must try and make up their mind as early on as possible during the course of law school years itself. This is so, as it is often the early bird that catches the bait. Needless to say, charting out a clear path as early as possible on ways to take advantage of law school that would best prepare students for a career in management, would stand in good stead for all students who are looking to make a shift to this alternate career

2.        Journalism

Journalism is a career option which many law students think of even well before gaining admission in a law school. These days several law students pursue journalism instead of taking up the conventional court practice of law. In today's world, a new industry called, 'legal journalism' has evolved which keeps all informed about the latest developments in the area of law. The job of a legal journalist amongst others, requires gathering of information on any new laws reporting on important judgments and major appointments in courts, corporates, law-schools and achievements by law[1]students and law-professionals, either by way of print or online form of reporting.

 

The groundwork for entering this field can be made at a relatively early stage. In preparation of becoming a legal journalist, students would do good to contact small[1]scale legal news blogs and actively write content for them during their law-school days itself, or better still start writing their own legal news blog to familiarise themselves of the behind-the-scene work that goes into making a news-publication platform a success. Students must be aware that work as a legal journalist requires them to be extremely pro-active and keep an active check on legal developments to maintain a steady flow of information for the target audience. After graduating from law schools, students can get a job as a legal journalist at newspapers, news websites, as well as the Public Relations department of law firms that are often responsible for channeling latest achievements of the particular law-firm to the public.

 

The good news is that a law degree itself is considered a good qualification for pursuing legal journalism--the essential skill prerequisites being excellent writing and communication skills. However, a diploma in journalism can help parachute a legal journalist's foray into other positions of an organisation. Mainstream journalism could also present itself as a viable option and therefore pursuant to a law degree students can study mass communications and media to make themselves more eligible for jobs as main stream journalists.

 

While the pay-scale of a legal journalist may not be as promising at the initial stage as compared to what one would receive in a large law firm but there is definitely room for gradual progress in salary in this field. Additionally this alternate career allows law students to remain creative and abreast of all legal developments.

 

(Debolina Saha Narayanan, Founder[1]Internship Bank & Shubhaankar Ray, University Liaison-Internship Bank) Views expressed are personal)

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