Market Access and Enterprise Readiness of Women-led Businesses – Handicrafts and Handlooms

This study aims to understand market access and enterprise readiness among women entrepreneurs in the handicrafts and handlooms sector, and create a more enabling entrepreneurial ecosystem for them.

The handloom and handicrafts sector continues to be a major source of livelihood in a country that is predominantly agrarian. In addition to being sustainable and providing income and security in times of agrarian distress, the industry contributes to keeping traditional arts alive. Over 50% of those employed in the sector are women, who face a host of challenges that come with living in a traditional and patriarchal society. The informal and decentralized nature of the sector limits their bargaining power in procurement and selling. Most women artisans tend to prefer setting up Home Based Businesses (HBBs), further alienating their enterprises from microfinance institutions, which lack the capacity to reach these dispersed groups. Gender again comes into play in limiting access to valuable resources, as reportedly 58% of women in India face difficulty accessing credit, savings or jobs because of their gender (MasterCard’s Connector Project). The objective of this study is to identify constraints on women in the entrepreneurial ecosystem that limit their capacity to expand and scale up their businesses.
This study has been designed to better understand the constraints on the entrepreneurial ecosystem for women in the handlooms and handicrafts sector in Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan through a two-part assessment:
(i) Market access and enterprise readiness among women entrepreneurs
(ii) Credit access and credit assessment of women-led businesses by formal and informal lending institutions.
It will take a mixed methods Approach to reach its objectives, incorporating qualitative assessment, quantitative assessment, desk reviews, key informant interviews and case study methods. It is being conducted in partnership with Tamil Nadu Development Corporation Ltd., Poompuhar and Hand-in-Hand in Tamil Nadu and SRLM, SEWA and Fab India in Rajasthan.
Apart from augmenting existing research exploring female entrepreneurship, this study helos identify key impediments to greater participation of women entrepreneurs in the handicrafts and handlooms sector. Results from the study can help inform policy and financial product design that contribute to a more enabling entrepreneurial ecosystem for women in the sector, in turn leading to enriched livelihoods and poverty alleviation. The  multi-dimensional index – Women Business Readiness Scorecard – Handloom and Handicrafts Sector (WBRS – HHS) can help evaluate the current sectoral performance as well as identify the key constraints and high-performance areas for each stage of the value-chain.

Thematic Area

Small, Growing Businesses and Employment

Project Leads

Mridulya Narasimhan


Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan


Tamil Nadu Development Corporation, Poompuhar, Hand-in-Hand, SEWA, Rajasthan SRLM, Fab India