Mobilising Strategic Philanthropy to Strengthen Women’s Entrepreneurship in Urban and Peri-Urban India

This project maps the challenges for women entrepreneurs in Urban and Peri-Urban India and examines the potential of collaborative philanthropy in mitigating the challenges.


Entrepreneurship development is an important pathway for enabling women’s participation in the economy and can be a catalyst for change by providing income-generating opportunities. In India, a significant portion of the GDP and employment is generated by nano and micro enterprises. Among these enterprises, very few are owned and operated by women. Globally, India ranks 57 out of 65 countries in women entrepreneurship. While several challenges entrepreneurs face are universal, women entrepreneurs continue to face many gender-specific barriers. Currently, domestic and international philanthropy and corporate social responsibility initiatives in India are largely concentrated on health and education, focusing on rural India (OECD, 2022). There is a significant opportunity to mobilise capital and fund underserved regions as well as segments that have growth potential. Moreover, while there has been a significant focus on building linkages for microentrepreneurs through livelihood support in rural areas, much less has been done in urban and peri-urban areas.

The goal of this assessment was to map the current landscape of entrepreneurship in urban and peri-urban areas, identify different archetypes of entrepreneurs, and identify intervention areas that offer opportunities for collaborative action. 


In the first phase of the project, to map the landscape of barriers and challenges for women entrepreneurs, we conducted a rapid assessment of the landscape – combining a literature review, analysis of secondary data sources and key informant interviews with various ecosystem players. 

Key Findings

Based on a literature review, analysis of NSSO data and in-depth interviews with key stakeholders, this report identifies four archetypes of women entrepreneurs that broadly represent the entrepreneurship landscape in urban and peri-urban areas: 

  • Subsistence/Striving Entrepreneurs
  • Solopreneur/Homepreneurs 
  • Conventional/Steadfast Entrepreneurs 
  • Opportunity Entrepreneurs/Benefactors 

The archetypes are primarily categorised based on monthly revenue. While traditional categorisations of entrepreneurs by turnover use a similar approach, it is important to highlight that even within these archetypes, there remains high heterogeneity of entrepreneurial intent and outcomes. The archetypes provide a preliminary framework for informing targeting efforts over and above the existing administrative classifications by turnover and employment size. Across archetypes, three key barriers stand out: lack of access to timely and affordable capital; lack of information about relevant schemes and opportunities; few opportunities to network with peers and mentors, exacerbated by lack of professional networks, and mobility constraints. 


The research identifies the following opportunities for joint action.

  • Firstly, a philanthropic collaborative can play a critical role in “filling the gaps”, by moving capital towards underserved entrepreneur segments and geographies. Since the barriers that women entrepreneurs face vary by region and socio-economic context, a more collaborative approach can help address high-priority challenges for underserved segments and regions. 
  • We also find robust evidence favouring a well-rounded package of interventions to advance women’s entrepreneurial activity and improve business outcomes – instead of a siloed approach or piecemeal interventions (e.g. access to skills training or credit alone) that fail to address the root of the problem. 
  • As the idea of trust-based philanthropy takes root globally, collaborative philanthropy can provide flexible capital to drive innovation – thereby diversifying the risk of testing “what works” for different entrepreneur segments and accelerating the learning curve for donors and implementing organisations. 
  • Given the complexities that underpin the measurement of women’s entrepreneurial activity, collaboratives can invest in longitudinal studies and robust data collection mechanisms to bridge data gaps and improve the sector’s understanding of how enterprises led by women are established, operated and scaled over time.

Thematic Area

Small, Growing Businesses and Employment

Project Leads

Sharon Buteau


AVPN, J.P. Morgan