Positive Deviance and Women Entrepreneurship in India

A unique and pioneering Positive Deviance inquiry to find successful women entrepreneurs in India that have overcome complex odds is underway with India’s leading Microfinance Institute, CASHPOR in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The project is being carried out in close collaboration with the Social Justice Initiative, The University of Texas at El Paso.

In a patriarchal society such as India, entrepreneurship has been traditionally seen as a male preserve and women are kept far away from this distant dream. Deviation from the norm is frowned upon and women are burdened with expectations about fulfilling “twin roles”—taking care of their work and household responsibilities.

Anu and a staff member of Cashpor, India’s leading MFI, in conversation with a group of motivated women loan takers in Chaubeypur, Uttar Pradesh.


Our guiding PD research question for this study is:

Are there women entrepreneurs, who have not completed their high school, no formal training prior to starting their venture, married at an early age, belong to low socio economic background, have children, are not supported by their husband in their business but have successfully managed to build a successful business with profits?

DOWNLOAD Full Journal Article on Women Entrepreneurs and Positive Deviance in India

Arti, a positive deviant woman entrepreneur, fights all odds to run her thriving business of a fruit and snacks shop to sustain her family.

In 2016, the sixth economic census, released by the Indian ministry of statistics and program implementation, presents a worrisome picture of the status of women entrepreneurs in the country. The survey shows that women constitute only 13.76% of the total entrepreneurs, i.e., 8.05 million out of the 58.5 million entrepreneurs.

Ramavati, fondly known as ‘Habdi’, meaning someone who is always in a hurry, looks over to a pack of collected customers as she sells vegetables in her unique style.

Mrs. Meera Jain and her daughter, break the stereotype against working women and run their flourishing general store in Meja Road, Uttar Pradesh.

The patriarchal societal norms also manifest as little entrepreneurial education for women, lack of skills-based training, and lack of marketing know-how. These problems are compounded by financial constraints such as lack of start-up funds and loans from banks. Among other reasons, religion, caste, lack of availability of transport, etc. are found to be a huge contributor to the low rate of women entrepreneurship in India.

However, even against the social net of barriers for women’s entrepreneurship to flourish, India has seen a rise in the number of female entrepreneurs across the country in small and medium sector industries. This sets us up to engage in a pioneering positive deviance (PD) inquiry on women entrepreneurship in India.

READ THE FIRST POSITIVE DEVIANCE REPORT HERE: Imagining Possibilities: PD and Women Entrepreneurship in India



Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences

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