Sadhana Deshmukh is blazing a trail for female entrepreneurship in her hometown in the Indian state of Maharashtra. 

Growing up, Sadhana never imagined she could go into business, but today she runs two social enterprises that sell solar energy products and nutritious soy-based foods, and actively encourages other women to go into business. 

Sadhana gained the confidence and knowledge to start a social enterprise through a training programme developed by the British Council and Diageo that is delivered by Indian partners such as Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP) and has supported 4,500 women in India. 

Rates of female entrepreneurship in India are very low by global standards – it ranked 70th out of 77 countries in a 2015 survey – but social enterprise could be a powerful means of promoting women’s economic empowerment. 

According to a new British Council study, 24 per cent of social enterprises in India are led by women. By comparison, only 8.9 per cent of mainstream enterprises have a woman as the top manager.

‘Supporting women social entrepreneurs in India is an important investment in the future,’ says Dr Guru Gujral from British Council India. ‘For years to come,’ he adds, ‘women such as Sadhana will inspire other women to start businesses that generate both a positive social impact and a financial return, and this will promote a more inclusive and sustainable future for India.’ 

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