In a bid to strengthen women entrepreneurship and promote women founded startups, the state government of Kerala has announced a slew of attractive incentives to encourage women-led companies, which currently account for 13% of the start-ups in Kerala.

The state government has issued a notification endorsing the proposals submitted by its nodal agency for technical entrepreneurship, the Kerala Startup Mission (KSUM), in this regard. The proposals, to be implemented under the "Youth Entrepreneurship Development Programme" (YEDP), was submitted by KSUM CEO Saji Gopinath.\

Two cohorts of 10 startups exclusively for women shall be taken as part of this scheme.

Incentives announced for Women-led startups -

  1. Free 3-months pre-incubation support, including mentorship and technical help,

  2. KSUM to bear the registration cost and travel expenses of women founders who have a valid start-up product to exhibit in national and international exhibitions (upto 4-times in the start-up life cycle, subject to review)

  3. KSUM to endorse marketing activities for up to Rs 5 lakh per start-up per year for two years.

  4. The moratorium (a temporary prohibition) on the seed funding support scheme of the KSUM will be extended to two years from one year.

  5. Technology transfer support for women-led startups with a ceiling of Rs 10 lakh

Other highlights of the initiative include fast track soft loan against purchase order, fast track soft loan as advance for projects received from the Government departments. About 10% seats will be earmarked for women in International Exposure Programmes.

In India, the participation of women in the Indian funded startup ecosystem stands at 22%, largely mirroring trends in the West.

However, women constitute around 14% of the total entrepreneurship i.e. 8.05 million out of the total 58.5 million entrepreneurs, said the 6th Economic Census released last December. Out of total women entrepreneurs, 2.76 million women constituting 13.3% of women entrepreneurs work in agriculture sector whereas 5.29 million women constituting more than 65% work in non-agriculture sector. The average employment in women-owned enterprises is meager 1.67.

Recently, in an event in Kerala, Satyajeet Singh, a top Facebook official in India said that lack of networks and accessible technological infrastructure are holding India's women entrepreneurs back in their tracks despite of the fat that 4 out of every 5 women from metros as well as smaller towns in India are eager to start their own businesses and become entrepreneurs.

Earlier this year, KSUM partnered with Unity Technologies, a San Francisco, California-based game development company, to launch a Centre of Excellence (CoE) for Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and gaming, in order to help the startup culture boom in the gaming and AR/VR sectors.

In March, Kerala, with support from Indian space agency ISRO, had launched Space Technology Application Development Ecosystem (STADE) in Trivandrum, which is aimed as a facilitation centre for companies and startups that are into space data analytics and development of space-tech technologies and components.

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