[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Sunday, 9 April 2006, 16:10 GMT 17:10 UK
India sees rise of independent women
By Karishma Vaswani
BBC Mumbai business correspondent

On the rare days she has off from her busy work schedule, Payal Barua, 27, tries to make the time to keep in shape.

Women in Mumbai snack shop
More women are supporting themselves in modern India

Finding a way to stay fit is important to her, despite the long hours she puts in at her job as a marketing executive for Via Technologies.

Running at Joggers' Park in Bandra, an upmarket suburb in Mumbai (Bombay) where she lives, is one of the ways she relaxes when not working.

Ms Barua moved to Mumbai three years ago, in the hope of pursuing the Mumbai dream.

She hails from Assam, in eastern India, and has left behind her family and friends because she wanted to try her luck in this big city.

"I pay my own way in life," she says.

"When I left home, I didn't know whether I would make it or not. But now, I pay my own rent, I make enough money to spend on myself and treat myself to the nice things in life.

"But I'm also keen not to waste my salary on frivolous things, so I make sound financial investments as well."

Running the finances

Ms Barua is not alone. Across town from where she lives, a group of Indian housewives get together once or twice a month to learn how to invest their hard-earned income.

Geojit Financial Services provides these lessons to their female clients, especially those who are keen to find out more about investing in the stock market.

A lot of these women have husbands who are drunkards and don't provide them with any financial assistance
Vandana Nawalkar
Social worker in Mumbai

Investing in India's booming stock market has become part and parcel of many Indian women's lives.

Housewives, who have traditionally run the finances of Indian homes, now learn how to invest their income to get the best returns.

"We had successfully launched an all-women's branch in Cochin in Kerala," says Gaurang Shah, regional manager of the firm.

"Taking our lead from the success we had there, we thought that since Mumbai is the financial hub of India, we could be successful here too.

"Our branch trains and educates women from all walks of life about the Indian equity markets. We see great opportunities in this sector in the future."

Equal partners

For many women in modern India, learning how to invest their savings and their income is increasingly becoming a way to safeguard their financial future.

Historically, Indian women have not had much control over their individual financial existences.

Having money of their own to spend and invest as they wish was not common.

Indian women preparing food
Some Indian women use their culinary skills to make money

But as the economy has grown, there has been a parallel increase in the rights of women as well.

Only a minority of Indian women have the education or the income to invest in equity markets, however.

Only a third of women in India have some type of formal education.

Caged by centuries of inequality, they have had to find other means to improve their livelihoods.

Take Mumbai-based social worker Vandana Nawalkar.

Thirty years ago, moved by the lack of opportunities that so many women in India face, she decided to start a co-operative snack shop run by women.

Hundreds of women now work in her snack shops around the city, and they are all equal shareholders in the business.


"A lot of these women have husbands who are drunkards and don't provide them with any financial assistance," Ms Nawalkar says, speaking of her 150-strong workforce.

"They're also not educated, so finding a job in the city is difficult.

"They can only work as domestic helpers, but they're good in the kitchen, so preparing snacks is something they can do.

Indian women preparing food
Even unskilled women can have a stake in business

"This job has helped them make money and support their families. They have sent their children to school and many of their children have gone on to graduate from university. It's given them self-confidence."

And it is that growing self-confidence that is beginning to make a difference in India's corporate world as well.

In the last 20 years, the number of women in the Indian workforce has shot up, thanks mainly to the technology boom in the country.

Women now make up a fifth of the total IT workforce.

As the Indian economy has surged, the horizons for women in India are expanding.

Dance-bar women transfer to Goa
23 Sep 05 |  South Asia
All dressed up but few see the show
19 Apr 05 |  South Asia
Speed dating comes to India
22 Mar 05 |  South Asia
'Odds stacked against Indian women'
01 Apr 04 |  South Asia
Stars mark women's day in India
08 Mar 04 |  Entertainment

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific