Publication Details

Narendran, R. (2012). Social risk and female entrepreneurs in Kerala, India: a preliminary assessment. The Business Review, Cambridge, 20 (2), 51-58.


The aim of this paper is to highlight the concept of social risk in the literature of female entrepreneurship. In most studies, entrepreneurial risk is considered to be related to monetary concerns, but sociological risks are overlooked. The risks associated with social challenges will be discussed in this paper. First, a conceptual model is developed with the help of the literature review. This conceptual model is further explained with the help of a qualitative analysis that was carried out in the state of Kerala. This South Indian state is renowned for the high social status enjoyed by women; therefore, it was considered a suitable platform for this study. This study is derived from a large data set, from which the responses of 40 female entrepreneurs are analyzed in this paper. Five social risk factors were identified: mobility constraints, male hegemony, institutional void, perceived discomfort, and social stigma. The paper concludes with recommendations for policy makers and researchers. This paper develops the theoretical concept of social risk and applies it to the situation of Indian female entrepreneurs. Even though the Indian economy is growing, a considerable number of Indian women are in poverty and are vulnerable to abuse and gender discriminatory practices (Cossman & Kapur, 1993; Holmes, Sadana & Rath, 2010). On the other hand, India carries a history of renowned women prime ministers, businesswomen, and actresses (Ghose, 1994; Ghose, 2007; Tan, 2011). Nonetheless, these women do not represent the entire population. Some women in India are victims of acid attacks, child marriage, and the dowry system (Ghose, 1994; CBS News, 2005; Gold, 2011). The dowry system and child marriages are said to have been abolished decades ago (Central Statistical Organisation, 2002); however, in rural areas, such practices still prevail (Holmes, Sadana & Rath, 2010). The government of India has introduced many incentives to help women overcome the obstacles in Indian society and to encourage small businesses (Seth, 2001; Planning Commission, 2007). In the sixth 5-year plan, for example, the government provided assistance for women to start and run businesses (Seth, 2001; Planning Commission, 2007). In spite of support from the government and changing social attitudes, however, Indian women are still victims of male hegemony (Anagol, 2010; Swain & Wallentin, 2009; Chakraborty, 2010). Such social attitudes instill fear in the minds of female entrepreneurs, and this fear of being socially penalized by the society is defined in this paper as a part of the social risk concept. In the following section, social risk is defined and explained according to Solvic’s (1999) work on the perception of risk. First, various literature is reviewed to explain the origin of the concept, and two related concepts, perceived risk and affect heuristic, are explained (Solvic, 1999; Finucane, Alhakami, Slovic & Johnson, 2000). These concepts are related to the plight of Indian women, who have been victims of physical and emotional harassment (Karuppannan & Puthisigamani, 2007; Holmes, Sadana & Rath, 2010). Second, the research methodology is presented, followed by the empirical findings. Finally, the paper summarizes the salient points and concludes with recommendations for researchers and government officials.

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