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Chapter three – Overview of Women Entrepreneurs in Mauritius and Their Adoption of E-Marketing

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CHAPTER THREE – OVERVIEW OF WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS IN MAURITIUS AND THEIR ADOPTION OF E-marketing . 3.1The rise of women entrepreneurs in Mauritius The Centre for Applied Research Social (2001) conducted a study in year 2000 to investigate the attitudes of the unemployed towards accepting employment and found that about 73 percent of the registered unemployed were women who had most of them were above 30 and did not have a strong educational background which would make it difficult for them to adopt E-marketing . The majority stated that they left their jobs, especially in the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) sector because they did not have job security and had to work overtime and hence could not allocate enough time to take care of their families. It should be noted that most of these women did not have experience in E-marketing practices. It seemed very unlikely that they would be able to take on other jobs as around 61 percent of them remained unemployed for over two years. The Mauritian economy was undergoing a re-engineering process at that time and the profile of women employees described above painted a grim picture about re-employment for the Mauritian women, especially with their lack of knowledge pertaining to ICT which had gained growing importance in the island. Moreover, their educational profiles of the latter made it next to impossible to transfer them to high-skilled sectors which required ICT knowledge. Bearing in mind the situation that prevailed, the GOM decided that promoting women entrepreneurship would benefit both these women and the economy. It would help to improve women's economic and social status and also eliminate the glass ceiling. The GOM also encouraged women entrepreneurship on the assumption that women entrepreneurs were more likely to recruit women in the businesses which would decrease the women unemployment rate in Mauritius which was confirmed by the findings of a survey carried out by the Ministry of Women's Rights, Child Development and Family Welfare in 1997. 3.2SMEs in Mauritius Since most Mauritian WEs firms' fall under the category of SMEs, an overview of SMEs is provided in this section. In Mauritius, the new legislation provides new definitions for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) on the basis of turnover:
  • a small enterprise less than Rs.10 Million Mauritian Rupees with less than
50 employees; and
  • a medium enterprise between Rs.10 Million to Rs.50 Million Mauritian Rupees with approximately 200 employees.
As per the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority (SMEDA) Act, the SMEs definition includes enterprises in all economic sectors. In order to avoid detailed sector-specific criteria, turnover criteria is used across sectors i.e. no differentiation between services and manufacturing sectors has been made for small enterprises, and the thresholds for small manufacturing firms also reflect small service firms. (Source SMEDA). However, in the central statistics office (CSO) 2007 Census of Economic Activities, SMEs were defined as “small establishments and itinerary units engaging less than 10 persons, including working proprietors”. 3.3Contribution of SME Sector to theEconomy (Source SMEDA and MOBECC) SMEs play an important role in the Mauritian economy by contributing extensively to wealth creation, employment generation and poverty alleviation. They are labour-intensive having the ability to create new jobs at low costs and help in absorbing unemployment created by industrial and economic restructuring. As at December 2012, 18,978SMEs were registered with SMEDA and contributed approximately 40% to our GDP. It is estimated that SMEs are employing around 250,000 people. They are operating in various sectors such as food and beverages; leather and garments, wood and furniture; paper products and printing, chemical, rubber and plastic, handicrafts, pottery and ceramic, jewellery and other related items to trade and commerce. In order to enhance their contribution to the Mauritian economy, improving their knowledge on E-marketing would be beneficial to the whole sector and economy. 3.4Profile of Women Entrepreneurs in Mauritius This section provides an overview of the age-group, highest academic qualification and marital status of women entrepreneurs in Mauritus. Tandrayen-Ragoobur and Kasseeah (2012) found that around 15 percent of the WEs were aged over 30, 40% of them were between 31 and 44 years, and another 40 percent of them were between 45 to 59 years. As stated in the literature review, this may be due to the end of the Multi-Fibre Agreement and closing of the EPZ companies (Tandrayen-Ragoobur and Kasseeah, 2012). Given their age, it may be concluded that it is unlikely that they know much about E-marketing and are less likely to engage in it. The women were in financial difficulties and they decided to launch their businesses. However, as most of them did not have experience with technology, most of them were not expected to be able to readily engage into E-marketing practices. Moreover, financial difficulties also acted as hindrances for them to implement E-marketing practices. Those women preferred the traditional marketing practices and relied mostly on word-of-mouth marketing. Around 82 percent of the women were married having the responsibility of dependent children. The survey indicated that about 44 percent had completed their School Certificate while 29 percent had basic primary education. The findings show that the educational levels of the women were inadequate and hence most of them would not be able to employ E-marketing without in-depth training, except for those whose children could help them into E-marketing practices. However, 56% of them received training (including training on the adopting of technology and E-marketing for some) and 44 percent did not benefit from training facilities. Concerning family size, 37% of them had families comprised of 5-6 members, 27% of them had families consisting of 4 members and the remaining had 3 persons in their families. Moreover, 42% were head of households. Also, 64% had jobs previously while the remaining did not. They were employed mostly as secretaries, garment workers and maids (Tandrayen-Ragoobur and Ayrga, 2012). The profile of Mauritian WEs show that these women did not have the necessary baggage to engage into E-marketing . A relatively big share of them were head of households which prevented them from finding the time to learn about E-marketing and instead rely on traditional marketing techniques. Moreover, all the training provided to them was not about technology and E-marketing but most of them were provided training on how to cook, sew or do other types of businesses. It should be noted that limited training has been provided to Mauritian women on E-marketing . This could be a reason why, according to the literature available, most WEs have not engaged into E-marketing . 3.5Firm characteristics of Mauritian WEs Findings of the same study (Tandrayen-Ragoobur and Kasseeah, 2012) revealed that 29% of WEs engage into garment-making, 22% are in handicrafts and jewellery and 20% manufacture food products such as pastries, snacks, ice-cream and pickles amongst others. Ayres-Williams and Brotherton (1999) state that WEs of SMEs only extend their previous activities in their new businesses which is in line with the findings obtained above. Therefore, it may be concluded that WEs mainly indulge into line of activities which are similar to their previous jobs and are risk-averse. The question that arises in this instance is whether these women would be willing to employ E-marketing practices, a tool with which they were not familiar with previously? In order to increase the degree of acceptance with respect to EM, the GOM will have to offer more training and increase their awareness on the advantages of EM. On the other side, 75% of WEs export their offerings and only 25% sell on the local market. Here it may be seen that E-marketing would indeed be advantageous to these WEs as it would be a cheaper tool for them to market their products. As they found it difficult to prentrate the export market, institutions like National Women Entrepreneurs Council and SEHDA have been helping them do it. They export mainly to China, Rodrigues and other Asian countries. On the local side, their clients consist of hotels, tourists and the general public. E-marketing practices would have undoubtedly helped them target more clients. The majority have taken loans for the SMEs. About 27% earned between Rs1000-Rs 5000, 16% earn around 5000-7000 and 12% earn around Rs7500 to rs 15000. Most of them cannot rely entirely on their income to support their families. Their companies remain relatively small and they do not have the ability to expand more. Therefore, E-marketing would have helped them considerably in expanding their companies since they would have been able to target more clients, reach wider markets, and find other business opportunities. E-marketing is cheaper and helping these WEs acquire the required skills would help them develop their businesses to a great extent. 3.6Number of registered WEs in Mauritius (NWEC & CSO) The number of women registered at the National Women Entrepreneur Council (NWEC) increased by 80%, from 1,900 in 2005 to some 3,500 in 2011 (CSO, Gender Statistics 2012). A lower proportion of women were engaged in handicraft activities, 24% against 35% in 2005 (CSO 2007). The number of women entrepreneurs in the textile sector has more than doubled, with its share rising from 21% in 2005 to 27% in 2011. The agro industry and the services sector attracted more women over the years, representing 28% and 21% respectively of registered women entrepreneur in 2011 against 26% and 18% in 2005. There is a growing trend amongst women entrepreneurship in Mauritius. 3.6.1Supporting institutions (Source SMEDA & MOBECC) The GOM has set up some institutions to provide support to SMEs. Amongst them is SMEDA for counseling and technical support, Enterprise MauriEMketing) which operates under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry is promoting mainly export oriented industries, the National Women Entrepreneur Council (NWEC) operates under the aegis of Ministry of Gender Equality and has a division working with women entrepreneurs, Development Bank of Mauritius (DBM) to provide financing to SMEs’ projects, the National Productivity for Competitiveness Council (NPCC) to provide training productivity, the Mauritius Business Growemketinge (MBGS) has just been set up under Ministry of Business, Enterprise, and Cooperatives (MOBECC) to finance new businesses including SME’s. Another body, the Inter Agency Committee (IAC) has been set up under MOBECC arounemketingber 2013 to streamline the services offered to SMEs by the different agencies. 3.7Conclusion This chapter has shown that WE remains in its infancy stage in Mauritius as it is just a survival means for some women. Most women are risk-averse and rely on traditional marketing techniques and help of SEHDA and other institutions to help into marketing their offerings. Appropriate measures should be taken to help WEs adopt E-marketing so that they may generate better income and tap into larger audiences. The GOM needs to upgrade its activities and introduce E-marketing techniques and innovation in its training sessions for WEs.
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