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Small-scale enterprises for women in developing countries: Assessing causes and definitions of success in selected case studies in India

Rema Pai, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Although there is an increasing interest in the economic, educational and developmental roles of small-scale enterprises for women in the Third World, there is relatively little in the literature that provides detailed case descriptions and analysis of how and why some efforts "succeed." This exploratory study was designed to address this need. Based on a review of the literature and three intensive case studies in India, it attempts to discover the kinds of factors that contribute most significantly to the success of such small-scale enterprises from the perspective of the participants as well as to examine the different ways that "success" is or can be defined. Certain factors that supposedly help promote success are identified in the literature. For instance, education and business skills of participants appear to play a critical role in their ability to raise capital for establishing an enterprise. Other factors cited include community control of the enterprise, role of participants in decision making and problem solving, and the acquisition of new skills. The case studies are used here to reassess such assumed factors and to identify new types of factors related to economic success of small-scale enterprises for poor Third World women. In addition to "success" as an increase in income, the most commonly used indicator, the literature seems to suggest that there are important non-economic benefits which participants of small-scale enterprises also include in their definitions of success. Again, the field inquiry into the three cases in India explores the range of non-economic benefits perceived by participants as related to their small-scale enterprise. This provides a basis for an argument for a broader definition of "success" in planning, implementing, or evaluating such efforts. The literature reviewed includes that on small-scale enterprises with particular reference to women, as well as literature on women and economic development in India, to provide a context for the case studies. For the three case studies, ethnographic and qualitative interviewing methods were used. An inductive analysis of the data revealed factors in the following groupings: Factors Deriving from Organizational Design and Structure; Factors Deriving from Management and Administration; and Factors Deriving from Participant Characteristics. The non-economic benefits with implications for definitions of success are grouped under Skill Related Benefits, Benefits Related to Changes in Lifestyle, and Benefits Related to Personal Growth. Since this was an exploratory field study, one of the concluding chapters provides some important hypotheses for further investigation, and the other provides some recommendations for development agencies, educators, and researchers concerned with the topic. A sample questionnaire used in the field study is available in the Appendix, followed by an extensive bibliography.

Subject Area

Education|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Pai, Rema, "Small-scale enterprises for women in developing countries: Assessing causes and definitions of success in selected case studies in India" (1989). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI8917388.