New Delhi: The President of India Ram Nath Kovind had addressed the 34th annual session of FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO) on April 5, 2018, in New Delhi. Speaking on the occasion, the President said that women constitute half our country. They contribute to our economy at work and at home, in many diverse ways. Yet, when it comes to business and commerce, it is regrettable that women have not been given their due. "We need to create conditions for more and more of our daughters and sisters to come into the workforce. We need to push harder to ensure appropriate, encouraging and safe conditions at home, in society, and at the workplace to enhance the percentage of working women," said President Kovind.

The President informed that if more women become part of the workforce, both household incomes and our GDP will rise and India will become a more prosperous nation. "Much greater than that, we will become an equal society," added Kovind. The President said that we need to take the magic of entrepreneurship to – and facilitate the start-ups of – our sisters and daughters at the bottom of the pyramid. The government has a role here, but so do civil society and business – and organizations such as FLO.

The President mentioned that under the MUDRA scheme, over the past three financial years, about 117 million loans have been sanctioned. Close to 88 million of these loans have gone to women entrepreneurs and he was happy to note that, as of December 2017, the number of NPAs in the MUDRA scheme is less than eight percent of the loans sanctioned. The President said that genuine business failures can happen. But when there is a wilful and criminal default on a bank loan, then it is families of our fellows Indians that suffer. The innocent citizen loses out, and ultimately the honest tax-payer bears the burden. It is admirable that at the grassroots of our country – in small hamlets and among traditionally underprivileged and deprived communities – MUDRA entrepreneurs are striving to pay back their loans.

The President urged the members of FLO to see how they can make these businesses – largely run by women – integral to their value chains. How can they partner these humble start-ups – as vendors, ancillaries, suppliers, distributors or in any other form. He stated that our corporate sector must take determined steps towards creating women-friendly and gender-sensitive supply chains – to empower women in our economy, rather than just accommodate them. The President said that this is a moment of enormous opportunities for India. If our institutions and our society can be true to both the letter of the law and the spirit of justice, we can help every Indian realize her potential. And we can construct a developed India. There may be disagreement, but there must be respect for the other person’s dignity. Dignity and civility; order and rule of law; fairness and justice; entrepreneurship and aspirations – we have to achieve all of these. We cannot pick and choose.

Each of us has a role here, the President said, each member of FLO as an individual and FLO as an institution can make a big difference – to Indian business and to Indian society.