Certainly, India has come a long way in empowering women. However, the Sixth Economic Census conducted by the Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation shows that women make up only 13.76% of the total entrepreneurs in India, which is nothing to write home about. This is only 8.05 million out of a total of 58.5 million entrepreneurs.
Globally, we’re hearing more about Indian or Indian-born suit chiefs, such as Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Google’s Sundar Pichai, Starbucks’ Laxman Narasimhan and Adobe’s Shantanu Narain, among others. But are the numbers fair?
There can certainly be no doubt about the potential of a business woman. Amidst the rush of IPOs in India in recent years, remember that the only profitable and popular startup to get listed on the markets was Falguni Nayar’s Nykaa. November 19 is celebrated as International Men’s Day. However, today also marks Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, which is celebrated to promote a more conducive environment for the female entrepreneur and to celebrate the growing number of female entrepreneurs who are running profitable businesses.
On this day, let’s hear from the following four female startup entrepreneurs and one venture capital firm affiliate (in no particular order) about what the highs and lows were and what really happened with this problem.
Meena Ganesh, Co-Founder and Chairman of the Board, Portea Medical
The number of women entrepreneurs in India is increasing but it is still not encouraging enough. There are many reasons why women continue to be reluctant to follow the path of entrepreneurship. One of the main reasons is that society and women tend to feel the need for a more stable lifestyle through jobs in companies.
Startups tend to be tough with a roller coaster ride. However, the woman has the ability, perhaps she lacks confidence.
“If we want women to become mainstream entrepreneurs, it’s essential that the playing field be level. They need to feel supported and heard.”
The investor community also has a preponderance of men. This can lead to an unintended bias against female entrepreneurs looking to raise money. Female entrepreneurs tend to be distrustful of areas such as sales or negotiation and fundraising, which are traditionally viewed as male-dominated fields. However, these skills can be developed very well with training and mentoring.
While there are many government policies to encourage women entrepreneurs, change must start at the grassroots level and in educational institutions. This will ensure that more women are taught about the different aspects of starting their own business and provide much needed support on the ground. Also, if we look at the overall percentage, it’s certainly way below ideal, but the balance is steadily improving. There are far more women in the technology industry and IITs/IIMs today than ever before.
The need to take this momentum from the educational institutions to the corporate hierarchy through ongoing support and opportunities.
The future is promising for women-led startups in India. However, their ideas and passions should also be complemented by opportunities to network, get mentoring, etc. There are many organizations today that provide support in this regard. Having said that, if we want women to become mainstream entrepreneurs, it is imperative that we equalize opportunity. They should feel supported and heard. Ideally, there should be more initiatives towards setting up academies and incubators for women entrepreneurs where they not only get access to financing, but also technology, skills development, and mentoring.
IIM Bangalore has a long-standing association with women entrepreneurs, and collaboration between IIM-Kozhikode and the National Council of Women is among the efforts sought. We have hundreds of technology colleges all over India. If they start creating such incubators, we will definitely witness the emergence of a strong wave of female entrepreneurs.
Lisa Sawal, co-founder of Mitigo and CEO of Brasoma
As awareness of women’s roles and economic status in society increases, so does their hidden entrepreneurial potential. Women can now be seen working in every industry, from fashioning pickles to telecommunications, because the glass barriers are now broken.
Indra Nooyi’s successful journey of becoming the first Indian-born female CEO to head an iconic American corporation is a classic example of how one’s upbringing can shape the future. Backed by a disciplined family that had an incredible amount of focus on education undisturbed by gender, Indra rose to lead by example.
“Women have always been entrepreneurs, and the challenges they have faced in their lives have forced them to embrace entrepreneurship.”
The percentage of female entrepreneurs has increased by 114% in the past 20 years, according to Onepoll’s Global Entrepreneurship Survey. Not all hard working women have the same spotlight or spotlight we do in the public. Having said that, the numbers are changing and the female workforce in every industry is increasing. We as women need to build our sisterhood, and continue to prove ourselves and not just society.
On the one hand, women have become the face of the brand, but on the contrary, gender differences in economic participation and opportunities are still remarkably large. Women face many challenges when starting their own thing. From lack of family support, lack of capital to lack of self-confidence, women go through many hurdles in their entrepreneurial journey.
It is very important to talk about these barriers and encourage women to step outside their comfort zone and tap into their potential for personal and professional growth.
We should celebrate women but as much as we celebrate life every single day! Days like these serve as a reminder for us to value ourselves and others. Interestingly, women have always been entrepreneurs, and the challenges they faced in their lives forced them to adopt an entrepreneurial spirit. They have now become an important part of the global business environment and their contributions are counted by the economy as they enter the formal market.
Yamini Bhatt, CEO and Co-Founder, Vymo
There are many women heading global businesses in both key executive roles as well as self-made entrepreneurs running their own businesses. Jayshree V Ullal, CEO of Arista Networks, Neha Karkade, Co-Founder of Confluent, Leena Nair, CEO of Chanel, Revathi Advaithi, CEO of Flex and Anjali Sud, CEO of Vimeo.
I also agree that the numbers are lower.
“Women must take the first step towards entrepreneurship, look for role models and build a support system for themselves to move forward.”
Women make up just 13.76% of India’s total entrepreneurs according to the Ministry of Statistics, and we lag behind some other countries – both developing and developed.
Some ways to deal with this include:
● Establishing a strong support system that allows women to access knowledge, skills development, and financing to give impetus to the entrepreneurship initiative.
● Designing financial products that are friendly to women entrepreneurs to give them the impetus to move forward with their businesses.
● Encourage successful female entrepreneurs to champion entrepreneurship and guide other women through this journey.
● Finally, more corporate organizations should offer programs to nurture and motivate entrepreneurship to start their own businesses – from ideation to planning to giving them wings. Good examples include Sequoia Spark, Sequoia India, Southeast Asian Platform for Women Entrepreneurs, and Herstory from Yourstory.com. The Sequoia Spark Fellowship provides equity-free scholarships, immersive mentorship, and community support to aspiring women entrepreneurs in India and Southeast Asia.
We certainly have many role models today and they will only grow stronger. If every businesswoman runs her business by fostering an entrepreneurial culture, encouraging her team to keep working on their ideas, finding solutions to problems and then making their own way, we will surely have many more successful businesses led by women in the coming days. Women must take the first step towards entrepreneurship, look for role models and build a support system for themselves moving forward. This is where it becomes very important for the family and well-wishers to provide this support system so that the women can move forward.
Anju Gupta, Co-Founder and President of IvyCamp (an initiative by IvyCap Ventures)
I think there has been an increasing number of female leaders in global companies – Lina Nair (Chanel), Sonia Singhal (Gap), Roshni Nadar (HCL), Sharmistha Dubey (Match Group), Anjali Sood (Vimeo), and Indian women in leadership positions at Capgemini, HP, etc. Some of these companies may not be our largest multinationals like Google and Microsoft but they are huge global corporations. Furthermore, let’s take a look at global organizations such as the Chief Economist of WMF.
I don’t think there is a “rush” for women entrepreneurs. The number is increasing over time but I don’t see a ‘rush’ and the percentage is still low in the total number of new entrepreneurs. I think it’s more of a ‘retreat’, it’s a matter of not becoming a ‘main’ choice for women and one of the main reasons I think is the same as the main reason women’s access to the top positions in multinational companies has been slower, is an aspect of insufficient family support and family responsibilities that become Usually women have priority over men.
“Let’s not simply aim to increase the number of women entrepreneurs but make the path easier for women who want to become entrepreneurs”
Many entrepreneurs are now starting out with more work experience under their belt, in an era when women are starting families and thus end up in the same struggle of choosing between family and career, while the male entrepreneur doesn’t have to.
Stability and less variation in working hours in multinational companies is more attractive to many women, especially in new work-from-home situations.
I think the way forward is not just to compare the number of male and female entrepreneurs, but to look at the barriers faced by women who want to become entrepreneurs, and how to remove them. Let’s not simply aim to increase the number of women entrepreneurs but make the path easier for women who want to be entrepreneurs and I don’t think this is any different than making the path easier to reach senior positions in multinational companies – it removes any biases, providing more social and family support and flexibility. The only thing I think we can do better is provide more networking support.