While it’s not uncommon to hear stories of Indian startups being led to phenomenal success by female entrepreneurs are still a rare breed in the country. The Indian entrepreneurial community comprises only 10 per cent women and that’s precisely why it’s still a big deal to be a female entrepreneur.
In a country that is still deeply patriarchal in many parts, women aren’t typically thought of as good business people. They are still considered by many to be emotional, less ambitious and perhaps devoid of enough acumen and leadership skills to build value from scratch and then make it scale.
But the fact that this perception is anything but correct is becoming more apparent than ever and attitudes are changing fast regarding women’s role in business.
More and more investors and observers are recognising the innate value and perspective that only a woman can bring to the table and this is creating a very welcome boom in the realm of female entrepreneurship in India.
There is tremendous headway being made by women across sectors and this evolution is being fuelled by policy initiative, social support and the spurt in venture capital funds focussed on startups run by women.
The fact that the recently announced Union Budget has allocated a sum of Rs 500 crore to stimulate innovation and startup activity by women and SC/ST communities is a ready example of how policymakers are also waking up to the unique skill set that these groups bring to business.
Similarly, last year a team of investment veterans came together to launch a venture fund exclusively for women entrepreneurs. It was incepted with a mission to support and encourage women who are an integral part of economic growth but are still behind when it comes to access to capital, infrastructure and in many cases strategic guidance in the startup phase.
Funds such as these also create a vibrant platform for women-led businesses to interact with each other and overcome challenges.
They seek to eliminate the typical challenges that women face when looking to raise capital such as lack of confidence in their ability, facing questions regarding personal commitments which men are generally not asked and having to navigate their way in a man’s world with old, established networks.
Thanks to policy initiatives and institutional efforts, things are certainly changing for the better. There is a palpable shift in attitudes as well where more and more investors, mentors and government officials are beginning to appreciate women’s unique attributes when it comes to building a business.
People across the board are realising that women are capable of better maintaining long-term relationships and in cases where the business targets a pre-dominantly female market, women entrepreneurs are better placed to understand and devise compelling market strategies and product development roadmaps.
As this understanding grows, the community at large is beginning to show greater support for women entrepreneurs. Since I lead product development at Fitpass, I meet a lot of women who own and run fitness studios across the country.
It’s really heartening when they tell me that one of the reasons their business is flourishing is because society, especially in urban areas, has become the most enthusiastic cheerleader of women’s endeavours to build value and carve their own niche in the world.
Though it’s still not the most common sight to have a woman founder for an Indian venture, it’s a trend that is catching on rapidly. Successful businesswomen are now not only getting their due glory but are also inspiring more and more of their counterparts to make their presence felt in the entrepreneurial eco-system of the country.
In fact, as per the findings of the Dell Women's Global Entrepreneurship Study, India is amongst the most favourable places for women entrepreneurs. It went on to say that businesses owned by women entrepreneurs in India will thrive and are expected to grow by up to 90 per cent in the next five years.
Going by these welcome signs of change, it is almost certain that there is a lot more catalysis waiting to happen as far as women entrepreneurship in India goes.
We hope that as we go along and women continue to get support and encouragement from all corners, derisive memes about how women can’t lead from the front or raise capital etc. will become a thing of the past.
All of us are together hopeful that soon women and men entrepreneurs will be at par, be it in terms of number, backing by funds or faith from the industry at large thus making a big show of being a female entrepreneur in this country redundant!