5 Indian VC Funds That Support Women Entrepreneurs However, the majority of businesses in India are operated by men, and there aren't many women-owned businesses. There are still few venture capitalists who are ready to take a chance by continuing to believe in the women leaders, even though most of the discourse about equality is just lip service.

By Sujata Sangwan Originally published

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In India, the landscape for women entrepreneurship has changed during the past few years. In this era of startups, digitization, and globalisation, the number of female entrepreneurs in the nation is also revolutionising.

According to the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs, just 7 out of 100 entrepreneurs in India are female. Despite this, female entrepreneurs are not only competing with but also outperforming their male counterparts in terms of ideas and execution strategies.

In India, the number of businesses owned and operated by women entrepreneurs is anticipated to increase by 90% over the next five years, as per a report titled "Landscape Study on Women Entrepreneurship". In addition, a survey by Bain and Company and Google predicted that by 2030, women entrepreneurs in India might generate 150–170 million new jobs.

Although there is no doubting the talent of Indian women entrepreneurs, only 1.5% of the startup funding in the nation goes to businesses with female founders, a senior Google executive told ET.

Over the past several years, a number of women-focused venture capital funds have emerged in an effort to address the funding problem and provide Indian female entrepreneurs a small boost and chance to thrive. Five venture capital (VC) companies that encourage female entrepreneurs in India are included in this article.

AWE Funds

Seema Chaturvedi founded Achieving Women Equity (AWE) Funds, a gender-smart fund that prioritises climate action and gender equity. The investment platform focuses on enterprises that are innovative, led or influenced by women, and that support gender parity.

AWE Funds is concentrated on sectors including agritech, healthtech, and climatetech. Additionally, it has smaller allocations set aside for fintech and edtech. The fund primarily invests in post-revenue companies at the pre-Series A and Series A levels.

"The fastest growing market in the world is no longer a specific country, but women. By focusing on gender equity and climate action which are very significantly and inextricably linked, not only can we deliver serious nation building impact returns, but also deliver commercial returns to our investors. It unleashes a virtuous economic value creation cycle that generates sustainable and scalable multi-generational prosperity," said Seema Chaturvedi, Founding Partner of AWE Funds.

It has so far supported a number of startups, including Fresho Kartz, Remedico, Velmini, and Agam.

Kalaari Capital

For Indian female founders and CEOs, Kalaari Capital is levelling the playing field with its CXXO initiative. Launched in 2021, CXXO is built on the three main pillars of capital, community, and coaching. It aims to support women entrepreneurs in India as they define the country's digital charter and add exponential economic value. In order to support female entrepreneurs and foster a thriving network of women who can share knowledge and advance together, Kalaari Capital has set aside USD 10 million annually.

Herkey is the most recent venture that CXXO has funded. Deconstruct, Aastey, Kindlife, Creative Galileo, and Samosa Party are other portfolio startups.

"Successful female founders as company builders serve an important role in Indian economic development. The CXXO programme will ensure there is no bias and discrimination on access to capital. We believe these founders will pioneer workplaces that are equitable and inclusive for more women to rise. At Kalaari, we have always believed in providing opportunities for diverse entrepreneurs to succeed. This initiative, ably supported by other women leaders, is personally important to me," added Vani Kola, Managing Director, Kalaari Capital.

Saha Fund

The Saha Fund aims to advance women in business and business-focused goods and services for women. Its investment portfolio includes businesses where women make up the majority of the workforce or those are developing goods or services specifically for women.

It makes investments in businesses that operate in the fields of ecommerce, social media, mobile, cloud, analytics, education, healthcare, food technology, and tech platforms.

LoveLocal, Joules to Watts, Fitternity (bought by CureFit), MyAlly (acquired by Phenom People), and other female-led enterprises were backed by the firm.

She Capital

She Capital, a diversity-focused venture fund that was established in 2018, is upending India's startup ecosystem by supporting female entrepreneurs both financially and by acting as a binding force for all female founders there through its "Together" community.

It finances early-stage startups in all industries. One of its portfolio firms, Clovia, recently sold to India's largest retail behemoth Reliance for Rs 940 crore, giving investors a 363% internal rate of return. Its portfolio consists of a variety of startups from a variety of sectors, including metaverse, sports tech, retail, hire tech, etc.

"We're here to disrupt the game for women founders, as female-led startups provide better investment returns. It's time to shatter stereotypes and unleash the power of female entrepreneurship for an equitable future," shared the Founder Anisha Singh.

StrongHer Ventures

StrongHer Ventures is an early-stage fund that invests in the next generation of marketing-leading women led/focused companies. Founded by Ankita Vashistha in response to the success of Saha Fund, the first venture capital fund for women-owned businesses that invests in technology startups with a female leadership or emphasis.

StrongHer focuses on pre-seed to early stage tech-driven companies in the areas of fintech, future of work, healthtech, consumer, metaverse, climatetech, sports media and entertainment. Licious, LoveLocal, Luxola, Fitternity, Phenom, J2W, Shoptimize are a few names in the portfolio.

The previous cohort of its accelerator program called Arise received 1350+ applications from 18+ nations and 100+ cities, of which over 500 founder interviews were conducted, and the top 40 startups made it into the cohort.

Along with these VC funds, Qualcomm, a manufacturer of semiconductors, has established the Qualcomm Women Entrepreneurship India Network (QWEIN) in 2020 with the goal of mentoring women in technology and assisting them in realising the full potential of their businesses. The program focuses on women-founded early-stage tech startups and offers 1:1 mentorship from senior Qualcomm leadership for women founders, in addition to masterclasses covering business product strategy, IP strategy, marketing, leadership and more.

Initiated and supported by teams across businesses including the Qualcomm Ventures unit, the program has incubated 26 women-led startups since inception and will incubate 8 more women-led startups engaged in the deeptech space across various industries in 2023.

Sujata is an engineering graduate and has done her Post Graduation in Human Resource Management. She has a deep interest in startups, venture capitalists & technology. She can be reached at sujata@entrepreneurindia.com.

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