Making History: Indian Women Leaders Acing the Investment Game As we inch closer to the conclusion of Women's History Month, here's a look at important women investors whose work over the years transformed the Indian startup ecosystem
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Women's History Month—celebrated in March every year to honour women's contributions to history as well as contemporary society—will soon draw to a close. From access to education to financial independence to workplace safety, our collective discursive effort this month has focussed on unpacking the key ingredients required for women's success across fields, exemplified by several achievers who've made their mark in male-dominated professions despite inherent challenges. One such space is investments, and women in the Indian startup ecosystem have made history there too. Here is an inexhaustive list for your perusal!
Founder and managing partner of Kalaari Capital (formerly Indo-US Venture Partners), Kola has a master's degree in engineering and spent 22 years in Silicon Valley as a serial entrepreneur before returning to India to make technology-focussed investments in early-stage ventures. Through her VC firm, she has invested in many successful companies such as Dream11, Urban Ladder, Snapdeal and Myntra. A Kalaari Capital initiative, CXXO was launched in July 2021 to level the playing field for women entrepreneurs and solve the early-stage funding bias for women founder-CEOs by setting aside $10 million annually for such ventures. According to Kola, inclusive economic growth cannot happen without providing women leaders with adequate opportunities.
Coming from an engineering background as well, Bansal is the founder of climate and sustainability fund Avaana Capital and has invested in ecommerce unicorns Nykaa and Lenskart and logistics giant Delhivery, among others. One of the first such funds in India, Avaana Capital was established to capitalise early on the Indian climatetech opportunity and has so far invested in around 20 startups which are solving large-scale problems while moving towards commercialisation and profitability. Many accolades decorate her curriculum vitae: independent non-executive director on several leading boards such as Tata Power, Nestle and Piramal Enterprises; member of the Niti Aayog Evolution Review Committee; appointed to Expert Advisory Committee for the Start Up India Seed Fund Scheme; previously served as President of the Bombay Chamber of Commerce; and more.
One of the most well-known names in the startup ecosystem, Ruparel's professional journey has been a tale of admirably versatile roles: real estate business owner; head of corporate communications and corporate social responsibility; an angel investor. Today, she's the president of one of India's largest angel funds, the Indian Angel Network (IAN), which she founded over a decade ago with industry veterans Raman Roy and Saurabh Srivastava. In October last year, IAN announced the close of its second fund, IAN Alpha Fund, which will deploy INR 1,000 crore in sectors such as cleantech and environment, health tech, agritech, edtech, fintech, web3, space-tech and others over the next eight years. Notably, Ruparel is also the cofounder of the Delhi chapter of The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE), a non-profit organization founded in Silicon Valley in 1992 to foster entrepreneurship through mentoring, networking, education, funding and incubation.
A finance professional by training who went on to occupy several leadership roles in many a company, Subramanian founded early-stage venture fund Ankur Capital in 2014 in partnership with physicist Ritu Verma. Spanning more than 20 startups, the fund's investments cater to digital and deep science tech companies, aiming to alleviate major issues in the areas of agriculture, healthcare, manufacturing and digitalisation. While the first two funds were worth $8 million and $52 million respectively, Ankur Capital announced last year its plans to launch its third fund with a size in the range of $125-150 million.
Sakshi ChopraUnlike many of her peers who apparently came to venture investing from a consulting background, Chopra was a banker with Deutsche Bank for five years in Germany before joining VC giant Sequoia India in 2010 as part of the analyst programme. In an interview with Forbes India, Chopra recounts having experienced sexism from an investee company early on in her career. However, undeterred by the discrimination, she went from strength to strength, facilitating Sequoia's investments in successful companies such as Indigo Paints and Paper Boat, and was elevated to the position of managing director in July 2021. "The thing that gets me most excited about a founder's pitch is the articulation of their vision, their desire to take on incumbents, and their appetite to solve really big problems. I look for founders who are obsessed with rebooting the Indian dream," states her profile on Sequoia's website.