Nirmala Sitharaman Launches UberPITCH 2016 Challenge For Women Entrepreneurs "There are a lot of boards that lack women and it's not that we don't want them, but where are they?"

By Ritu Kochar

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Uber's plans for India are much bigger than leading the taxi aggregator race. Although they remain bullish in the Indian market, Uber has proved that their goal remains to be spread the entrepreneurial bug around. They have been doing this in the US and now their focus lies on Indian and making it their second largest marketplace.

In January 2016, Uber CEO Travis Kalanik met Prime MinisterModi for a conversation on what it takes to build a new generation of entrepreneurs. In his commitment to contribute to the startup ecosystem in India, Kalanick announced Uber's partnership with Invest India and launched the programme, UberEXCHANGE.

In keeping with Modi's vision of creating a nation of job creators rather than job seekers, the program has been developed to serve as a platform for mentorship of the vibrant startup community in India. The cab hailing firm will host a series of six leadership talks by senior Uber executives during which they will address a different challenge that entrepreneurs face when founding their own company. These can include fundraising, product design, engineering and how to scale a business. Practical, first hand advice can often mean the difference between success and failure when it comes to starting your own business.

Today, Uber took a step further in making this mentorship more accessible to the entrepreneurs in our country. In an event held in Delhi organized by FICCI Ladies Organisation, Uber launched its pan-India startup challenge, UberPITCH 2016. Launched by Nirmala Sitharaman and Ramesh Abhishek, UberPITCH challenge enables anyone who aspires to be the next big sensation in the startup space to try pushing a button and getting a ride with a top Indian investor. Selected entrepreneurs will get seven minutes to pitch their idea during a ride with Uber -- essentially an elevator pitch on wheels -- and another seven minutes of feedback.

"We are highly supportive of initiatives like UberEXCHANGE and UberPITCH that strengthen the current startup space through mentor led knowledge-sharing and enable entrepreneurs to realise their potential. I'm excited to see how public-private partnerships are helping catalyse conversations and investment opportunities for Indian start-ups, in pursuit of our vision around Start-Up India," the Minister of Commerce and Industry said.

"Startups, we are here to make process simpler," Sitharaman said in conversation with Uber's Rachel Whetstone about Indian entrepreneurship. Below are some excerpts from the fireside session:

On Indian entrepreneurial ecosystem

Seeing true potential in the growing Indian startup ecosystem, Sithraman added, how startups today realize that it's possible to try, to look at areas in which India has been for wanting in terms of thoughts, in terms of processes and in terms of people reaching out. "I have constantly dispelled that most of the startups are tech startups. I see here some wonderful work happening in agriculture, health, education. I'm glad startup does not confine itself to being tech start-ups. And some great innovatin is coming out of startup going to remote villages to work.

However, the absence of women, both in politics and entrepreneurship, is something that hasn't gone amiss from her the eyes. She explained how extremely hard it gets to find women to put them on boardrooms. "There are a lot of boards that lack women and it's not that we don't want them, but where are they?" she asked.

Advice for women entrepreneurs

Having started a venture of her own years back, Sitharaman shared the excitement of starting a venture. It was a school which didn't work out but gave her a great piece of lesson which she shared with the women entrepreneurs present –

"You should be clear that you want to follow your passion and do it. However, there might come a time when you no longer want to continue... then you must have the courage to walk out."

On UberPitch

Commenting on some of the developments by Uber that could really help Indian entrepreneurs, Sitharaman said,

"Mentoring is one area I would want every company to engage in (like Uber). It's because since these companies have grown in the system and they have grown big, they are now able to stand up and say that I contributed this and this is what I get out of business here. Mentoring is something which is never enough of in India given the population size, the largeness of the country being what it is, and also accessing everybody who wants to do something is difficult for government. Therefore, corporations like Uber and known start-ups which have found success, they should give back in terms of mentoring. Mentoring need not end up in competition, it actually builds the spirit up, there's more space for everybody and it actually generates more demand for the services which are already available.

Two, instead of thinking that the success you have attained is yours entirely, it might be useful for you to repeat and codify what actually led to the success because that's what is going to help the government enable with policies. What actually stood as an obstruction, where was the handicap and what did you do to get over that handicap, your experiences should be documented for policy makers."

Wavy Line
Ritu Kochar

Former Staff, Entrepreneur India

Ritu used to work as a Feature writer for Entrepreneur India.

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