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These #10 Superwomen are Breaking the 'Glass Ceiling' With Their Business Acumen 20-year-old Ayesha Aziz has set a record by becoming one of the youngest pilots in India

By Baishali Mukherjee

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Entrepreneur India

Women have been through two revolutions — the right to vote and the drive towards workplace equality. The third women's revolution is about changing the business space to make it led by women.

More and more women are getting into fields hitherto dominated by men. Last year, Mumbai started the pink auto initiative, where pink coloured autos with women drivers ply the roads of the city. 20-year-old Ayesha Aziz has also broken a glass ceiling by becoming one of the youngest pilots in India. Not only in terms of career opportunities, women are exploring unchartered territories in the field of entrepreneurship as well.

Entrepreneur India interviewed a band of feisty shepreneurs, who are radically breaking the glass ceilings and are emerging as key drivers of economic growth in India.

Mita Chakraborty, Founder, MSR

With around 18 years of management experience in IT and IT-enabled Services, Customer Relationship Management and Business Operations, Mita Chakraborty, is a veteran in the tech domain. B.Tech in Computer Science, she gathered experience by supporting clients from the UK, Europe, North America and India.

Though the society both in India and globally have evolved, there are still social stereotypes and prejudices that one needs to deal with while adopting an unconventional role. Chakraborty a B.Tech in Computer Science, has faced discrimination. "As a woman in a leadership role, I too had to the extra mile to prove my worth," she shared.

A good support system, self-belief and acceptance of the way things are being currently done, are good starting points to break the ceiling, feels Chakraborty.

Nidhi Saxena, Founder, Zoctr Health Network

Saxena has been extremely passionate about technology from the beginning and believed tech to be the biggest disrupters across industries. Her start-up, Zoctr, a mobile app helps people discover, geo tag and make home health bookings real-time. She has used technology to transform a very traditional and fragmented industry while improving operational and execution metrics.

While things are changing for women, negative perceptions about women being tech savvy and entrepreneurial enough and having the potential to create "Unicorns", continue to plague the ambitions of many women. "It is very tough to attract serious capital as a women entrepreneur and if you are not a part of the old boys IIT / IIM club," lamented Saxena.

"Accepting the opinion of venture capitalists, peers or naysayers over your gut feel is a mistake you should never make. No one can predict or create your own future except you," she stressed.

According to Saxena tech is still a very green-field sector with very few women making it to the pinnacle and lot needs to be done to promote women in tech-entrepreneurship.

Bhavjot Kaur, Co-founder, Clinikk Healthcare

Having a background of a business family, Kaur's first tryst with entrepreneurship was at the age of 19, when she had started the firm Y. United Publications that came up with North-East's first tabloid magazine.

A believer in the idea that technology is the driving force in improving healthcare standards, Kaur co-founded Clinikk, a healthcare concierge for blue/grey collared workers. Working in mostly male-dominated industries, the major challenge for Kaur was to find her own voice and stay true to her identity amid varied expectations. "Woman being strong can come across as rude! Striking a fine balance is extremely critical," she notified. She feels women should boldly voice opinions/ideas and be integral part of strategic or major decision-making processed.

Kaur believes women through education and right guidance can help India rise and shine. "India should not just see woman as a caregiver but also an able bread-earner," she asserted.

Alex Suh, General Director of Data Analysis, Balance Hero

Suh, a South Korean expatriate in Gurgaon, finds IT sector attractive because it provides solutions to difficulties posed by inefficiency or seemingly impossible challenges inflicted by systematic limits and eventually advances efficiency of the entire society.

As a data analyst, Suh uses data to aid in strategic decision-making processes in Balance Hero, a fin-tech company, the third start-up she joined.

Stereotypical assumption toward women is not common in Korean start-up culture and her journey was rather smooth.

However, to overcome the constraints placed by male-centered culture, Suh founded her own company and kept the center of gravity to herself by delving into unexplored areas and by acquiring expertise faster than others could. Suh feels there is a need for more diverse government support for women entrepreneurs. "Furthermore, to see more women in IT, it is crucial to make investment for future generations and provide more opportunities for young women to freely learn technology," she concluded.

Bidisha Sen, Founder of Medewise and CEO

Sen, an alumnus of IIT Kharagpur and ISB Hyderabad has 17 years of experience in data and analytics. Her education and experience has given her the expertise in technology fundamentals and in its application in healthcare.

"Today technology has opened up a lot more opportunities with its ability to handle speed, complexities and volume, and this opens up a lot of opportunities in application of technology to solve real life healthcare challenges," shared the founder of a unified, cloud based, mobility-enabled health information management system for doctors, patients and hospitals with focus on child health.

As a woman, her primary challenge was the high expectations she set on herself. She was giving equal priority to her children, work and own-self without being ready to compromise on any one for the other. From career perspective, being in a domain with fewer women she had to navigate certain difficulties.

Sen feels start-up is a great option for women as it gives flexibility and provides a space to fulfil personal goals and leverage skills. "The main challenge remains lack of awareness. Awareness on entrepreneurship should be integrated in the curriculum and education institutes should focus on the multidimensional skills required to be an entrepreneur," she opined.

Payal Lohia, Founder, Kydsmart.com

Sometime in 2016 waiting in the queue to buy her daughter's books it struck Lohia that buying school essentials is a difficult chore while there is so much ease buying everything else with the advent of online stores. Being a marketing professional and, more importantly, a mother she sensed the opportunity of solving the problem for parents and initiated Kydsmart.com, an e-commerce portal for supply of school essentials.

Lohia's journey too had its share of challenges. The daunting one was to set up and get the website up and running. "Developing an e-commerce portal with never ever tried before level of customisations without ever having worked on development of any website was a herculean task," shared the entrepreneur.

Lohia advocated effective implementation of existing schemes for promoting woman entrepreneurship. "The ground reality is different, not only for a woman but overall the ecosystem needs to be more supportive for entrepreneurship," she lamented.

Revathi Roy, Founder, Forsche, & Viira

Roy wears many caps. Besides being a social entrepreneur, she is the winner of NITI Aayog's Women, Transforming India Award, 2016, and has been featured on the cover of Forbes India's first issue of W Power Trailblazers.

Her business field is dominated by male as delivery agents are always men. It was to bring in a change that she introduced the concept of women to take this up as a profession. Roy herself drove a cab for 10 months in 2007 and phenomenally broke the glass ceiling.

The challenges were multiple in Roy's path. "Convincing the girls to take this up as a profession and secure earnings of INR 10-11000 per month was a tremendous ordeal. However, the fact that once they skill themselves, then they can acquire an asset worth INR 60-70k as they get a job with us helped us win them over," divulged Roy, who plans to employ 1 lakh women in next five years.

Roy feels it imperative to create a social fabric where it becomes essential for women to get out of the house.

Mallika Chatterjee, Founder, Good Cause Technologies

Chatterjee's background in Computer Science Application took her to entrepreneurship in tech. Good Cause Technologies is an Information technology firm working in the domain of web development, desktop technology, mobile applications and digital marketing.

"Being a woman, it took me quite a few months to change the mindset of men, who took my initiative for some a fancy figment of the mind. To enforce change, I had to change my dress codes and my way of talking. However, it was a great learning process and I am glad that I learnt fast," she said.

It took Chatterjee two years to break the ceiling as she started getting accounts of top international companies only to face serious challenge when her business partner suddenly left. It was with fortitude that she survived and succeeded.

"There is no dearth of talented women, who can write code, develop critical software and handle big budget projects, but biologically they are constrained to be in office always," she enthused.

According to her recognising the biological realities of women is a must. "The society at large should start accepting women as they are and give them equal opportunities by recognising their talents and skills," she demanded.

Harsha Agarwal, Founder, M-Classifieds

A Charted Accountant, Agarwal embarked on the entrepreneurial journey with her husband. After completing her CA, running a tech-domain business brought her lots of learning opportunities along with her share of challenges.

The most complex challenge was to face the lack of trust from her family and friends. It was with her persistence to learn continually and zeal to implement that learning which has helped her break the proverbial glass ceiling.

Agarwal feels women should be made aware of opportunities available to them and given the freedom to follow their dreams.

Tanya Satish, Founder, Creed Entertainment

Satish always wanted to be her own boss! Her zeal to lead made her start Creed Entertainment, a social-impact consulting and brand-facilitation company.

Challenges were ample for Satish though — money, office, staff, faith in herself to have strength to wait for months before making profit. "Clients kept asking about my experience and sometimes I did not get contracts because people were always looking for experience," she rued.

She now believes that you need to have belief and guidance to fight the challenges. "I believe women can do anything as long as they wear their strengths and skills and not just trousers!" she asserted. Satish has successfully broke the proverbial glass ceiling by carrying out over 54 Cyclothons for sustainable transport and development and successfully held diplomatic World Tourism Conclaves.

As a successful business woman she strongly advocated free government R& D and vocational training programmes for women, so that not just the urban but also the rest of the country develops.

Baishali Mukherjee

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