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Investors Catalysing Women's Representation In The Indian Entrepreneurial Ecosystem According to the World Bank, doubling the percentage of women in the workforce would boost India's growth rate from 7.5 per cent to 9 per cent and raise the country's GDP to $700 billion by 2025.

By Saptak Bardhan

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"Women are like teabags. You never know how strong they are until they are in hot water," said Eleanor Roosevelt. Women have helped shape and changed the course of history. Women were integral to the evolution of mankind and it has been said by many that women were the very first entrepreneurs of the world. Residing in a patriarchal society, women also had to face stereotyping, gender discrimination, etc. However, women overcame all those hurdles and made a name for themselves in every field men dominated in and went one step further, proving to men that they were just as good. Women have fought and won for equal participation in everything. However, one thing where it lags is their representation in entrepreneurial ventures.

Women have made it far in their battle to overcome the notions of the patriarchal society, yet there is a serious lack of representation of women in the entrepreneurial field. Burdened with stereotypical responsibilities of starting a family, raising children, etc. women have fallen down the pecking order. Men have largely dominated the entrepreneurial space. Based on a study (2018) by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Mass Challenge, a US-based network of accelerators, when women go for funding rounds, they received less funding, but produce more revenue per dollar funded. India has been considered as one of the best destinations to establish a startup. This statement has been solidified further with a huge number of startups achieving the Unicorn status. However, the journey for women in the entrepreneurial field is not easy. According to the sixth economic census released by the ministry of statistics and programme implementation, women make up 14 per cent which is a mere 8 million of the total business population of 58.5 million people in India. A major impediment women startup founders face is access to capital. Between January 2018 and June 2020, funding raised by start-ups with at least one woman founder accounted for only 5.7 per cent ($1.69 billion) of total funding across 378 deals, while female-founded startups received only 1.43 per cent ($480 million) across 80 deals, according to the Makers India Report 2020 (YS) – the State of Women in Tech Entrepreneurship in India. Over 70 per cent of the total finance requirement of women entrepreneurs in the country remains unmet, according to a recent IFC report. According to a November 2020 report of the Initiative for What Works to Advance Women and Girls in the Economy, gender research and advocacy organization, only 7 in 100 enterprises are run by women. "Key challenges for startups in India include generating funding, limited understanding of customers, penetrating the market, hiring qualified employees, and the complex regulatory environment. For women entrepreneurs, however, there are additional barriers which are part of a broader and more pronounced gender gap in male-dominated Indian society," said Kunal Chowdhry, Global Angel Investor and CEO, Apollo Singapore Investments.

Women's representation in leadership roles has also taken a tumble. According to a report by Innoven Capital, approximately 30 per cent of startups have more than 20 per cent of women in leadership which is a slight reduction from 2020 (33 per cent). Around 41 per cent of startups have less than 10 per cent of women in leadership positions which only goes on to solidify the gender biases in India. Women are gradually taking up leadership positions and forming an ecosystem of their own as the women entrepreneurs have started emerging. According to the World Bank, doubling the percentage of women in the workforce would boost India's growth rate from 7.5 per cent to 9 per cent and raise the country's GDP to $700 billion by 2025.

"We launched Women Investor Network (WIN) in 2021 at the backdrop of a strong business case for women to invest, take board positions and also add value to startups. Today the platform has about 200-plus women investors that have been investing and mentoring startups. There is still more work to be done for women entrepreneurs like - reduction in gender gap and providing leadership roles to women which help in bringing more women into the entrepreneurial ecosystem," said Shanti Mohan, co-founder and CEO, LetsVenture.

Even though the sector is claimed to be male dominant, women are continuously making their mark on the sector. The increasing number of female entrepreneurs has changed the business demographics and helped in the generation of new jobs. Young women have a significant place in business- 58 per cent of India's female entrepreneurs are in the 20-years to 30-years age bracket at the time of starting up, according to a report in Women's Entrepreneurship in India. There has been a significant increase in the number of women-led venture capital funds which has boosted the entire ecosystem. A panel for Venture Capital or Private Equity firms as instructed by the government in the Union Budget financial year 2022-23 has been a welcome move by entrepreneurs and investors alike.

Men have dominated the entrepreneurial space for far too long as gender roles, masculine corporate culture, access to finance have been some of the hurdles for women entrepreneurs to come forth. However, Falguni Nayar, Vineeta Singh, Priyanka Gill, Upasana Taku, Ruchi Kalra, Ruchi Deepak have been a source of inspiration as more and more women break those barriers to come through as entrepreneurs.

Saptak Bardhan

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