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These Shepreneurs are Scripting the Next Chapter of Entrepreneurship These 23 inspiring women across 23 categories will give a sense of inspiration, commitment to a cause and more reason to believe in a better world

By Punita Sabharwal

You're reading Entrepreneur India, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

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As we were in the third edition of our Shepreneurs - 'Women to Watch' special issue, we thought how to come out with the most holistic list, which truly showcases achievers from different genres. Many people argue - do we still need a separate edition for women entrepreneurs, can't it be merged with regular issues. We feel, however, it needs a special mention to create awareness, bring visibility and make sure others leverage from it sooner, to have an equal play.

The issue kick-started on a positive note by India's first and only self-made woman billionaire Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Chairperson and Managing Director, Biocon, and philanthropist, agreeing to come on board as the 'Guest Editor' for this special edition. Her journey in the field of biotechnology has been remarkable. What she accomplished was unthinkable in the late 70s, much before people became aware of the field or what it meant. It was more of an honour for us, as she chose to review the special pages and give everyone the guiding light by writing the foreword.

While compiling the list, we did not restrict ourselves to those who are making money and waves but dug deeper to look for game changers. We were inclined towards entrepreneurs, innovators and achievers.Our list includes women from various industries. We got fashion designer Masaba Gupta, Chef Ritu Dalmia, a new-age film director Alankrita Srivastava – all of whom wrote new chapters in their respective industries. There are women like Divya Modi-Tongya, who rose to equal stature in her father's business, as her brother.

As inspiration follows in all the ensuing pages, we believe to have many more women writing to us about their stories as the world needs more of them. These 23 inspiring women across 23 categories will give a sense of inspiration, commitment to a cause and more reason to believe in a better world.

(This article was first published in the March issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)

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The 'Big Mama' of Investments - Bala Deshpande

Despite having a humongous experience of 17 years in the investment industry, Deshpande, remains humble to express, "Meeting diverse entrepreneurs is the best part of my journey, as they made it meaningful." Having being an investment guru for over 3,000 companies across sectors and stages, she shares "One thing that is common to all entrepreneurs is fretting over valuation," She explains how she anchors the transformation of various industries which is now majorly driven by technology.

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The Queen's Hospitality - Dr. Jyotsna Suri

Bharat Hotels was started in 1981 by the Founder Chairman Lalit Suri and his wife Jyotsna Suri through bank loan and personal savings. Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, Jyotsna always wanted to do something which would take the country forward and also caters to people.

Describing itself as traditionally modern, subtly luxurious and distinct, the Lalit Suri hospitality Group is India's largest privately owned hotel chain. Talking about her next big goal, she shares, "Right now, I am focused on opening of The Lalit Ahmedabad.

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'Queen Bee' of Quirky Prints - Masaba Gupta

Hailing from an IndoCaribbean background, Gupta's edgy designs have been adored by desi and also pardesi celebs, both on and off the red carpet and silver screen. Debuting at Lakme Fashion Week and that too at the age of 19 has been a milestone for the queen of fashion.

Owning close to five stores in Delhi, Mumbai and Pune, her flagship store in Hyderabad is a direct reflection of her Indo-Caribbean background.

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The New Entrant to Family Office - Divya Modi-Tongya

After doing her Masters in Accounting from the University of Southern California, USA, Modi entered the family business which spans across telecommunications, healthcare, financial services and real estate in Singapore and India. Talking about her initial tryst in the family set up, Divya recalls, "My first venture was setting up a lifestyle centre in Noida called the Spice World.

Divya has recently setup Interweave Ventures, with the vision to invest in businesses in upcoming sectors, as part of the family office of the Smart Group.

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A Zeal to Empower - Neerja Birla

Birla, the founder of Mpower, is out on a mission; a mission that needs urgent attention.As the wife of renowned industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla she was always interested in serving the society.

With a team of primary mental health workers, psychologists and counsellors, Birla works with children, young adults, families, schools and communities to provide them with services like assessments, therapies, psychiatric consultations, workshops and training.

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Scaling on the Higher Notes - Neeti Mohan

A trained classical singer, for Mohan music was a regular affair since childhood. She rose to fame with Channel V's 'Popstars' in 2003 and never looked back. Her Bollywood debut came along with Alia Bhatt's Student of the Year for whom she sang Ishq wala Love.

On the other side, this Yoga enthusiast is an avid Badminton player who finds peace and love with her family and pet dog when not working.

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The Diva of Indo -Italian Cuisine - Ritu Dalmia

When Dalmia started off, since she came from a Marwari family, many people asked her, "Will you be cooking meat and serving beer." People in her community considered being a chef was about doing some menial job.

In 1993, at the age of 21, she set up MezzaLuna, a Mediterranean restaurant with an Italian accent, in Delhi's Hauz Khas village. The food was excellent, but MezzaLuna's fortunes weren't. An undeterred Dalmia moved to London, where she opened Vama, an Indian fine dining restaurant. The restaurant was a big success and even won rave reviews.

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Making Healthcare Accessible – Meena Ganesh

Coming from a reasonably conservative South Indian family, Ganesh was not exposed to the idea of setting up a business and chose to pursue a corporate career after IIM Calcutta.

Currently, Portea has 4,500 employees across 16 cities managing 120,000 visits per month. As a partner of the platform, Growthstory, she is also the co-promoter of nearly a dozen Internet and technology enabled start-ups.

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Producing Dreams - Prernaa Arora

Born in Rajpura, Punjab, to an agriculturist father from the North India and an entrepreneurial mother hailing from Mumbai (with a booming business of Kamala Circus owned by her grandfather), Arora as a child nurtured the dream of being part of the B-town.

Talking about her learnings she says, "Smart financial planning is the biggest key when it comes to producing films. Prernaa partnered with Arjun N Kapoor to start their production house KriArj Entertainment.

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First Lady of Auto Space - Harshbeena Zaveri

Zaveri, who is among the few women working in the auto component space, started her journey on NRB's shop floor (the needle bearing company was started by her father in 1966), where she learned everything about steel.

Presently, Zaveri is looking towards acquiring in the friction-bearing space, engineering services and is likely to set up greenfield project overseas. The company is also open to collaborating with start-ups, but Zaveri is yet to find NRB's match.

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The Beauty of E-retail - Falguni Nayar

A few years ago buying makeup and other beauty products was a great hassle! The branded stores were very few and mostly located in the tier I city malls.

Today, Nykaa hosts more than 850 brands, which includes international brands like MAC, Bobbi Brown, Huda Beauty, Dear Packer, Wet N Wild, Estee Lauder and The Balm. The company employs more than 500 people and on an average, it dispatches two million products a month.

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‘Acche Din’ for Hospitality Business - Nirupa Shankar

Women entrepreneurs and industry leaders often face varied challenges. But Shankar knows how to 'make lemonade when life throws her lemons'. Believing that business comes first and then gender, Shankar has strung the right chords to bring about wholesome change in her father's existing company Brigade Hospitality. As the director of Brigade group's hospitality division, she oversees the operations and strategy for the company's assets, which includes convention centres, serviced apartments, membership clubs and event management.

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Comedy Princess - Bharti Singh

Breaking all odds, Singh has set a bench mark for all women comedians in an out-and-out male dominated space. "I never thought I would be pursuing a career in entertainment as I was more of a sports person," says Singh, a gold medallist in rifle shooting and archery and wished to bring laurels to India in Olympics. But, destiny had some other plans. It was her mentors in college, who actually identified her funny side. "After seeing me mimicking someone, somewhere, my theatre teacher offered me to join theatres and even said that I had a perfect voice for it as well. I was so shy that I refused," she adds. Her teachers pushed her to go for an audition, where she met Kapil Sharma. After the first shot itself, Sharma exclaimed, "ye kar sakti hai" (She can do this).

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Fist of Fury - Mary Kom

Fighting with the grave infrastructural setbacks, India's only woman boxer Kom is working day in and day out to provide the best facilities to the aspiring sportspersons in India. Her ultimate objective for the academy is to create champions from underprivileged areas. All her academies will comprise of indoor stadiums with gallery and multi boxing ring, gymnasium, physiotherapy facility, hostels, guest house, dining and kitchen etc

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Woman in Blue - Mithali Dorai Raj

The first captain to lead India to an ICC ODI World Cup final twice, Raj has set a precedent for women to choose their dreams over societal expectations.

The year 2017 belonged to Raj. In February, she became the second player to make 5,500 runs in WODIs. In July, she became the first player to make 6,000 runs in WODIs. She led the Indian team to the Women's Cricket World Cup finals. The team lost to England by nine runs. In December, she was named as one of the players in the ICC Women's ODI Team of the Year.

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Electrifying a ‘Greener India’ - Sulajja Firodia Motwani

Sheer hard work, intelligence and determination never go unnoticed, and Firodia, has been reaping the sweet fruits of her labor. Having rejoined her father's venture in 1996 (post her MBA), she has been spearheading Kinetic group's overall business strategy and development. From then on, Firodia has been tirelessly working towards strengthening his vision by charting new territories of growth and ensuring that Kinetic remains a happy place to work

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Starting the New Wave - Swapna Dutt

This hidden gem from Andhra Pradesh has not only made a mark in television as the 'Queen of Reality TV' in South India, but is now racing ahead to become one of the early entrants into the digital content space. The daring and dauntless daughter of South India's production king Ashwin Dutt, Swapna Dutt tasted success and failure all too soon and is now only proud to have found the balance.

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Choosing a Bolder Profession - Roshni Sanah Jaiswal

Never did I ever think for once, before getting into the liquor industry that I am entering a 'maledominated' space. Yes, the segment has been largely catered by males, but that doesn't make them the leaders," says Jaiswal. Coming from a family that owns one of the largest IMFL (India made foreign liquor) brand did not mean that Jaiswal knew what she wanted to do when she finished college.

Today, her personal style and ideology is evident across Jagatjit's brands. Their IICE Vodka brand was launched an year back with a sleek design and in new flavors, and with Kalki Koechlin as its brand ambassador. Jaiswal along the way has taken many tough calls as she continues to steer the company to its original glory.

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Balancing Entrepreneurship With Purpose - Deepanjali Dalmia

About 80 per cent of Indian women till date do not use sanitary napkins. Interestingly, the rest are somewhat unaware of the carcinogenic products used in those," mentions Dalmia. She further states that she identified the gap in this market during her research before launching the product. "Back in New York with Ernst & Young, I had a perfect life but who wants perfection over impact?" states Dalmia. Apparently, Indian women hardly have a choice when it comes to menstrual hygiene. And Dalmia addressed this issue by launching her biodegradable organic napkins in late 2017.

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Creating Golden Opportunity - Anannya Chowdhury

To explore her creative pursuit, Anannya Chowdhury broke away from her family jewellery business to start Anjali Jewellers in 1992 along with her husband, Uttiya Chowdhury.

Anjali Jewellers was the first company to introduce gold quality certificates in Kolkata, in 1999. They also introduced very low priced diamond jewellery, which was a huge turning point for them because no other brands were concerned about the price point at that time.

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Packaging Sweetness -Schauna Chauhan

Chauhan has been the driving force behind Frooti, a widely accepted innovation of India. Chauhan joined the board in 1999 and took over as a CEO in 2006 and since then, there has been a steady increase in their market share in the countries where they have been exporting.

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The Feisty Storyteller - Alankrita Shrivastava

The force behind the most talked about film of 2017, Lipstick Under My Burkha, is a woman who has learnt to never give up. Despite the censor board prohibiting the release of her film that spoke about female desire in a patriarchal society, Shrivastava refused to bow down. The film got the go-ahead to be released in India only after it won multiple awards internationally. Her faith in her work and the cause of women is what distinguishes her as a filmmaker in an industry that is obsessed with slap-stick comedy and dynasty stars.

Entrepreneur India

Publishing Invisible Words - Upasana Makati

In a country where the visually handicapped have almost no access to books, it was a herculean task for Makati to start India's first lifestyle magazine in Braille. "It was on a quiet night when I randomly wondered about what the visually impaired started their day with. When I couldn't find an answer to it, I was taken aback," says Makati. After a month-long research, in her words, she reached nowhere. Having understood the gap, she quit her job to start White Print in 2012. Makati collaborated with the National Association for the Blind in Mumbai, who agreed to help her with the publishing process and offered their technical know-how, including Braille printing.

Punita Sabharwal

Entrepreneur Staff

Managing Editor, Entrepreneur India

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