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Sun Is Rising on Women entrepreneurship; Fostering a Self-Reliant India

There are no secrets to success – just some strategic decisions, hard work and a dash of luck. In general, some factors that have worked for some women entrepreneurs:

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Closer home, women entrepreneurs who have risen to the pedestal of female icons are far and few –Kiran Mazumdar Shaw of Biocon, Vandana Luthra of VLCC and Ritu Kumar. Women participation increased in the workforce and several women are wetting their feet in the startup ecosystem.

The formal participation of women in the workforce has increased from 12% in the 1970s to 25% today. However, the irony here is that a large part of the women participation is in the informal sector, which is not accounted for.

About 14% of Indian women own or run businesses, according to the 2014 Economic Census. More than 90% of companies run by women are microenterprises, and about 79% are self-financed. Howsoever long the road to gender neutrality, statistics have been very encouraging. And hopefully, with this article, we inspire women who are sitting on the fence to take the leap and make their mark on the road towards an inclusive and diverse world.

Secret ingredients for a woman’s success?

There are no secrets to success – just some strategic decisions, hard work and a dash of luck. In general, some factors that have worked for some women entrepreneurs:

  • Never say die attitude: To bring in a systemic change, resilience is key. It is like climbing a hill against the wind. Steady, consistent, and continued efforts take us a long way
  • Networking: Women generally find it difficult to break closed groups and build their own networks. But as the number of women in business/workforce increase, there are several platforms encouraging women networking for personal as well as professional growth
  • Mentoring: Mentors play an important role in one’s career track. Access to real mentors in a male-dominated environment is a constraint. Still, a number of organizations are now encouraging buddy systems and formal/informal relevant mentors who can really help smoothen the journey
  • Support from family: Family support and happiness is core to the success of every woman. Essentially, if the house is not in order, it’s tough to build a business. The secret sauce to work-life balance is the ability to build a solid support system (childcare, education, house help) which can take care of things in an auto mode and provide women with the flexibility to decide their course
  • Ecosystem interventions: Multiple interventions at state as well as national level exist to facilitate and support women entrepreneurs. NITI Aayog has initiated various women-oriented programs and have a platform for mentoring women entrepreneurs. Several other organizations like the Ford Foundation, UNDP, etc are focused on promoting women through their initiatives. There is also increasing support from banks & VC funds to finance women entrepreneurs and provide them with equal footing in their entrepreneurial journey

While this non-exhaustive list of factors does not promise success, they do play a key role in ensuring women get a level playing field in a formerly controlled patriarchal world of business.

Women in action

bunch of women entrepreneurs mushroom across different segment. In fashion and consumer goods, where women have an edge, we have seen a bunch of women build credible businesses and brands:

Interesting businesses to highlight

  1. Anita Dongre (AND, Global Desi): She redefined fashion through fusion clothing and created one of the most popular and successful women’s clothing brand in India
  2. Ghazal Alagh (Mamaearth): She bridged the gap of quality, reliable and natural products for mom and baby, something which used to be a luxury of globe trotters
  3. Shilpa Sharma (Jaypore): Enabling craftsmen and artisans across India, Jaypore has become a popular new age digital brand in handicrafts
  4. Gazal Kalra (Rivigo): A space where women may be conspicuous by their absence, she made it big by creating a platform for aggregating truckers to ensure efficient logistics
  5. Rashmi Daga (FreshMenu): She solved for the drudgery of canteen food at work by creating an on-demand fine-dine venture which operates through cloud kitchens across few major cities in India

The above are just a few illustrations, which signify the diverse sectors women are in and the innovative ways they have come up for solving solutions at scale. The tip of the iceberg is just beginning to surface. The hidden potential of the women is huge and an important factor in the growth of India at this pivotal stage.

Truly, if India wants to become ‘Atmanirbhar’ in the 21st century, women are going to play a major role to build more indigenous solutions – she constitutes almost 50% of the population. With the support of government interventions, family support, right networks and funding partners, we will see more and more women building successful businesses. Not because they are women – but because of their ability and capability – because they are THE women.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Ratna Mehta

The author is Executive Vice President, Wadhwani Catalyst Fund at Wadhwani Foundation

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