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More Needed To Encourage Women Entrepreneurs
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Encouraging more women to start and run new business ventures was the dominant theme among investors and entrepreneurs at a day-long event organised by Businessworld to launch its BW Accelerate programme for women.
BW|Businessworld, one of India's most respected business media brands, on Thursday (March 12) unveiled BW|ACCELERATE|Women, a multi-city initiative, focused on networking, mentorship, skill-building, and education of female entrepreneurs.
It aims to support women’s entrepreneurship through initiatives designed to link aspiring and existing women entrepreneurs.
Anurag Batra, editor-in-chief of Businessworld, said a separate forum was needed to foster collaboration, provide mentorship and encourage women's entrepreneurship in India.
Meenakshi Lekhi, a BJP member of Parliament and spokesperson, talked about the larger issue of safety and security for women at workplace.
"Once you give them safety and security, and you nurture their talent, they will manage everything in life," she said.
"If economy needs a boost, this creative force needs to take a centrestage. And until and unless this creative force takes the centrestage, the economy cannot really get the boost we are looking for," Lekhi said.
The event held at the Holiday Inn, Aerocity Hospitality District, had a panel discussion on the policy changes required for making entrepreneurship for women easier.
Ashish Garg, founder and CEO of Discover Tomorrow, called for bringing about a structural change in the education system.
"It is not about the lack of education but the lack of right kind of education. The system doesn’t encourage women to be enterprising and go out there and take risks. The problem is the mindset and that can happen when we change what is taught in schools," she said.
Aparna Dutt Sharma, founding member and former CEO of India Brand Equity Foundation, wants the country to have a platform that highlights the different experiences of women.
"We need a platform that aggregates different experiences of women, the success stories, the challenges, and goes beyond just urban women. It should use internet as a leveller to connect to women at grassroots level and bring them the relevant information," she said.
The discussion on "India's New Generation Entrepreneurs", moderated by Avani Parekh, founder of LoveDoctor.in and lead evangelist at BW|ACCELERATE|Women, had successful entrepreneurs talking about the aspirations behind their ventures. LimeRoad founder and CEO Suchi Mukherjee, author Ira Trivedi, POPxo cofounder and CEO Namrata Bostrom, Tattva Spa-Elements Wellness director Shipra Sharma and Diva Restaurant owner Ritu Dalmia shared their inspiring stories.
The session on funding of new ventures offered advice on how women should develop new business plans to secure financing from investors. Seedfund executive director Paula Mariwala, Sheroes CEO Sairee Chahal, Anita Belani of BMR Advisors, Zinnia Pasricha of Udaan Angels, and 5Ideas partner Pearl Uppal participated in the discussion moderated by Ashu Agrawal, head of BW|ACCELERATE.
The behaviour of women entrepreneurs in terms of making business pitches, confidence levels, financial education, and gender biases were prominently discussed.
The participants were of the view that in securing outside funding a person's gender is not important but what matters is the quality of business plans and the confidence to execute them.
Mariwala said women are often hesitant to make business pitches to raise institutional funding, whereas Uppal urged women not to "hide away” from networking opportunities.
In gender-specific strengths, women are seen as doing better than men in areas such as education, healthcare, fashion and lifestyle – businesses that have a large number of women consumers.
Knowlarity CFO Shruti Agarwal, Deakin University's South Asia director Ravneet Pahwa, Carz on Rent executive director Sakshi Vij, Quintillion Media cofounder Ritu Kapur offered their views on how the climate for women entrepreneurs will change in India over the next 10 years. The session, moderated by Preeti Singh, executive editor of Special Projects BW|Businessworld, looked at market opportunities for female entrepreneurs and the impact women-led ventures will have on society.
The participants felt that women are becoming more economically independent and are better able to use opportunities available to them nowadays. Pahwa was of the view that women in India would be able to accomplish "anything and everything" by 2025.
Evaldesign founder and CEO Akanksha Bapna, Fab Alley cofounder Shivani Poddar, Sakha Cabs CEO Deepali Bhardwaj, MyDala founder and CEO Anisha Singh, and Pooja Mukul, consultant physician with the Jaipur Foot Project, discussed how women can create and run businesses that would have a social impact.
The session conducted by Digital Market Asia editor Noor Fathima Warsia discussed how women could do more to support women’s entrepreneurship in India
Anisha Singh said there is a lack of networking opportunities for aspiring women entrepreneurs.
"I do not think India has much of that," she said, adding that established women entrepreneurs should come forward to help other women through mentorship and networking programmes.