The Indian startup revolution has taken the business world by storm. Based on the total number of startups and Unicorns, the country’s startup ecosystem has been adjudged as the third largest in the world after the U.S. and China. Investments have also gone up drastically. In 2021 investments in India went up 3.8x as compared to 2020.
However, the tale of women entrepreneurship in the country is not as rosy. Faced with a plethora of social, financial and structural challenges women entrepreneurs in India are still far behind their male counterparts.
Out of every 100 entrepreneurs in India, only seven are women says a 2020 report of the Initiative for What Works to Advance Women and Girls in the Economy (IWWAGE), a gender research and advocacy organization.
"India's most prominent offline to online e-commerce platform with world-class technology and cloud infrastructure. Ragini oversees the direction of GMV, user growth and retention for all Fynd platform,"
Coming from the horse’s mouth, the gravity of challenges faced by women entrepreneurs becomes apparent. “The extra barriers in society that hold back women are nothing new, but equally frustrating as they are in all other fields,” adds Ragini.
What’s Holding Women Founders Back
Speaking about the challenges faced by women entrepreneurs in India, Ragini outlines the major factors. “There are conscious and subconscious associations that people make with a gender. Business is not a gender role that people historically assigned to women. This bias of women not belonging in the business space influences others' behaviors, &decisions and ultimately acts as a barrier to our progress,” says Ragini.
She also credits networking spaces being dominated by men as another factors pulling women founders down. Ragini elaborates, “Corporate cultures are historically more male dominated, and their networking and relationship-building activities are too. It gets difficult for women to participate, be invited or even feel welcomed in such all men clubs. Yet, missing out on such opportunities hinders women’s progress.”
There is lack of support for women looking to start their own businesses. “A woman founder will always have fewer supporters than her male counterparts, at work, in society or from their own families. More often than not, women are actively discouraged from going down this line. People often have a negative opinion of women who are very invested in their work rather than, say, taking care of their family or raising children or doing things that are traditionally expected,” reiterates Ragini.
Financing Requirements of Women Founders Not Being Met
Capital is the backbone for building any successful venture. A recent IFC report concluded that over 70 percent of the total financing requirements of women entrepreneurs in India still remain unmet.
Ragini believes that the slow progress of women occupying what is considered a very risky undertaking for them is mostly due to an already skewed gender ratio in the business world. This leads to various obstacles in raising capital as well. “There exists a lack of belief in women’s capabilities to make smart business decisions. Investors often label women founders to be 'high risk' and treat their investment pitches very differently,” explains Ragini.
Gender stereotyping is another factors that stops women from approaching investors. That is why a lot of women-owned small and medium businesses in India are self-financed. Ragini adds, “While understandable, you do miss 100% of the shots you don't take!”
Women Decision Makers can make a Big Difference in improving Parity
Despite facing numerous challenges in the ecosystem, women entrepreneurs in India have reached a significant milestone. As more and more women founders are emerging across India and even from the country’s hinterlands, the number of success stories boost the morale of other aspiring women entrepreneurs.
Ragini believes that women in positions of power can help ease the challenges faced by other women founders. She explains, “A big part of women's empowerment stems from women supporting other women in all walks of life. It holds true for this too. Women being in positions of power and decision-making allows us to leave behind gender-based prejudices to embrace parity rather than just token support.”
She cites the example of how Fynd Platform, one of India's largest offline to online eCommerce platform is helping independent women entrepreneurs expand their homegrown, small and medium businesses in India.
A majority of women-led and homegrown brands powered by Fynd Platform are self-funded. The platform is not only helping women entrepreneurs achieve success but is also bringing more women in the company’s workforce.
“Over the 500 businesses whose online presence we have helped set up with our one-stop solution, our most successful brands are led by women! With Fynd platform, they can make use of our partnered delivery services, payment gateway integration, data analytics and even marketing. And I lead the Fynd Platform team that has, over time, become 80% women,” says Ragini.
Using the Fynd Platform brands can increase their sales by creating their business websites in less than 30 minutes.
Successful Female Role Models to look up to
Other than innovative ideas such as Fynd that are helping women founders turn their entrepreneurial dreams into reality, strong female role models can also motivate more women to take up the path to entrepreneurship.
Speaking about a few such successful female entrepreneurs who have caught Ragini’s eyes, she says, “Many women entrepreneurs have caught my attention and kept me motivated in my journey. When you think of female founders in India, one of the first names that come to mind is Kiran Mazumdar Shaw of Biocon India. Ahead of her time and managing to successfully set up her company at a young age in the 1970s, is there anything not remarkable about her?”
Ragini goes on to acknowledge other inspirational business women as well, “Falguni Nayar showed everyone that age does not dictate dreams when she launched Nykaa at 49. Recipient of one of the highest civilian honors in our country, Padma Shri VandanaLuthra of VLCC has been an inspiration too.”
“Positive representation of women entrepreneurs and leaders in mainstream media matters a lot. More recently, seeing Vineeta Singh of Sugar Cosmetics and NamitaThapar of Emcure Pharmaceuticals on Shark Tank was wonderful,” adds Ragini.
Slowly yet surely, the tribe of successful Indian women entrepreneurs is growing. More power to them all!