– By Anika Parashar
India is the shining beacon when it comes to startups. With more than 100 unicorns, the country is churning out startups that not only add to the economy but also add value to India’s position as a leading authority on commerce and innovation across the globe. It is projected that India will be home to more than 150 unicorns by 2025.
With this exciting entrepreneurial terrain in the country, it is of paramount importance to note the contributions that the women founders are making to the startup sector. Women founders not only contribute to women’s empowerment and economic growth but also bring their unique set of skills and expertise to the work environment.
Research by the IMF suggests that gender diversity is crucial to boosting productivity and growth. Yet, we in this country have often been negligent when it comes to supporting women founders. Painting women in non-viable gender roles and social norms often prevent them from venturing out and realising their dream project – and more importantly creating innovative concepts for the country while representing the female half of it.
As a woman founder in India, the unprecedented challenges go beyond just a lack of familial support. It truly is a layered problem that comprises everything from access to funds, socioeconomic status and cultural outlook. Founding a business and taking it from inception to execution and then growth comes with a lot of hurdles, even more so if you are a woman.
An idea for the business is just the framework. It is built with the right opportunities, teams and resources. A majority of access to skilled personnel, charting the right course of action, growth opportunities et al depend on networking and running in the right circles. Restricted access to professional networks is a major challenge for women founders. The professional networks too, conditioned by patriarchy are usually dominated by men. This makes it difficult for women founders to access relevant opportunities to find investors, collaborators, incubators, etc.
Besides this, the lack of impetus for growth and venturing out to start a business often stem from years of bias against women. Their work has often been termed a hobby and their drive is curbed at every turn. Amidst this mountain of issues, very few women break free and follow their unique path. This has led to immense underrepresentation of women founders in the business sector. Thus affecting financial help from the funding sector and the family. This scant representation of women founders in India also affects mentorship opportunities. It not only leads to lost opportunities but also loss of shared experiences and interests which play a major role in investing. Without enough understanding of women-led businesses and not enough active participation of women in the funding arena, male investors’ are often not keen to invest in businesses led by women founders.
With the handful of women founders blazing the trail in India, it is truly exceptional to note that if a few women can bring about such a magnanimous change to the startup sector, what would the startup landscape look like if more women were extended the right opportunities, support and incubation to materialize their business ideas. There is a paradigm shift as more and more women entrepreneurs are coming to the forefront and building successful businesses, however, these stories are too far and few. The growth of women founders in India requires undivided attention and sustenance from the investment sector and a monumental change in socio-cultural outlook towards the women of this country. That is truly the only way to boost women founders.
(Anika Parashar is the founder & CEO at The Woman’s Company)