We are long past the old wives' tale of the pathetic patriarchal society of the past which forced the idea that women cannot be founders, co-founders, or manage businesses successfully. Now, women are not only reigning in the sphere of businesses but also appearing as a powerful force commanding the startup ecosystem much like their male counterparts. Women entrepreneurs are not a myth now but in fact, breaking the stereotypical boundaries built by a regressive world that was male-dominated.
StartupTalky salutes all the women entrepreneurs this Women's Entrepreneurship Day, who have successfully come out of all the past prejudices and are breaking stereotypes in entrepreneurship!
Nupur Khandelwal | Co-Founder, Navia Life Care
I (Nupur) started my professional journey working in Corporate and worked for almost 4 years in different companies in various roles. While the learning curve was steep in those 4 years, I always felt that I resonated more with startups’ fast-paced and ever-changing dynamic culture. My passion for doing something that creates real value for society at large was my driving force to move from a 9 to 5 job to co-founding a health-tech start-up. My journey so far as co-founder of Navia Life Care has been extraordinary and the startup learnings are incomparable.
Running a company is demanding and challenging. Working through ambiguity, wearing multiple hats, and taking extra responsibility, especially after working in a stable and structured corporate environment can be very stressful at times. However, what has always kept me going is the impact that we’ve been able to create in the healthcare ecosystem, by digitizing thousands of doctors and hence touching the lives of millions of patients.
Dimpy Dewan | Co-Founder, Hanchens
Women are best at Multi-tasking, creativity, money-management, negotiation skills, honesty, resilience, compassion, and taking everyone along. These are exactly the skills required to be a successful entrepreneur in building things ground up. I wish to congratulate all the Women Entrepreneurs who have broken the age-old shackles and pre-conceived notions, rules, barriers and paved the way for other women to come to the forefront to be and lead the change. As women, our intent should not be to follow or to trample over any gender but to walk along and make a mark in building solutions for the largest economy in the world and also taking India to the global arena. With folded hands, I also seek and advise complete support from men of their family and workplace to inspire them and back them in whatever little way they can, which gives them wings to fly and thrive in whatever they wish to do.
Sharmilee Kapur | Founder & Director, Atmantan Wellness Centre
There are many stereotypes attached to Women entrepreneurs... one that always bothered me was that once women get pregnant or have babies, they can't work! Well, that is so not true... Atmantan was a dream come true for me and when we finally started working in it in 2008, I was pregnant. I remember being plump pregnant, and sitting on long 8 hour meetings for 3-4 days at a stretch, with our overseas architects. There was absolutely no dip in my productivity; in fact, I think we did some of our best work then, proof being this fabulous well-planned Wellness Centre! Even after I delivered my son in August 2008, (13 years ago), I would express myself in the early morning, and go attend these very architect meetings.
I did have to have a family member be with my newborn, check with them every 2-3 hours, and also go through some guilt pangs... but I used to tell myself that Atmantan was my dream and I simply needed to put in the work to make it happen. Yes, I would come back home exhausted from those yummy and happy baby hormones, but I did what was needed, and when it was needed and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
Women are like that... we get stuff done, no matter what. It is true that women break stereotypes every day.
Megha Asher | COO & Co-Founder, Juicy Chemistry
You know building a successful business is not just about a brilliant idea or great decision-making. It is not limited to one individual. Instead, it takes an army that is religiously working behind the scenes to build the empire. And this army is not just limited to your core team but includes each and everyone from staff to management, your family, and even your house help who manages your household chores to ensure your work goes on smoothly. Success is always a team effort.
Chaitali Das | Associate VP, Sprink.online, India
Looking at the bigger picture, there has been a paradigm shift to women taking leadership roles in sectors that were previously seen as "male-dominated". Though there have been improvements on social parameters, leading to more acceptance in the business world, women-owned firms or women in leadership roles in healthcare, tech, marketing, food industry, and such other important sectors still somehow remain a minority.
I have always believed that gender does not have anything to do with someone's achievements but certain pressures that women and especially Indian women have to overcome to be able to keep their careers going are too daunting to be overlooked. Even in this century, gender bias at the workplace, being buried under household responsibilities on top of a full-time job, finding the right mentors at the job become deciding factors for women as to whether they want to continue at work.
I consider myself lucky to have worked with an incredible set of people most of the time but at the same time, I have encountered gender stereotypes that hindered me from leading projects or building a support network in male-dominated areas. Over time, I learned to work hard to develop strategies to transform these barriers into opportunities which only helped me in enhancing not just my leadership skills and abilities, but also the overall health of the companies that I've worked with.
Chaitali is the Associate Vice President of Marketing at Sprink.online, a full-stack meal subscription platform, created to make affordable daily personalized meals accessible to people wherever they are – at their homes or workplaces.
Ramya Venkataraman | Founder & CEO, CENTA Pvt Ltd.
While stereotypes, of course, exist, I (Ramya) find that staying focused on your business goals and having no barriers in your mind are the most important things. With that comes the focus on building skills continuously, building networks, and getting the support of your colleagues as well as family - all relevant for both men and women!
Ramya Venkataraman is the founder and CEO of CENTA Private Limited working with more than half a million teachers on certification, careers, and training. Ramya has been recognized as one of '15 Women Transforming India' by NITI Aayog and UN, as one of '25 women leaders in business and social sectors' by The Economic Times, and a distinguished alum of both her alma maters IIT Delhi and IIM Calcutta.
Neha Bagaria | Founder & CEO, JobsForHer
I found out that nobody prepares young women to realize that men’s and women’s career graphs can look very different. We are trained to believe that a career graph is a straight vertical line that keeps rising. But in fact, it doesn’t have to be. And thus I realized that we need to prepare our women for the kind of career stages that life might throw at them. Just because you need to decelerate or take a break or slow down, doesn’t mean you’re done with your career. Once your life stage is right, you can get back right where you left off. And after my own career break and inner struggle to get back to work, inspired me to launch JobsForHer on International Women’s Day on March 8, 2015. JobsForHer enables women to accelerate their careers by connecting them to jobs, community, mentoring, reskilling, inspiration, and networking opportunities.
Neha, a social entrepreneur - her organization is built around the idea to solve the unique challenges faced by women on a break, which she realized from her personal experience. She had taken a 3.6-year break from her profession during maternity and experienced difficulties when she wanted to resume her career.
Raksha Kothari | Co-founder & Head of Sourcing, Go Desi
The manufacturing sector is a largely male-dominated field. As one of the very few women here, the biggest challenge I faced was while having to liaise with machine manufacturers, vendors, farmers, and factory staff. One needs to be both tactical and bullish when dealing with them. The latter is not a trait that came naturally to me and had to be learned with time. I realized that standing your ground and being assertive was the only way forward. These are the qualities that have helped me the most in this journey.
Raksha looks after procurement, vendor management, and production. She also takes care of HR & alliances including recruitment, training & development of the workforce as well as tracking the impact on the ground. Under her leadership, Go Desi has employed more than 200 women in their manufacturing setup in Bangalore.
Aarti Gill | Co-founder, OZiva
Entrepreneurship is about being ready to face challenges head-on and never giving up. Every challenge is an opportunity waiting to be explored. No journey is without struggles. I strongly believe that the success of a startup stems from the drive and ability to fight against these hurdles. We have a number of success stories to prove this theory. For me, it has always been about perseverance. Business models can be figured out if you persist and have the right people by your side.
Our (my co-founder Mihir and me) aim has always been about enabling healthier living. However, when we initially started, the business model had to undergo a few iterations. While the initial ideas did not work out as planned, they gave us an opportunity to understand consumers and the market better. And OZiva was launched in 2016 to cater to the needs of the consumers.
Aarti completed her Bachelor’s in Technology from IIT Roorkee and MBA from INSEAD, France. She has worked across India, US, and Singapore with companies like Credit Suisse, Capital One, and a few tech start-ups. Parallel to her professional life, Aarti also practices OZiva’s core philosophy in her personal life. She ensures that she invests time in bettering her physical and mental wellbeing.
Supriya Kulkarni | MD, Kyzer Software
Entrepreneurship is a complex phenomenon and plays a key role in the economic development of a country. Women entrepreneurs are making significant contributions to global economic health, national competitiveness, and community commerce by bringing many assets to the market.
Based on recent studies, currently, women own less than one-third of small businesses in India and the number is likely to be over 50% in the coming years. The percentage of women entrepreneurs has increased from 7.69% in 1992-93 to 34% in the year 2020-21, but the number still is significantly low.
The number of women in technical courses, professional courses, and engineering streams has shown a tremendous rise. Polytechnics and IITs have only 35% girls out of total enrolled students and very few join and set their own enterprises.
Around 28% of women have an interest in starting an enterprise or are giving it serious thought, compared with 53% of men. Around one in five women come into self-employment from unemployment compared with around one in fifteen for men.
Only 2% of men cite family commitments as a reason for becoming self-employed, compared with 21% of women. Though there has been considerable growth in the number of women opting to work in family-owned businesses, they still have lower status and face more operational challenges in running businesses.
Working in a male-dominated world, woman entrepreneurs face continuous challenges of proving their worth over and over again. The key requirements of expertise, experience, leadership qualities, business acumen, and foresight get challenged so much more from a woman in the ever-changing business environments. As entrepreneurs, one has to overlook public perceptions, reassess market expectations and realign and move ahead to achieve one's vision.
Facing major complications during audits for corporates, Supriya Kulkarni co-founded Kyzer Software. It’s one of the leading banking and financial organizations that came into existence in the year 2016. The firm is focused on the creation of banking RegTech, Trade Finance, and automation products, which supports a wide range of trade products and multiple regulations within a unified platform. Supriya is, at present, the Managing Director of Kyzer.
Arushi Jain | Executive Director, Stayhappi Pharmacy
Every year on November 19, Women’s Entrepreneurship Day is observed to acknowledge, support, and celebrate the invaluable contribution of women business leaders and entrepreneurs towards economic growth and development.
Women are no strangers to entrepreneurship. They have been breaking barriers and leading the way for fellow boss ladies since the 19th century. From running home-based businesses to scaling large teams, women have come so far, breaking glass ceilings along the way.
Women entrepreneurs can contribute to the economy as job creators, which is a spacewoman, are rapidly taking to across India. With adequate support, women entrepreneurs could fuel India’s economic growth ambitions.
I firmly believe that women of tomorrow will surely break this stereotype and not be limited to pursuing only the fields of fashion, art, dance, music, etc. We can break these shackles by attaining knowledge and becoming financially independent-which is the key to liberation. I’ve learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances. I think the key is for women not to set any limits.
Arushi Jain is an award-winning executive who received the prestigious ‘Young Entrepreneur Award’ at the India CSR Summit 2018, at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. After holding a key position in a prominent firm like Ernst & Young, Ms. Jain has brought forward her expertise of Strategy, Audits, Taxation, and Financial matrix to play a vital role in StayHappi’s progress across the nation and continues her influential part for the foremost business decisions.
Bhagyashree Singh | Director & CEO, Merakii
It's not about what you did in a month or a year; it's about making the best of the 24 hours that you have. Women don't have to be perfect to run the show. Be unapologetic and do it your way. Keep the guilt away, be yourself and own it all. You don't have to conquer the world; you just have to find your strength.
Mansi Vyas | Director, Azafran
Women are known to be excellent multitaskers so when it comes to being an entrepreneur, it doesn't surprise me when I see several women leaders coming to the limelight these days as they were always there silently fostering brilliant ventures. It gives me immense pride to be. a part of Azafran's journey. At Azafran, we aren't just frontrunners but also advocate consciousness and sustainable living through our wide range of organic and natural products be it skincare, baby care, food, and nutraceuticals. This Women's Entrepreneur's Day we aim to nurture our organic & natural philosophy not because it's the need of the hour but because it is the right way to lead a happy and fulfilling life on our planet.
Akshaara Lalwani | Founder & CEO , Communicate India
Women-led companies and businesses have tremendous potential to grow and affect real change in the economies of countries. I (Akshaara) believe that as a woman entrepreneur, I am empowered to lead an organisation that creates more opportunities for women, and I have the ability to eliminate problems such as the gender pay gap. When women devote themselves to an organisation, they are passionate, compassionate and 100 percent committed to the job, such dedication can do nothing but help catapult companies to the heights of success. Despite the phenomenal performance of various women-led companies, women entrepreneurs still face a slew of challenges such as biased perceptions and rigid social norms. Young women entrepreneurs have it even more tough as they're trying hard to build networks in the industry but are often brushed aside due their "lack of experience". Nonetheless, I strongly believe in the words of Frida Kahlo - "At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.
Also Read: The Challenges Women Face as Entrepreneurs
Nidhi Ojha | Co-Founder, Premium Bionaturals
Never underestimate a woman, her instincts, or her capability. We are the biggest untapped pool of talent in the WORLD! Premium Bionaturals is a result of that and keeps us pushing harder. Look how far the expectation of cleaning, cooking, and keeping the family safe has brought us! Today, we Women do it all, with our biodegradable and non-toxic range of home care, Hygenic, and pushing others to achieve the same.
Premium Bionaturals is a result of two sisters, Kirti and Nidhi, who want to give back to the planet and lead a safer lifestyle in the form of eco-friendly, toxin-free products used in our daily lives.
Harleen Gulati | Founder, Totally Infuzd
A mother can start a business and run it too because she knows what it takes to multitask like an entrepreneur. So she can brew a tea cuppa at home and can simultaneously ace at running a tea business too!
Founded by a mother of two, Totally Infuzd is the brainchild of Harleen Gulati. Being an advocate of healthy living, Harleen Gulati discovered a gap in the Indian market for wellness teas that cater to perfecting well-being and she thought of stepping in by setting up Totally Infuzd with a touch of luxury. While Harleen Gulati was a renowned nutritionist, she has also trained from the Asian School of Tea. By rounding up the perfect balance of nutrition and tea variants, Totally Infuzd is crafted lovingly by her with the support from the local farmers!
Mehar Gulati | Founder, Scarlet Relations
At Scarlet Relations, we are an all-women run team because we feel that each woman has the ability to rise above the glass ceiling. Who other than women can be better at marketing and communications, We women are anyways known for gossiping and showing off!
Mehar Gulati, a creative strategist & business developer has been trained under the finest minds at the London College of Fashion. After studying Fashion Public Relations and communications, her passion translated to the profession for Mehar at an early stage. Her zealous drive and ambition had her managing the outreach strategies of multiple brands globally. Working with over 20 clients in the Luxury sector in her time at different agencies for 3 years + (Fashion, Retail, F&B, Hospitality, Wellness, FMCG) she followed the trend in and out. Her work as the Founder of Scarlet helps reinforce the primary reason why she opted to join the industry in the first place: the joy of delivering (qualitatively and quantitatively) on the faith that clients place in her. At Scarlet, she adorned the entrepreneurial hat whereby she helps various brands to structure their social media, consult on building the right strategies, and assists in collaborations for sound presence!
Namrata Agarwal | Co-founder, Abbzorb Nutrition
You know what a woman can do in the world with protein powders and supplements? She can launch Abbzorb Nutrition and bring world-class quality wellness supplements at an affordable price to your home!
Abbzorb is a brainchild of Anish Garg and Namrata Agarwal. Founded in the year 2019, Abbzorb is a result of the duo that aims to bring high-quality nutrition and wellness to Indian consumers at affordable prices. Tormented to see the disorganized wellness market in India whereby fake and adulterated products had led to a lot of problems, the duo ventured to start Abbzorb which could help restore the trust of people towards dietary supplements.
Namrata Agarwal joined hands with Abbzorb to ensure that consumers can rely on Indian-made products that are supported by independent internationally accredited lab results. She ensures that the quality of these products is at par with the customer expectations and plays a crucial role in the organizational and logistical frontiers of Abbzorb.
Headquartered in New Delhi, Abbzorb started its journey to formulate world-class products like Whey Based Proteins and Amino derivatives like creatine, BCAAs, and glutamine. It's the relentless effort and pursuit of the duo who took about a year to prepare the right formulation of authentic and cost-effective supplements before launching in the market. Supported by their in-house research team, they have a full-functioning lab that houses the required equipment to help them formulate the finest selection of products.
Kavitta Bedi | Co-founder, xtraview.in
I became an entrepreneur inspired by my daughter’s need of the hour which was her college interview! Since there was no formal lesson on cracking an interview, I knew I had to do something about it for students like my daughter. I would say one shouldn’t be afraid of going after what one believes one can make successful. Have faith and confidence in your own ability. Don't be afraid to get pushed out of your comfort zone but always set boundaries and know when you need to pull out and stop. Be secure in who you are. To me, feminism is just having the choice to choose. Make your own choices and then be happy with them. Continue to learn, up-skill yourself and widen your horizon.
Kavitta B Bedi is the founder and CEO of JBC INC (Just Because its Children), where she brings in broadway theatricals from overseas for children and family audiences all across India. The repertoire of shows includes Barney Live, Spiderman Live, Noddy Live, Jungle Book Jive, Geronimo Stilton Live, etc. These shows have been done in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Dubai, Singapore, etc., An entrepreneur at heart, she is also an angel investor with investments in Tech Startups across Crowd Funding, Food Tech, Supply Chain, Health Tech, and now Ed Tech.
Katherine Ernst Meht | Co-founder, xtraview.in
There are unique challenges that female entrepreneurs face, be it balancing work and motherhood, or striving to establish credibility in the workplace. Rather than treating these as “weaknesses” and trying to mask these and emulate our male counterparts, we must learn to play to our strengths, and use those to our advantage to succeed in a competitive environment. I remember resuming work in a few weeks of delivering my daughter! Such strength and inspiration came from my mother whom I’d seen managing multiple businesses in our childhood. I learned a lot from her. The art of raising ideal kids and being successful in a profession at the same time.
Katherine Ernst Mehta is the CEO and Founder of Edvanta Consulting, where she works with international high school students across India, Singapore, Indonesia, and the UK to help them navigate the US undergraduate admission process, and gain admission to their best fit colleges. Katherine graduated magna cum laude from Kenyon College, Ohio, where she majored in Anthropology, Dance & Drama. She built a career in international education after first coming to India as a student and researcher in 2009.
Nidhi Yadav | Founder, Aks Clothings
Women are taking the world by storm with their innovative products and articulate business strategies. The fierce passion of women entrepreneurs is breaking the gender stereotype and the generally accepted societal norm by stepping up outside the walls of their homes. However, the journey for women entrepreneurs remains a rocky one rather, in comparison to their male counterparts. Hurdles such as rife competition, scarcity in funding, reservation from the society, low-risk appetite, lower literacy, etc are very common amongst women because of the predominantly male-centric atmosphere that creates a resistance for the women to enter business. Such was my experience as well when I began Aks Clothings. When you are a woman entrepreneur, the difficult part is not the inception but how you keep your business running and healthy once you have begun. The struggle is to find trustworthy investors and channels to source your product. Nonetheless, if you have your vision clear and a supportive team by your side, finding other ancillary elements would not be far away a dream.
Dr. Meenu Kumar | Founder, Cosmo Arts
The life of an entrepreneur is filled with challenges and mine has been no different. When I entered the market, I faced two major challenges. The first one was the lack of network - in the form of clients and partners.
For me, business never came from family or close friends. Even if we were able to get a contact, it wouldn’t last more than a year or two. So, I had to step out of my comfort zone to build the right kind of network. I accomplished this by joining business networking groups and social media and online portals. I expanded my horizon by reaching out to interior designers, architects, and art connoisseurs through exhibitions, shows, and online portals.
The second major challenge was to create something exquisite yet environmentally sustainable. We dealt with this challenge by creating in-house art pieces using recyclable materials like paper mache, discarded mannequins, old clothes, polythene, etc. This way, we were able to create art installations that were not only unique but sustainable as well. This approach eventually brought us a lot of success. Challenges are a part of life and we all have our own. At the end of the day, it’s not the intensity of challenges but your attitude towards them that determines whether you’ll fail or succeed.
Geeta Singh | Founder & Director, The Yellow Coin Communication
The first challenge that I faced was running a business without having any sort of business background. And things are getting better now but if you are a woman taking on the world alone, people don’t often take you seriously. But I kept persevering until my body of work began doing the talking for me.
Even though I’ve been in the industry for quite a while now, I still deal with new challenges every day, and that I believe, is just part of being an entrepreneur. From hiring and retaining good employees to hiring and retaining good clients, everything is a challenge. The solution is that you have to give your 200%, and there are times when even that isn’t enough. But I take everything in stride and keep moving forward. It’s the only thing I know.
Women have indeed progressed long enough from the dark days when they were restricted to their houses, tied to the usual chores inside them. They have indeed lighted up the startup ecosystem with their own entrepreneurial sparks. However, there is always some room for more development when it comes to startups, which aims to build a world convenient for the end-users and profitable for the entrepreneurs but that demands both men and women working hand in hand.
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