New Delhi: India’s start-up ecosystem has witnessed several changes — from making the field inclusive to encouraging women to lead the change. Women constitute around 14 percent of the total entrepreneurship, i.e. 8.05 million out of the total 58.5 million entrepreneurs, according to the Sixth Economic Census by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
India saw over 2,250 tech startups emerging in 2021. This sector also promoted inclusivity with 10-15 percent of tech startups found to have at least one woman, founder/co-founder, according to the NASSCOM Tech Start-up Report 2021.
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The year also saw the largest number of startups joining the unicorn league, but just four of them are led by women — The Good Glamm Group’s Priyanka Gill; MobiKwik’s co-founder and COO Upasana Taku; Ofbusiness co-founder and CFO Ruchi Kalra; and ACKO Insurance co-founder Ruchi Deepak.
Women start-up founders in India have their own set of challenges but are prepared to take the risk. In line with the International Women’s Day 2022 theme, #BreakTheBias, Neha Bagaria, Founder & CEO of JobsForHer, mentioned some prevalent biases that need to be addressed.
JobsForHer is a platform that enables women to “start, restart and rise” in their careers.
“We need to overcome the conscious as well as unconscious biases that creep in when evaluating a woman’s candidature, especially one who has taken a break in her career. We need to sensitise our recruiters and hiring managers to evaluate women’s candidature purely on the basis of their skills and work experience, not on their career breaks or personal life stages” Bagaria said, speaking to ABP Live.
Several women entrepreneurs also believe there is a need to stop stereotyping roles by gender. “There is no job that isn’t a ‘job for her’, and all roles should be opened up for both genders to increase diversity in the workplace,” she added.
Some women had to prove their mettle in the industry in which they operate.
“During our early days of inception, challenges faced were mostly external in nature. As a woman in tech, we had to reassure the certification bodies that we come with in-depth knowledge of the technology and a strong understanding of different technologies due to male population dominated certification bodies. It eventually got easier though,” said Shivani Sola, CMO and Co-Founder of Devic Earth.
Access to capital or funding still remains a challenge even as several government initiatives, including Bhartiya Mahila Bank Business Loan or Dena Shakti scheme among others, have empowered women entrepreneurship.
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Sola believes it is important for an employer to empathise and create a fine balance of work for women due to the traditional workload at home — eldercare, house care, childcare etc — and a traditional male-dominated workforce.
“As a woman entrepreneur, I have made a conscious choice to make our organisation not just women-friendly but also create an exemplary safe space,” added Chetna Israni, director and co-founder, Morning Star BrandCom.
Asked about how easy or difficult it is to compete in the technology and engineering space dominated by men, Reetu Jain, co-founder, On My Own Technology (OMOTEC), an innovation and research lab, said, “Women entrepreneurs bring a very unique skill set of combining intellectual commitment with deep emotional quotient.”
She added: “It has been a struggle to ensure that you are taken seriously and be able to invent, design, evaluate, develop, commercialize and excel in this male-dominated tech world. Its taken 42 International & National awards, publish more than 30 research papers, with a patent granted product and a grant from BIRAC for getting recognised and people to take you seriously.”
Women entrepreneurs are advocating for policies that ensure full equality in the workplace — for instance, full implementation of POSH, equal maternal and paternal leave, etc and initiatives to create spaces where women’s entrepreneurship receives specific support in terms of investment and mentoring,
“Many women across the country face discrimination at various stages, like restrictions in pursuing full education, imbalanced expectations with respect to the family, insufficient acceptance in the investor space, etc. Therefore, to unleash women entrepreneurship (and I say ‘unleash’ rather than ‘promote’, because this is the energy just waiting for the boundaries to break), the government’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Platform is a good start,” said Ramya Venkataraman, Founder & CEO of Centre for Teacher Accreditation (CENTA) Pvt Ltd.