At StartupIndia there was an all-women’s panel discussion and the government was all ears to concerns and challenges of women entrepreneurs in the Indian markets. The panel was moderated by founder of ShethePeople.TV, Shaili Chopra and included women entrepreneurs who’ve changed the startup landscape. These included Anisha Singh, founder of MyDala; Shanti Mohan, co-founder of Let’s Venture; Pranshu Patni, founder of Culture Alley; Sairee Chahal, Sheroes founder and Nidhi Agarwal, founder of Kaaryah. Every panelists brought a unique perspective on the table.
Here are a few points that the panelists brought about.
Anisha Singh pointed out an important fact that women-led businesses do not have adequate funding. She also opined, “It’s great that we have an all-women’s panel at Startup India, as we need more focus on this issue.” She said that new women entrepreneurs need to be appreciated and mentored better.
Shanti Mohan’s Let’s Venture is a market-place comprising of investors, incubators, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel networks- basically everything that comprises the market. Their work is enabling networks and helping businesses connect. She added to the funding problem conditions are also not satisfactory for growth of women entrepreneurs. “As more women coming forward, the funnel is reducing”, she said.
Here is the most powerful and apt observation she made:
“You can’t have a women’s panel and celebrate woman entrepreneurs. We have to be in every panel and be a part of every conversation. Women need to be more immersed in the culture in order for it to be called progressive.”
According to Pranshu Patni’s business works on the fact that India is home to the most number of people in the productive age group, who are also perfectly skilled people but are not able to find jobs due to lack of English speaking skills. These were her 3 expectations for female entrepreneurship:
Women give up too soon due to which active mentorship from government or non-government bodies is required;
Women should stop undermining other women, and even themselves;
Need for overall ease of business.
On gendered fundraising, she said that women need to detach gender from the business and show the investor their commitment to the idea. “Let the product speak for itself”, she said.
Sairee Chahal, who runs Sheroes, a career platform for women, pointed out that India produces the maximum number of female graduates and it is very important to find tailor made careers for them. Her tip on building a successful enterprise, “Bring in your culture, education and enterprise on the table.”
As the focus of Sheroes is largely urban middle class women, they knew that it was the most inactive space when it comes to women led movements. Their business model did not depend on funding, and they eventually raised a self-sufficient business. Talking about gender diversity in the nation she also spoke how men do not need to build men-centric businesses.
Her demand from the government was internet for all.
Shaili Chopra raised a pertinent question of men having to give away their femininity in order to succeed at work. She asked the panelists how women can be perceived more seriously without being a Rambo at work and getting to just be oneself. To this panelists responded by saying that they never go to work preparing to not be women, although they all did recognized how leadership is mostly perceived as masculine.
Nidhi Agarwal, founder of Kaaryah spoke about her failure. She perceived her reason for failure being her initial inability to articulate her needs in the right manner. She also said that women consumers’ market is not a niche, but a 10,000 crore market and that women can understand and treat it better.
She said, “Women consumers’ market is largely underfed, which women can capture.”
One of the audience members working in a Tier 2 city shared how such places are hubs of women entrepreneurs but due to family restrictions, these women aren’t able to grow. Investors are apprehensive for they think the women will get married soon and there is no future to the business. To this, Sairee suggested that social media is a great space to raise awareness and diversify businesses.