StartUp Scene: Women entrepreneurs of Awadh meet up in Lucknow

StartUp Scene: Women entrepreneurs of Awadh meet up in Lucknow

For women entrepreneurs of Lucknow the challenges didn’t come in terms of funding or ideas. Changing mindsets and breaking away from traditions was the key held-up for women to unleash their potential. In what was a rare women entrepreneurs meet up in Lucknow, female founders shared candidly that the city’s ‘log kya kahengey’ attitude was the reason most women hadn’t put their dreams to work.

StartUp Scene: Women entrepreneurs of Awadh meet up in Lucknow

The SheThePeople meet up was unique because it was the first time that these women got to converge together and discuss the gendered challenges and the way one could cope with them. From boot-strappers to newly funded and those with longstanding legacies, the hi-noon session highlighted a real assortment of business-views. The conclusion – that the really well off and upcoming entrepreneur had similar stories of struggle. “I literally started my business with 4000 rupees. Chikan work was dying here. I wanted to bring a new sense of design to this brilliant traditional art,” shares Vani Anand, designer in Lucknow.

Women Entrepreneurs in India

The event saw the presence of eminent businesswomen who have made it big in the business world in the state. Popular names included Puja Nemani, founder of the most successful chain of cafeterias in Lucknow, Cappuccino Blast and Jyotsna Kaur Habibullah, founder-chairperson of the FICCI FLO chapter of Lucknow and Kanpur. Sharing her experience as an entrepreneur was also our very own founder Shaili Chopra. “I believe cities like Lucknow are truly poised to grow its entrepreneurship and startup culture.”

From the in depth conversation that lasted for about 3 hours, women opened up about their challenges and  to one another, sharing the problems that they face as women in an upcoming tier II city like Lucknow. The big headline was that there is a massive hunger to learn, grow and build their business. There are a few major structural issues that act as challenges to the growth of women.

One and the more difficult one to solve is social attitudes. Every woman in the room, when she decided that she wanted to start something of her own, was told by friends and family log kya kahengey? (what will people say?). The city is traditional and conservative as the nawabs who ruled Lucknow centuries ago believed in putting the onus of family prestige on the women. To them a working woman would reflect that the family needed money, put them in positions where they needed to interact with men and in some extreme conditions even imply that such ladies were deviant.

The good news is things have changed for the better. The stories of women who resisted the purdah systems of the nawab legacy were tremendous. “I was sure that I had to do something with my life. I didn’t want to work with my husband, after all who wants to have arguments on business front at the workplace with their spouse?” Hats off to the women who have come into their own and stayed determined to turn their passions into reality.

The second major structural problem is that young moms have little domestic support. Most of them were in a hurry as they had a cranky kid (or two) waiting for them at home. Even if they do have support, they see it as a natural responsibility to cater to their kids more than anyone else in the family. One of the entrepreneurs said, “Even if we had 48 hours a day, it wouldn’t be enough, with the amount of work we have.”

Apart from this, another serious issue was the lack of digital smartness amongst women. They are family with the features of social media and their importance but would find a masterclass in using it for business. This is a challenge that could be solved in the near future, with appropriate mentorship and educative workshops, the kind SheThePeople organised in Jaipur. All women present in the room were encouraged at the possibility of such an opportunity as it would bring them on a level playing field with entrepreneurs across the globe, irrespective of their gender or demographics.


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