Despite Obstacles, Women Entrepreneurs are Emerging in India

By Zhao Liu

After reading about the many challenges faced by Indian women entering the labor force, I traveled to Bangalore, India as part of the SAIS Women Lead study trek. We met a group of entrepreneurs from the NS Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (NSRCEL) at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB). Our one-hour discussion with these inspiring businesswomen showed us another story about women in India.

Our guests had diverse backgrounds and their start-ups ranged from biotechnology and software service to online content production. Anushka Shetty, a former associate at PwC, had always been a fan of writing. When she realized that there were more people like her who shared a desire to express themselves in words, Anushka started Penbound, an online writing platform. Another start-up, Ntalents.ai, was founded by Deepika Anu and Mayank Sharma. This couple quit business school in the United States and took a leap of faith when they received an offer from the Women Start-up Programme. They developed a software service that uses data to assist companies to discover their top salesperson. Their company has become a successful revenue-generating venture under the incubation of IIMB.

 

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International Political Economy student Zhao Liu, SAIS MA ’18, interviews businesswomen entrepreneurs from the NS Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning, the hub of entrepreneurial activity at the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore, India.

 

These women founders are well educated, and their families support their self-actualization with an open mindset. I found them knowledgeable and confident, and was impressed by their courage to jump out of their comfort zones in order to make an impact.

We asked them if they felt any disadvantages as women entrepreneurs. To my surprise, their answer did not have to do with discrimination on the job, but rather having to land at odd hours in some less developed and potentially unsafe areas while on business trips. Otherwise, they said, people judged them based on their work.

Another pleasant surprise that we could only learn by visiting India: men had deliberately chosen to collaborate with these women based on their skills and value as lucrative business partners. Anushka has a male co-founder and Deepika started her firm with her husband, Mayank. Anushka’s co-founder told us he chose her as his partner because of her writing talent. He never even thought about her gender. Furthermore, Mayank acknowledged that working with a female partner had actually brought him different perspectives in the workplace that helped him become successful.

Now, Anushka wants her firm to be like Netflix, producing more original content. Deepika plans to expand her service to more industries. The NSRCEL has set aggressive targets to attract more women with various backgrounds into to its program.

And yet, even with these efforts in place, these goals will not be easy to reach. “Women are not oppressed in this space, but rather are just not being educated to be entrepreneurs,” offered the group of dynamic entrepreneurs. Nonetheless, the Indian government and the private sector are taking more initiatives to support women start-ups, such as capacity building and financial assistance. Moreover, stories of Anushka and Deepika are sources of inspiration, igniting more women to make an impact in the business world.

 

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