India ranks low among women entrepreneur-friendly countries in the world but this can change with the adoption of a few crucial steps
My LinkedIn profile has beenShutapa Paulwo years of being an entrepreneur. I played it safe, did not risk it all, but worked three times of what I did in my last full-time job. Though far from 'making it', I am satisfied with the transition that I have made in this new role. What made my work anniversary even more special were the ongoing discussions surrounding women entrepreneurship. No, there was no immediate good news forthcoming on the subject; but the fact that we were even thinking and talking about it makes me optimistic.
Technology company, Dell, and consultancy company, IHS Markit, released a survey on the most favourable global cities for women entrepreneurs. Bengaluru ranked 40 and Delhi at 49; dismal performance by all standards. Equally disheartening was the fact that only 9 per cent of India's growing startup space is occupied by female founders. Let us not point fingers at India alone, US' Silicon Valley has not thrown up too many women founders either.
Now, picture this. The Indian population has 48.5 per cent females and 50.5 per cent males. This means that we have almost as many women in India as men. Women form a large portion of the consumer market too. Therefore, catering to female sensibilities and buying power through the female spectrum should make great business sense. But after listening and interacting with several women entrepreneurs and investors, it does not seem so. The market is still male-dominated, access to capital for women entrepreneurs is an obstacle course, and the number of women investors pumping capital is also a handful.
Can this scenario change? The good news is that it already is, albeit slowly. Funding for women entrepreneurs is gradually petering in. There are now also solely women-focussed funding initiatives such as Microsoft's Female Founders Competition that will line up funding for top women-led startups. In India too, the NITI Aayog is making the right noises. Recently, it said that connecting women entrepreneurs to marketplaces will drive the country's GDP. Only 22 per cent of Indian women contribute to India's growth compared to a global average of 48 per cent. There is talk of women getting a dedicated industrial park in Hyderabad, platforms for women entrepreneurs are becoming more proactive, while a state-led incubator exclusively women, WE Hub, has received a tremendous response since it opened its doors in Hyderabad, in March this year.
Most crucial to correcting this imbalance will be a change in mindset. Women can and should run businesses – small, medium or large. Once the social biases can be dealt with, more women and their ideas will find acceptance by money bags. There is nothing that a woman cannot do today that a man can. Born multi-taskers, women entrepreneurs bridge the gap between the risk appetite and conservative modus operandi.
We have no dearth of talent or concepts, but what we need is mentoring alongside the investors' belief and trust. Add to that a healthy work environment, safety and opportunities devoid of sexual harassment – and, we will have a winning formula. The world is waking up to this nascent opportunity that is being brought forth by women entrepreneurs. If India's GDP must grow by 9-10 per cent, then her women entrepreneurs must also grow by 10 per cent for the next three decades. So, encourage the next woman entrepreneur you meet, don't scoff at their ideas, drive them to achieve their goals and scale their business. Support, mentor, fund and believe – that is all we need.
(The writer is a journalist and media entrepreneur. The views expressed are strictly personal)