BENGALURU: Ivanka Trump, daughter of US President Donald Trump, highlighted a key aspect of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit she will be attending this week — this is the first time in the startup event’s eight years that there will be more women participants than men, comprising 52%. But beyond the high-power event, the picture for women entrepreneurs in India still looks bleak.
A Nasscom report released this month shows women comprise only 11% in a base of 5,000 startups in India. This is only a percentage point improvement from last year, when there were 4,750 technology startups.
The number of women entrepreneurs who have received venture capital (VC) funding is even smaller — only 3% of women-run startups are funded, according to Saha Fund. The problem, according to Saha Fund CEO Ankita Vashishta, is that there are not many women investors. “This cuts down networking opportunities for women entrepreneurs. We started the fund because we realised there were hardly any women investors and not enough platforms to support women founders,” she said.
Saha Fund has so far, backed 10 women-led startups, of which five have gone on to secure series-A funding.
But there are others who have a different argument: why should only women invest in women?
Falguni Nayar, founder of beauty products platform Nykaa, said she dismissed advice she received while starting the company to approach a woman investor. “I have had male investors interested in the business model and ready to back the technology. Funding should have nothing to do with men or women,” said Nayar, a former investment banker.
Vani Kola, one of the few leading female venture capitalists in the country, has similar views.
“The question is, how many women are there in the pool of tech product-oriented founders? Funding comes when there is innovation and disruption,” Kola said The answer to the question — where are the women in entrepreneurship? —should then begin with another question — where are the women in tech? Case in point, at IIT-Madras, which has been the launchpad for several successful product and intellectual property-led startups, out of a total 252 entrepreneurs who have been a part of the IIT-M incubation cell, only 22 have been women and only four women-led startups have raised external funds.
Apart from the “supply” crunch, serial entrepreneur and Portea CEO Meena Ganesh also pointed to other challenges women entrepreneurs face—attracting talent and convincing VCs about their long-term commitment. “Till a few years ago, hiring talented men as senior employees was a big problem for women entrepreneurs, but with some success stories, this is changing,” Ganesh said.
Swati Bhargava, cofounder of Cash-Karo, said breaking stereotypes and biased attitudes towards businesswomen is a big challenge. “I have met a couple of senior male VCs who only talked to my husband (a cofounder) and didn’t really acknowledge me,” Bhargava said. “This has also happened with vendors. A few years ago, when we were running a marketing campaign, I was asking a few questions to an advertiser about the dimensions of a hoarding but he told me he would rather talk to my husband and that it was beyond my ability,” she said.
Overall, though, the momentum for women becoming successful entrepreneurs is picking pace. “Five years ago, the percentage of women in entrepreneurship was 7%, so there has been a gradual pickup,” said Sangeeta Gupta, senior vice president at Nasscom. Kola is also positive. “If we look at global averages in terms of women entrepreneurs, we are on par or higher. But that doesn’t mean we cannot do better.” In the US, the numbers are slightly better, but businesswomen still have their own share of struggles. According to the US Women’s Chamber of Commerce, women run 10 million businesses in the US, representing 36% of total businesses.
Desi Women Tech Leaders ‘WISE’ up
HYDERABAD: Women leaders of several major tech companies like Intel, IBM etc, on Monday announced the launch of a group called WISE that will focus on women entrepreneurs and help scale up their startups through strategic investments. They are in talks with NITI Aayog, the government of India and USIBC for funding and would be investing in startups across sectors. WISE or Women enabling inventions, innovations, social and entrepreneurship compromises of industry leaders like Nivruti Rai, country head, Intel, Nisha Biswal, president, US-India Business Council (USIBC), Vanitha Narayanan, chairman, IBM India, Vani Kola, managing director, Kalaari Capital and Kiran Majumdar-Shaw, CMD, Biocon.
GES TO KICK OFF TODAY
Ivanka has a Date with H’bad
HYDERABAD: The city is all set to host the eighth edition of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), which will be inaugurated by PM Narendra Modi on Tuesday. Union ministers Sushma Swaraj, Nirmala Sitharaman and Suresh Prabhu will be attending the summit. After the inauguration, US President Donald Trump’s daughter and advisor Ivanka Trump and Indian Defence Minister Sitharaman will be participating in a panel discussion on opening up of opportunities for women entrepreneurs. The discussion will be moderated by John Chambers, chairman emeritus Cisco. Ivanka will lead a delegation from the US at the three- day event. More than 10 countries, including Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Israel, will be represented by their all-women delegation. The summit will have the theme ‘Women First, Prosperity for All’. — PTI