by Vaishnavi J Desai

Indian Women Technopreneurs Prove Glass Ceiling a Myth

Jun 25, 2015

Indian women technopreneurs are on the rise battling hurdles that aren’t any different from the ones faced by the opposite sex. 

How many times have you heard in the past: Technology is a man’s world? You’re now on the brink of boredom, aren’t you? But it won’t be so for long, as women are here to grace the tech arena with their entrepreneurship skills. A major change is already taking shape in India with women technopreneurs brushing away the concept of glass ceiling in the industry.

Startups led by women are on the rise. A recent Global Entrepreneurialism Report conducted by BNP Paribas has ranked India on top for the highest percentage of women entrepreneurs—49 percent—and technology is one of the most preferred industries. But nothing comes easy and you would think the barriers faced by these women would be different from those faced by men.

Not anymore, say these technopreneurs. “I don’t think the gender of the boss makes much of a difference in today’s world, at least in the metro cities.  For women, it usually tends to be self-doubt and hesitation that turn out to be our biggest pitfalls. Everyone has the occasional not-so-pleasant experience with a subordinate or a colleague that might turn out to be gender-related but it’s really mind over matter,” says Anisha Singh, co-founder and CEO, Mydala, an online daily deals company.

Barriers Aren’t Gender-related

If the fabled glass ceiling is vanishing, then what are the challenges of establishing a startup? “On-boarding the right team is the biggest barrier. Any idea can be a billion-dollar idea and you can screw up even a billion-dollar opportunity in the right market if you do not have the right team,” says Chitra Gurnani Daga, co-founder and CEO of Thrillophilia, an online travel portal for tours and adventure activities.

Being an entrepreneur for the second time around, Singh says, getting people and convincing them to use a new service was a challenge. Singh didn’t believe in heavy advertising and stuck to word-of-mouth marketing which drove online sales. Today, Mydala has 50 million unique visitors per month with the largest mobile reach of all B2C companies.

Steady Rise of the Tribe

According to a CrunchBase study, in 2009, 9.5 percent start-ups had at least one woman founder, and by 2014 that number had almost doubled to 18 percent. At the same time, the absolute number of companies with a female founder more than quadrupled from 117 in 2009 to 555 in 2014. 

There are several factors that contribute to the upward trend of women technopreneurs. “Women have become far more independent now. This enables them greater freedom to experiment. Technology is the trend – be it men or women, people are coming up with solving all kinds of problems innovatively using technology,” says Daga. She also believes that her previous stint at SAP helped her shape the concept of a healthy work culture at Thrillophilia.

Women technopreneurs have caught the attention of venture capitalists too. Another Techcrunch study points how the total funds invested in women-led business rose from 6 percent in 2000 to 41 percent in 2011.

“I believe that for a serious angel investors or VCs, gender would not be so relevant. They would be more interested in the feasibility of the idea rather than the gender of the person behind the idea,” says Singh.

Key to Success

“On board the best guys even if expensive, give them good skin in the game and coach them well,” says Daga, “It is a team that can make an average opportunity turn into a billion dollar business.”

Singh believes perseverance, innovation and resourcefulness is the key to a successful startup. “When we had started, there were more than 38 deal sites in our competitive tracker, but now it’s down to less than a handful. It’s not like we had better luck than some, in fact, funding post the initial months was a regular concern, as was the ever-growing well-funded competition. I think the two things we did well were persistence, and looking at Mydala from the perspective of a merchant and a user.”

With women technopreneurs flooding the tech industry, the future seems bright with turning tables and a level playing field.