Top 12 Women Entrepreneurs In India
Created on 25 Nov 2022
Wraps up in 10 Min
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Updated on 23 Jan 2023
It’s 2022, and we are progressive. It's been said that “Behind every successful man, there’s a woman”, but now, women are not behind, and they are successful themselves. As per a report in The Times of India newspaper, the number of women-owned businesses in India is expected to rise by 90% by 2026.
For the overall development of any nation, the participation of women in its economic growth is essential. Unfortunately, the percentage of adult women with a job has been historically low in India. As Annette Dixon, World Bank South Asia Vice-President, said in her 2018 speech, if half the women of the country can join the workforce, it would boost India's economic growth by 1.5 percentage points to 9%.
But things are changing. The last few years have seen more women not only joining the workforce but also starting their own businesses. The increasing presence of women in the startup space is leading to significant economic and business growth.
As per a report from The Hindu, there are a total of 80.5 lakh establishments owned by women in the country. The following are the states with the highest number of women entrepreneur-owned establishments:
These women entrepreneurs have broken the glass ceiling, turned the tide, and become the harbingers of change. They have been helped by government schemes for women entrepreneurs. In this article, we will talk about some of the most successful female entrepreneurs in India and the opportunities and challenges that female entrepreneurs face in the country.
Top 12 Successful Women Entrepreneurs in India
The startup storm in India has been fairly gender-neutral. While men have easier access to the infrastructural necessities when in comes to establishing startups, the women of India have taken a swing at starting up their own startups.
All of the 80.5 establishments mentioned above are part of the revolution that the Indian startup environment is about to experience. Here is a list of the 12 women entrepreneurs who have made a significant splash in the female startup space, in no particular order.
1. Falguni Nayar – Nykaa
Everyone was awestruck when the managing director of Kotak Mahindra Bank quit her lucrative job to launch her startup. It was April 2012 when 50-year-old Falguni Nayar decided to launch Nykaa—a homegrown beauty and wellness brand—with ₹10.68 crore from her pocket. Cut to 2022, Nykaa is now a public-listed company and a remarkable success story. The company grew 345% last year.
Nykaa is also proof that entrepreneurship is not as much about age as it is about the state of mind. When most people her age start taking things slow and looking for retirement options, Falguni decided to venture into a new world and became a billionaire with a net worth of $1.1 billion. As per Hindustan Times, Falguni is the richest woman in India, with a net worth of ₹38,700 crore.
2. Aditi Gupta – Menstrupedia
Aditi Gupta started Menstrupedia in November 2012 to change the beliefs around menstruation. Menstrupedia designs comic books that make menstruation simpler to understand.
Appalled by the lack of information and awareness around such a natural biological process and the taboos and beliefs associated with it, Aditi took it upon herself to create awareness. She herself faced these prejudices that affect the lives of girls and women across India. She decided to take charge and started Menstrupedia with her husband, Tuhin Patel. The comics also discuss sanitation and the well-being of women.
3. Radhika Ghai Aggarwal – ShopClues.com
Radhika Ghai Aggarwal is the chief business officer of ShopClues.com, which she co-founded in 2011 with Sanjay Sethi and her husband, Sandeep Aggarwal. She is the first woman co-founder in India whose company entered the coveted unicorn club in 2016.
Radhika pursued her MBA from Washington University in St. Louis, US, and started her career in marketing at Goldman Sachs in 2001. She left the company within a year to join Nordstrom. After a few more changes, she founded ShopClues.com with her husband and Sanjay.
Sandeep left the company in 2013, and Sanjay became the CEO. The company went on to become India’s fourth unicorn in 2016. ShopClues.com was planning an IPO, but it couldn’t materialise due to disputes among the co-founders. Qoo10 finally acquired the company in an all-stock deal. Radhika then started the online marketplace Kindlife in September 2021.
4) Kiran Mazumdar Shaw – Biocon India
Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw decided to follow her father’s footprints and earned an undergraduate degree in zoology from Bangalore University and a graduate degree in brewing from the University of Ballarat, Melbourne. Unable to find a job in brewing, she started consulting before meeting Leslie Auchincloss, then owner of Biocon Biochemicals. Leslie took Kiran as a partner in Biocon India, which was launched in India in 1978.
Within just a year, Biocon became India’s first company to export enzymes to Europe and the US. Kiran faced her own set of challenges due to discrimination and scepticism. While employees were reluctant to work under female bosses, investors, too, were hard to come by. Leslie sold his share in Biocon India to Unilever, which was then sold to Imperial Chemical Industries. Ultimately, the shares were sold to Kiran’s husband, who then joined Biocon’s management team. Biocon India continued to break records.
In 2001, it became the first Indian company to get the approval of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for manufacturing a cholesterol-lowering molecule. Profits soared 43% in 2003 alone. Biocon’s IPO skyrocketed Biocon’s market capitalisation, and Kiran became the richest woman in India. Biocon continued its exceptional work and is also the company behind the testing and development of the world’s first-ever orally consumed insulin product.
5) Vani Kola – Kalaari Capital
Vani is also known as the Mother of Venture Capital Investing in India. An entrepreneur and venture capitalist, Vani Kola is a graduate in Electrical Engineering from Osmania University. She completed her master’s degree at Arizona State University. She established her first business venture in 1996: RightWorks, which was an e-procurement company. After four years as founder of RightWorks, she sold her 53% stake in the company for $657 million to the Internet Capital Group. She collaborated with Vinod Dham and Kaur Shiralagi to launch a $189 million fund backed by New Enterprise Associates (NEA).
However, eventually, NEA decided to move out of this venture to enter the Indian market directly. This was when Vani and Kaur rebranded the firm as Kalaari Capital in 2011. At one time, Kalaari went on to become the second-largest venture capital firm in India based on assets it managed and the biggest ever run by a woman. Kalaari Capital is focused on investing in technology-oriented early-stage startups in India.
6) Suchi Mukherjee – LimeRoad
Suchi Mukherjee co-founded LimeRoad in 2012 with Prashant Malik and Ankush Mehra. Suchi made her bones in the corporate sector, working in multiple roles before trying her hands at entrepreneurship. LimeRoad, which is focused on fashion and apparel for women, is a result of Suchi's utter frustration.
In 2012, Suchi, then 39, was on maternity leave after her second child was born. As she was flipping through a magazine, she was smitten by a beautiful piece of jewellery. But to her utter frustration, Suchi realised that the piece was only available offline, in a small store in Mumbai.
It made her realise that there wasn’t any app, portal or website to discover interesting and pretty accessories. Further, there wasn’t any platform through which people could list accessories that were manufactured to be sold outside India.
This became the inspiration behind LimeRoad. LimeRoad is now counted as one of the best female-founded fashion brands in India. In October 2022, V-Mart signed a deal to acquire LimeRoad for ₹31.12 crores.
7) Shradha Sharma – YourStory
Founded in 2008, YourStory is a digital media platform dedicated to entrepreneurs and startups. Before launching YourStory, Shradha had served as a Brand Advisor at The Times of India and the Assistant Vice President at CNBC TV18. She realised her keen interest in startups and entrepreneurship while she was working as a journalist at CNBC TV18 between June 2007 to July 2009.
Shradha thought that people all over the world were building great things, but their stories weren’t covered by the media. She invested her time in writing stories about successful people and shared them in her blog. It gradually gained traction and drew attention. YourStory received investments from well-known business persons like Ratan Tata, Karthee Madasamy, Vani Kola and T.V. Mohandas Pai. YourStory has become India’s leading online media venture for startups and entrepreneurs. With over 40,000 stories published on the platform, it has over 10 million active readers.
8) Upasana Taku: MobiKwik
Upasana Taku is the first female leader in Indian fintech. After working her way through the corporate world, Upasana decided in 2008 that she didn't want to continue as a corporate drone. Startups fascinated her, and she wanted to contribute to the space.
While working on a project in 2008, she met her husband, Bipin, who was working in a Noida-based chip company. She started helping him with different aspects of business, and the couple co-founded Mobikwik in 2009. What started as a recharge platform later went on to become the face of mobile wallets. 'Kick up a storm or die trying’, Upasana swears by this mantra, which has helped her stay focused during difficult times.
9) Ghazal Alagh: Mamaearth
Mamaearth is a D2C (direct-to-consumer) brand and today is a ₹700 crore company in terms of revenue. What was born out of parental stress in 2016 became a leading baby products company. The Alaghs struggled to treat their child’s skin condition as the products available were generic and contained toxins. Although they managed to order suitable products from the US at the time, it was inconvenient and led them to start Mamaearth.
They initially got ready with six baby products that were natural and toxin-free. The company is backed by some of the leading investors, including Sequoia Capital India, Stellaris Venture Partners, Fireside Ventures, Sharp Ventures and Titan Ventures. Consumer-first approach and listening-based innovation were the two major reasons behind the success of Mamaearth.
10) Chitra Gurnani Daga: Thrillophilia
Thrillophilia is a platform launched by a woman determined to fulfil her dream of travelling. Chitra completed her MBA in strategy and leadership at the Indian School of Business (Hyderabad) and was keen on starting her own travel company. She started Thrillophilia Tours Pvt. Ltd. in 2009 after extensive research and discussion. Her husband Abhishek Daga also envisioned the dream Chitra saw, and the duo set out to build an unconventional career. Before that, both Chitra and Abhishek worked for some of the biggest multinational companies in Bangalore.
Thrillophilia grew to become India’s largest platform for booking travel experiences. It had three million users and provided services across 12,500 activities and 125+ destinations.
11) Namita Thapar: Emcure Pharmaceuticals
Emcure Pharmaceuticals was founded by Satish Mehta in the year 1981. His daughter, Namita, took over in 2007. Before joining Emcure, Namita already had a history in the pharma industry, working at Guidant Corporation for 6 years.
Namita is an avid supporter of women’s health and youth entrepreneurship. Effective to the same, she held a talk show on YouTube called “Uncondition Yourself with Namita” to discuss the stigmas and taboos around women’s health.
She also founded Incredible Ventures Ltd to educate children aged 11-18 years old about entrepreneurship.
12) Vineeta Singh: SUGAR Cosmetics
Vineeta Singh founded the online beauty brand SUGAR Cosmetics in the year 2015. Vineeta also founded the cosmetics brand FAB BAG in the year 2012. Both SUGAR and FAB BAG are subsidiaries of Velvette Lifestyles Pvt Ltd, a larger conglomerate operating in the beauty and cosmetics industry.
SUGAR Cosmetics also has a YouTube channel with over 8 lakh subscribers as of November 2022.
Government Schemes for Women Entrepreneurs
The government is actively supporting female entrepreneurs by launching various schemes. Following are some of the schemes that provide opportunities for women entrepreneurs in India:
1. Bharathiya Mahila Bank Business Loan: Under this scheme, women entrepreneurs can avail of loans up to ₹20 crore. No collateral is needed for loans up to ₹1 crore.
2. Mudra Yojana: Mudra Yojana is beneficial for women who are seeking to start a small business. Women can apply for loans up to ₹10 lakh under the Mudra Yojana.
3. Dena Shakti Scheme: This scheme is ideally suited for women entrepreneurs engaged in the following sectors:
- Microcredit organisations
- Agricultural business
4. Udyogini Scheme: This scheme is specifically for women entrepreneurs with a family income of less than ₹1.5 lakh per annum. The loan can be availed of up to ₹3 lakh with a very low-interest rate.
5. Cent Kalyani Scheme: This is a scheme launched by the Central Bank of India where loans up to ₹1 crore are sanctioned without any collateral or processing fees.
6. Mahila Udyam Nidhi Scheme: This scheme was launched by the Punjab National Bank to support Small Scale Industries (SSI). Under this scheme, a loan up to ₹10 lakh can be sanctioned with 10-year repayment tenure.
India is ranked third in the world in terms of the number of unicorns, after the US and China. More women are seeing entering the startup space, and the government is actively providing support to women entrepreneurs with various schemes and initiatives (some of these discussed above). Currently, women comprise 13.76% of the total entrepreneurs in India, and this figure is set to increase.
Challenges for Women Entrepreneurs
With the growing support for women entrepreneurs, Indian ideologies of victimising and patronising women have faded away. Now, "are women equal?” is hardly a debate. Nevertheless, in terms of entrepreneurship, here are the major hurdles that women mostly face:
1. Funding Issues: Women in India do not own much property or assets. This acts as a hurdle when they need to find collateral for bank loans. As per The Guardian’s report, men are 86% more likely to secure investments from venture capitalists than women. Funding issues have been one of the significant problems of women entrepreneurs.
2. Social Bias: There is still a lot of social bias against women in business. Women are more often encouraged to their traditional roles of being a caretaker and homemakers.
3. Lack of Access to Professional Networks: Women entrepreneurs often struggle because of limited access to the professional network in a male-dominated space. Over 45% of small business owners suffer due to a lack of network support.
4. Limited Mobility: Women entrepreneurs often find it difficult to travel or stay alone due to safety issues. While financially well-off women invest in personal vehicles, it is still a dream for many women entrepreneurs.
According to a research by Women’s Web, most female entrepreneurs face problems with finances and marketing at 28% and 26%. The graph above shows the other problems faced by women entrepreneurs in India.
The Bottom Line
Women are doing great around the country despite the challenges they face while starting up. Breaking stereotypes is a stereotype for women these days.
Managing finances takes leadership and is an important aspect. Women proved their worth time after time. Out of 5.85 crore entrepreneurs in India, 80.5 lakh are women. Thanks to the ladies mentioned above setting a brilliant example, this number is only set to grow in the future.
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