From e-commerce to financial services, women entrepreneurs are changing the narrative in the Indian startup ecosystem. Two years ago, women constituted only 10% of the total number of entrepreneurs in the country. Now, women run about 14% of business organizations in India, according to the National Sample Survey Organization.
Celebrating International Women’s Day, we look at5 Inspiring Women Entrepreneurs who have made it big against all odds.
She loves new challenges, does triathlons, and even traveled solo in the Amazon. Last year, she was featured on the Forbes Asia “Women to Watch” list. This 37-year-old entrepreneur started Mobikwik, along with her husband BipinPreet Singh in 2009, as an online service to make bill payments easier and has now morphed into a mobile wallet. In 2012, MobiKwik launched its first mobile app on the Android store, and attracted the interest of venture capital fund Sequoia Capital. Since then, it has raised $80-85 million from investors in three rounds of funding, and plans to start the process for Series D this year. With clients like Uber and the Indian Railways in its kitty, Mobikwik sees 100k transactions daily. Currently, it has 45 million users;it has seen a 400% surge in transactions during the demonetization of high-value currency by the Indian government last December.Upasana’s mission is to simplify payment acceptance for retailers in India.
She has been credited as the first Indian woman to break into the unicorn club. Valued at over $1 billion, ShopClues is one of India’s home-grown e-commerce stars. Started in 2011, along with Sanjay Sethi, ShopClues become the ninth startup to join India’s unicorn club by raising about $150 million from Singapore government’s GIC and its existing investors Tiger Global and Nexus Venture Partners last year. What started with a team of 10 is now a 1,000-strong organization.
“There has never has been a better time than now to do any kind of business in India,” said Aggarwal. The e-tailer has about 350,000 small and medium sellers on the platform, and 14 million registered users. But, do people still stereotype the woman entrepreneur? “It’s not as much about stereotyping. The challenges are the same in entrepreneurship, man or woman. The only challenge is that because there are so few of us, people end up asking questions like, ‘how do you ensure work-life balance?’ You need a support system at home and work as your responsibilities grow.”
She is credited for bringing lingerie out of the closet. Aiming to make good quality lingerie accessible and affordable, Kar started Zivame in 2011. An engineer and a management graduate, Kar, in 2015, raised roughly $40 million in a Series C round of funding from Zodius Technology Fund and Malaysian sovereign wealth fund Khazanah. The startup had previously raised around $9 million in two rounds of funding from IDG Ventures, Kalaari Capital and Unilazer Ventures.
“Our ability to offer a personalized experience along with our focus on educating the buyer and helping her select the right products is what differentiates us from the rest,” said the 35-year-old entrepreneur. The online lingerie retailer transitioned into a private label business in a bid to improve its margins and thereby boost its revenues, and aims to be profitable by first quarter of 2018-19. The company also recently announced its omni-channel strategy of adding 100 offline stores and fitting centers across the country over the next two years.
Swati Bhargava: CashKaro
In fast paced economies like India where entrepreneurship necessitates and demands something beyond the run-of-the-mill achievements, Swati Bhargava, co-founder of Cashkaro.com withstood several ferocious storms that were disguised as adversities and prided with valiant, highly committed and dedicated fights thereby catapulting herself into the elite ranks of India’s greatest entrepreneurs.
Swati is honored to be amongst the top 5 women trailblazers in Indian ecommerce industry by Economic Times and is also an acclaimed Social Media influencer. She was also nominated amongst the Top Young Business Women 2016 by CNBC-TV 18. In a country like India where Savings & Great Bargains are the prerequisites for a successful transaction, her vision to make CashKaro the ‘Easiest & Smartest Savings destination for Shoppers, both Online and Offline’ will continue to dominate in the coming years.
Swati is a graduate from London School of Economics (LSE) with a BSc in Mathematics and Economics. In her current role, Swati leads the marketing activities, brand communication, customer and investor relations. She also spearheads the expansion of CashKaro.com into different verticals. She is a leader with inspiration as opposed to intimidation.
Suchi Mukherjee: LimeRoad
Suchi Mukherjee, the brain behind LimeRoad, is one of the most successful and popular women entrepreneurs around. She says she realized she had the zest to build something of her own after taking eBay’s Gumtree from the third position in jobs and car sales classifieds to the No.1 position in the UK.
The idea for LimeRoad came to her while reading a glossy magazine during one of those rare ‘me time’ moments after the birth of her second child in London. “I came back to India in 2011 with the vision of creating a global brand out of India.” Launched in 2012, LimeRoad today showcases nearly 4,000 new fashion styles every day, going from nothing to 30 million user visits a month.
On facing challenges she says,” It is challenging to bring up both a young family and a young organization. Balance is a myth. Being less than perfect, constantly making trade-offs, forgetting birthdays and play dates, being late for dinners, and yet ensuring that the kids feel they are top of mind, takes a lot of getting used to. Despite all this, it’s still totally worth doing if what you are doing is something that you care about deeply. It makes all the hard trading off completely worth it.”
So, these are the names to reckon, inspiring many to dream big and work on their vision.