Earlier this week, we asked three entrepreneurs to share their experience of being a woman entrepreneur in India.
Valerie Wagoner, the CEO & Co-Founder of Zipdial, is not only a seasoned entrepreneur but also a rarity in India by the virtue of being a “foreigner-lady-entrepreneur” in India. Sreepriya Koppula, who founded Turnaround Innovision is a mother of two and a recent entrant into the world of entrepreneurship and Sonakshi Pratap, the co-founder and CEO of Theekkardo is just 23 years old and is full of entrepreneurial zeal! Here’s what they had to say.
What are the advantages or disadvantages of being a woman entrepreneur in India?
Sonakshi: Not all environments are favourable for women to work in and thats the major disadvantage we face. Like in my case it’s a little difficult for me to go to the workshops of our contractors which are situated at places not very conducive for women.
But if you have decided what you exactly want from yourself, then one can easily overcome the obstacles that we face in the day to day functioning of the business. You simply need to be confident and determined towards your goal.
Well the advantages are many. Running my own business helps me enjoy economic independence and at the same time maintain a balance between my personal and professional lives. A mix of self-confidence and emotional support from one’s family is all that is needed to become successful.
Sreepriya: Lack of platforms/forums connecting women entrepreneurs to learn or seek help from each other. I think it would really help to talk, discuss on the common challenges, problems, solutions. I think things like multi-tasking, handling pressures, & striking the right balance come naturally to women, which go a long way for me while working for my venture.
Valerie: Being an entrepreneur is the best idea in the world for the right people and it’s the worst idea in the world for the wrong people. For me, this is exactly who I am and I cannot imagine doing anything else with my life. But it is hard. Be prepared for more stress than you can imagine, exhausting amounts of work and responsibility, and a roller coaster of extremely disappointing days mixed with the highest of highs when things go well. When entrepreneurship is right for you, you’ll know.
Bear in mind that especially in India, everything takes longer than expected. Tenacity, stamina, and persistence are three qualities that are absolutely required for success in India.
Also be ready, especially in India, to face competition. If you are doing well, then you can rest assured someone will copy your innovation and likely try to undercut you on price.
Can you share a personal anecdote where being a woman entrepreneur has proven helpful/ not helpful?
Sonakshi: Women have excellent problem solving skills & exceptional bargaining skills. This works very well for me too. Once we were faced with this tough television contractor who was not willing to agree on our standard revenue sharing terms. That’s when I stepped into the matter and cracked the deal, with terms which were beneficial to both of us.
Sreepriya: In my experience of corporate life (8 years) and entrepreneurship (8 months) both corporate & the startup world in India are unbaised to gender and offer equal opportunities. But definitely the women:men ratios are no where close to equal. And it is drastically low when it comes to entrepreneurship. At my previous workplace we had 10-12 women in a strength 70 to 80. And during the meetings I have been to lately (like startup saturdays, failcon, esparks etc) I would see only 3-4 women even in a crowd of 100 odd audience.
Valerie: When it comes to my personal assets and leading ZipDial, I have built the team around me to achieve success together. For example, as a foreigner lady entrepreneur in tech in India, I am extremely rare. (I can’t find any other CEOs like me, so please share if you know any!) Sometimes this makes it easier to get a first meeting, because it’s a bit of a surprise and a bit interesting to hear what I have to say. However, I don’t know the right jokes in Hindi and I can’t chit chat about cricket, for example, in the way that other helps other Indian men in the market build relationships and close deals. Every person has their strengths and weaknesses, and it’s most important to be self aware and leverage the entire team for the company’s success.
More power to the Super Women of Indian Startup Ecosystem!