- Female-led startups are set to boom in India over the next few years.
- The biggest obstacle they face is raising funds.
- In an interview with Business Insider, the founder of
SheCapital— Anisha Singh— explains that bias still exists and how more representation can help address some of the challenges faced by women-led businesses.
Startups led by women aren’t in the majority. The entrepreneur space is largely dominated by men and talk of equality is mostly lip service, with very few willing to walk the walk. However, this could change in the near future.
Anisha Singh, the founding partner of a venture fund — SheCapital — that invests in women-led startups, believes that there’s going to be a substantial increase in female-led businesses in India over the next two to three years.
“We saw a lot of female-led unicorns happen last year and last to last year. Female-led unicorns in the US gave more liquid exits to their investors last year than other unicorns. And, that wave is going to come to India,” she said in an interview with Business Insider.
Women entrepreneurs need more credit support
A recent study by the Reserve Bank of India (
RBI) shows that only around 5.9% of startups were led solely by female founders during the last financial year. India ranks a dismal 52 out of 57 countries on the
Index of Women Entrepreneurs 2019.
Changing that won’t be easy. Women entrepreneurs are entering the game a little late, according to Singh. To make matters worse, they tend to seek and raise less money as compared to their male counterparts. But there is no dearth of female-led businesses looking to grow and the consumer tech space is ripe for innovation — and disruption is just around the corner.
“We’re seeing some amazing online businesses — in the makeup space to the lingerie space. I think people are building really sound business around women-catering-to-women doing some really phenomenal break out stuff that has never been done online,” said Singh.
Gender bias still exists — whether people want to admit it or not
Even though raising money isn’t the only criteria for measuring success, Singh believes that it does help businesses scale. But raising funds isn’t as gender-balanced as people are usually led to believe.
“You go to any investor right now, they will tell you that they don’t differentiate between a good business but that’s just not true. Because I’ve been there. I tried to raise money when I was pregnant. People will judge you and there is bias, whether we want to point it out or not — or be politically correct or not,” she said.
Not even Nordic countries — lauded for having the highest rate of gender parity — are immune to gender imbalances. According to a study by
Harvard Law, the questions asked to male and female entrepreneurs are different in the most developed of countries.
When someone was asked why they didn’t invest in MyDala — Singh’s former star up — they responded, “She was just too pregnant at the time.”
“There’s a bias whether we want to admit or not. Even women investors have a bias. We can’t help it, it’s ingrained in us since we kids. We’ll have to take conscious steps to change that on our own,” said Singh.
That experience was one of the reasons behind the birth of SheCapital. “It’s just a filter. I’m not going and funding every women-led business. But I’m using a filter because a filter needs to be used in certain cases. It does need to be there,” she explained.
More representation and balance can solve the challenges faced by women entrepreneurs. In the coming years, they will be a bigger part of India’s startup story. However, a lot of that depends on getting better access to financing and ensuring that these businesses have room to grow.