Women Entrepreneurs: A Woman Venture Capitalist’s View
Women's Day Guest Column by Anuradha Ramachandran, Ventureast
Women’s day is a day of celebration of womanhood. But I am no feminist nor am I a believer in separate or special rights for women. Here, as a venture capitalist, I provide my perspective. The views are personal and do not reflect the policies of the firm I work with, Ventureast.
The perspective of women VCs is a lot easier to write about. There are quite a few – Renuka Ramnath and Vishaka Mulye at ICICI, Vani Kola at NEA-Indo US, and Sharadha B at Unitus. I have another colleague Snigdha Vangapally and I am sure there are others at different firms I may not have met so far. Typically at a VC firm, we come across entrepreneurs, limited partners who invest in us, and other financial institutions such as banks with whom we work, and our own colleagues. Most people in the financial sector have been used to women working for quite some time – women have been in banking for long – and hence there has been no occasion where I have had any difficulty because I was a woman. I also am on the Board of some of the firms that we have invested in and did not feel any discomfort because of my gender. For instance, there have been no issues with entrepreneurs or other Board members having difficulty in taking inputs from me. Even in the few cases of difficult companies where we have had to face lenders and vendors, there have been no instances of gender bias working either positively or negatively.
However, it is true that I do come across few women who are entrepreneurs. There are only two independent women entrepreneurs who are looking to lead their own businesses that I have personally come across. There have been a few more instances where women have been a part of the founding team or senior management team, but even these are very few.
As investors, we do not have a bias against women entrepreneurs. We do not have, for instance, any doubts on a woman’s ability to lead a successful enterprise. However, I am not sure how I would react if we found that a woman entrepreneur had young children who require attention. This should not pose problems if the business is somewhat established and there is a senior management team in place. In an early stage company a woman founder with family responsibilities becomes a bit more complex, since the business is dependent wholly on the founders. In such a scenario, we may probably look for a co-founder who would be able to balance the needs of the business. Apart from this, I cannot recall a scenario where there could be any specific hurdles for women entrepreneurs.
Microfinance companies on the other hand are the ones who invest primarily in women entrepreneurs. Such entrepreneurs are typically poor women who run daily businesses such as food stalls, vegetable vendors, dairy business and the like. It is unlikely that such women have organised support structures nor do investors find any such for them; the livelihood of their families depend on the income they can generate, which is a powerful incentive for the women entrepreneurs.
With so much support available in today’s scenario, it would be wonderful to see more women taking to entrepreneurship. That’s what I feel being a woman on Women’s Day.