Indian women entrepreneurs who made it big long before the startup revolution


No matter how much India has grown as an economy over the last decade or so, women entrepreneurs continue to struggle. They have to fight hard even for the tiniest opportunities, yet they're not ready to give up. Some of them have already made it big, while others are on their way to the top. To inspire the current lot of young women entrepreneurs, we've prepared a list of five such women entrepreneurs who went against the odds to turn their ideas into successful business ventures before the startup boom.

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Shahnaz Husain

What would you expect from a woman who was born into a conservative family, got married at the age of 15, and gave birth to a child at 16? An ordinary life with a head full of household responsibilities, maybe?

Well, Shahnaz Husain did just the opposite, even when the odds were against her. She resumed her studies the very next year and went overseas to learn about beauty treatments. Upon returning to India in the year 1977, she converted her own house into a beauty salon to set up her dream project, Shahnaz Herbals, an Ayurvedic beauty care venture.

After years of effort, today the Shahnaz Husain Group has a chain of more than 400 franchise clinics, schools, shops, and spas across 138 countries.

Ekta Kapoor

From serials like Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki to Bade Acche Lagte Hain, Pavitra Rishta, Naagin, Kumkum Bhagya, Ye Hai Mohabbatein and Kavach, she has produced some of the best daily soaps on the small screen over close to two decades. Balaji Telefilms Ltd., which was originally incorporated by her father Jeetendra on November 10, 1994, has touched whole new heights under the solid leadership of Ekta Kapoor. Besides daily soaps, she is also involved in the movie production business.

Some of the sister companies of Balaji Telefilms are Balaji Motion Pictures Limited, ALT Entertainment, Bolt Media Limited, Chhayabani Balaji Entertainment Private Limited, and Alt Digital Entertainment Media Limited.

Vandana Luthra

57-year-old Vandana Luthra is a serial entrepreneur and Founder of VLCC Health Care Ltd. Apart from this, she also holds the prestigious position of Chairperson of the Beauty and Wellness Sector Skill Council. In 1989, Luthra started VLCC as a beauty and slimming services center in Delhi's Safdarjung Development Area. Over the years, she has transformed it into a successful venture operating in more than 326 locations, in 153 cities of 13 different countries in South Asia, GCC Region, South East Asia, and East Africa, employing over 4000 people.

The way she worked hard and turned her passion into a profitable business empire is quite inspiring and can motivate thousands of other women to chase their dreams.

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Chairman and MD of Biocon, fought more battles in the beginning of her career as an entrepreneur than most do in their entire lifetimes. It was in 1978 that she decided to start Biocon in Bengaluru. At this point, all she had was an initial investment of Rs 10,000 and a rented garage space.

Although Shaw was confident about what she wanted to achieve in her life, she had to face a host of challenges to keep the ball rolling. Banks denied her loans as biotech was still an unexplored field in India, and she was a woman. However, she didn't give up on her dreams and turned Biocon into India's largest pharmaceutical company.

In 2010, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw was on Time's list of ‘100 Most Influential People In The World’. The very next year, she made it to Financial Times’ ‘Top 50 Women In Business’ list. She has also been on Forbes’ list of ‘Most Powerful Women In The World’ for three consecutive years, in 2014, 2015, and 2016.

These names are just a few examples that suggest how far India has come in terms of women empowerment over the last few decades. But we still have miles to go to inspire more women to take entrepreneurship as a career option.


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