Addressing a gathering of aspiring and existing women entrepreneurs at a fully packed auditorium at IIM, Bangalore, Nirmala Sankaran, Co-Founder, HeyMath, half-jokingly and half-seriously noted,
We had a male inclusion ‘issue’ at HeyMath. For a long time we were 60-percent women.
Nirmala was describing her startup journey and how she went from working at Citibank in the late 1980s to more recently starting up in the edtech space with HeyMath. While she enjoyed her work and the security that her banking job offered, she realised that there had been a dynamic shift in her job role over the years. From meeting and working with people on the ground in her early years, she joked that it became more about figuring out who to ‘cc and bcc’ in mails in her later days as a VP. This, among other reasons, made her explore starting up.
An alumnus of IIM Bangalore, she also explained how her journey seems to have come full circle, as she is now looking to launch a startup inside HeyMath. She also shared some of the takeaways from her startup journey and noted that one of her key learnings and advice for women was to not shy away from talking about their work and ventures.
HeyMath is a success story, with Cambridge University being one of the founding partners and with the startup’s training curriculum having gained acceptance in schools across the world and also in Singapore, one of the hardest edtech markets to crack.
But such success stories are rare and rarer among women entrepreneurs. Women are under-represented in the Indian and global startup ecosystem. It is estimated that less than 11 percent of Indian entrepreneurs are women and less than three percent of those are able to raise funding.
To that effect, IIM Bangalore’s NSRCEL, supported by the government of India’s Department of Science and Technology, (DST) and Goldman Sachs launched Women Startup Programme 2017-18 to enthuse aspiring entrepreneurs to systematically think through their venture idea. This programme aims to help women to develop entrepreneurial skill sets to help from ideation to implementation stage and develop managerial skill sets that will help them start and grow their venture.
How the Women Startup programme 2017-18 works
The Women’s Startup programme is divided into four main steps and NSRCEL is now accepting applicants.
1)Virtual classes for six weeks
Commencing on January 22, 2018 and lasting for a duration of six weeks, the programme will leverage on the existing ‘DO Your Venture’ Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) developed by NSRCEL-IIMB.
NSRCEL will customise the content specifically for women entrepreneurs by addressing challenges specific to them. The plan is to include specific sociological and psychological research-based inputs to help women overcome hurdles and lead their ventures successfully.
2) Bootcamp at partner/satellite centres from April 2-8, 2018.
Three-hundred shortlisted participants will be picked to participate at bootcamp at IIM-B and satellite centres across India. This phase will include morning classroom sessions and afternoons can be used either for developing the business idea, developing a minimum viable product or for mentoring.
Here, the philosophy of 'Lean Startup Method' would be the driving force behind developing the idea. Each participant will attempt to develop a robust ‘problem-solution’ fit, which is to find out whether the problem their venture would attempt to solve has a large enough market to become a successful venture. Depending on the feedback from the customers, the participants may have to pivot in order to establish a better fit.
3) Residential bootcamp at IIM Bangalore
The final residential bootcamp for 100 shortlisted ideas will be organised by NSRCEL at IIMB. This will include structured guidance and mentoring support along with a few classroom sessions.
On the final day of the bootcamp, women entrepreneurs will pitch their ideas to the committee to move onto the next phase.
Based on their progress and pitches, top women entrepreneurs will be shortlisted and offered a mentoring and incubation facility for 12 months at NSRCEL-IIMB or one of the partner/satellite centres based on their location. They shall also receive a nominal prototyping grant and monthly fellowship for a year to support their ventures.
Addressing the gathering, Professor G. Raghuram, Director, IIMB, noted that the aim is to get 100 women entrepreneurs to be part of the Women Entrepreneurship programme for the 2017-18 batch.
During the previous edition, NSRCEL had incubated and provided support to 15 women entrepreneurs. Five of them spoke at the event and shared their journey and experiences. IIM Bangalore has also partnered with some other IIMs and institutions across the country and a few professors also took the stage to share their views about the state of the women startup ecosystem in India and how things could be improved.
Entrepreneurs interested in participating can register here