Elevate 2019: Entrepreneurs discuss if gender plays a role in the startup ecosystem

A panel discussion that focussed on women entrepreneurs discussed the role of gender in the startup ecosystem. The topic was, “Should I act like a man to be a successful tech entrepreneur?”

Elevate 2019, the brainchild of the startup cell of the IT & BT Department, Government of Karnataka, kicked off in Bengaluru on Monday, putting the focus on ways to identify and nurture the most innovative startups.

At the event, a panel discussion was held to address gender playing a role in the Indian startup ecosystem. The panel also spoke about the grit and determination that women entrepreneurs need to be successful.

Sucharita Eashwar, Founder and CEO, CWE, speaking about the state of affairs of women entrepreneurs, said, “Only 14 percent of all enterprises are owned or led by women in India. A lot of them are in the micro sector. But women-led startups are the fastest growing."

She also spoke about the recent YS funding report, and said women got only 10 percent of the overall funding in H1, 2019.

Sucharita asked the panellists: “Are women too nice and accommodative? Do they need to be more aggressive to get things done?”

Shrilakshmi Desiraju, Founder – Triphase Pharmaceuticals, said, “I don’t think I am yet successful. But one thing that I take pride in is I am there in the biotech spectrum. The hindsight is if you have a good product, biotech has a shelf life for generations, unlike IT products that have a limited shelf life”.

She asked all those in biotech startups to stick around and have patience. Shrilakshmi's company, which is into probiotics, has raised Series A funding.

“A fortune 500 pharma company has invested in our company. I went to 140 investors. And I found only three," said Shrilakshmi.

She said there is no blanket strategy as how to raise money. Speaking about raising funding, she said, “In January 2016, I started looking out for investment, and in May 2017, we got funding.”

Preeti Sawhney, Mentor, Brand Strategist, said, “Stop thinking through the gender lens. If all of us can subscribe to innovative policies, then more power to everyone”.

Kritika Murugesan, Director, NASSCOM 10K Startup Warehouse, said,

“Five and a half years ago, we started the 10K programme, and now, there is still no change that we have seen."

She was talking about the number of women entrepreneurs applying for 10K programme in relation to the overall number of entrepreneurs.

Vijay Ladha, Entrepreneur and Mentor, said, making profit is universal for both men and women entrepreneurs.

“Investors are giving money because they want good returns. So please stop calling women entrepreneurs and call yourselves entrepreneurs," she said.

(Edited by Megha Reddy)


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