Welcome to the age of superwomen in entrepreneurship
Bruce Wayne aka Batman, billionaire businessman by day and local vigilante by night, inspires confidence in all of Gotham City with his intelligence, confidence, and power. Tony Stark, better recognized as Iron Man, leads the multi-billion-dollar Stark Industries and the most powerful force in the world, The Avengers. All of America depends upon him for salvation in times of crisis. Superpowers aside, the popular perception is that a superhero is someone with exceptional intellectual prowess with a natural flair for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) subjects, and possesses inherent leadership skills to inspire the following of millions.
Female superheroes – if any – though equally talented and skilled, play an ancillary supportive role, as male superheroes tromp about saving all of humanity and successfully running multi-million dollar businesses in the interim.
Regardless of representation in superhero fiction, real-life examples of female superheroes are aplenty. They embody the true spirit of entrepreneurship – individuals who saw opportunity in risk and were motivated by the outcome that could be achieved by taking that risk, an outcome not necessarily led by monetary profits.
The corridors of power resonate with names like Indira Gandhi, Pratibha Patil, Sushma Swaraj, and Sheila Dixit. Shedding the cloak of the ‘weaker sex’, women like Kiran Bedi and Irom Sharmila struck fear and inspired respect in the heart of the entire nation. Internationally, women like Margaret Thatcher, Oprah Winfrey, and J.K Rowling have proven time and again the greatness women are capable of. Today, there is no arena which remains unconquered by women. Whether it is politics, sports, entertainment, literature, or technology, women power is everywhere.
The world of business and technology is witnessing an upsurge in women participation unparalleled to any point in global history. Here are some facts:
- In India, about eight million women have started or are running businesses. Women-owned entities account for about 10 percent of formal enterprises.
- In India, the number of women on the board of companies has doubled since 2010.
- Top 10 roles globally, which have seen an increase in women leadership, include test-development engineers, automotive salespersons, mariners, technical sales professionals, physicists, military officers, and surveyors.
- At a global level, a huge uptick has been witnessed in women joining the STEM sector in the last four decades.
With rising belief in their potential and unafraid of being heard above the male-led cacophony, more women are found in senior leadership positions in the corporate world. Taking the helm of multinational companies and institutions, these numbers, and the women they represent, are a ready source of inspiration for the new Indian millennial woman.
As the third-largest startup hub in the world, India is slowly becoming home to women entrepreneurs deftly steering the wheels of tech-led companies. Disruptive and trailblazing, these women refuse to submit and accept defeat even with heavy odds stacked against them.
One such inspiring story of true grit and determination is that of Megha More, Co-founder of the fitness start-up Truweight. Megha stayed away from her family for two years in order to pursue her entrepreneurial dream and her passion for fitness. Describing herself as a “rebel”, Megha says that, “I was passionate about chalking my own path. I came back to India and went to a completely new city to chase my dreams while my husband stayed back in the U.S. I was my own boss and my destiny was in my hands”. Speaking about the satisfaction which she derives from her work Megha adds that, “Creating something of value, from scratch, gives me immense satisfaction. Fitness and health was an area of interest and I saw that as an opportunity around which I could build a profitable business. It was also my way of making those around me lead a healthier and more fulfilling life.”
Sharing her views on what sets women leaders apart in a “man’s world”, Megha opines:
“I feel women leaders are more sensitive to the needs and aspirations of those around them and hence are able to build a better work culture. I run the company like I would run my household – frugal yet attentive to everyone’s needs”.
Running a company with 90 percent female employee strength until very recently, Megha says that “the most wonderful part of my role is that I act as an enabler and counsel them to think big, aspire, and work towards their dream. I can relate with them more and act as an inspiration to guide them towards a better tomorrow.” Realizing that scores of women drop out mid-career because of factors like marriage and motherhood, Megha hopes that with her story, she can inspire other women to pursue their careers post-pregnancy as well.
Validating every woman entrepreneur’s journey and echoing Megha’s sentiments is another female powerhouse – Shradha Sharma, Founder and Chief Editor of YourStory, a media technology platform for entrepreneurs. Fascinated with stories of young startups challenging the status quo, Shradha wanted to give them a platform to narrate their stories which led to her establish YourStory. Describing her journey so far as “beautiful”, Shradha says that becoming an entrepreneur gave her the “opportunity to closely connect with thousands of people over the years and get a ringside view of journeys of people from different background and aspirations”.
Throwing light on what helped her keep her zeal alive over the years, despite the hurdles she faced as a woman, she says,
“The most wonderful thing about being a woman in startup land has been my constant self-questioning and reflections. While we are told to be confident and know the answers, I believe not knowing all the answers and continually questioning myself has been critical in the last 10 years. It has made me constantly strive to improve and keep working with the same enthusiasm in 2018 as in 2008.”
These success stories indicate winds of change. There has been no dearth of women entrepreneurs in fields of beauty, fashion, jewellery, education, food, logistics, social enterprises, etc. What’s new though is the concept of women running big scalable businesses funded by venture capital – the new-age startup entrepreneurs.
Millennial women exude confidence like never before, ready to break through the old boys’ networks and make a mark of their own. The female superheroes of the real world are not satisfied being on the sidelines. After years of underrepresentation, they seem ready to fight their own battles and pave their own paths.
Disclaimer: The article is the independent opinion of the author and does not represent those of Kstart or Kalaari. Kalaari is an investor in TrueWeight and YourStory.
Vani Kola is a Managing Director at Kalaari Capital, based in Bangalore.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)