The role of the entrepreneur in India’s economic development is inevitable. Driving entrepreneurship is the key to India’s economic growth and promoting it is crucial at this juncture when India is positioning itself as a world leader in business and trade.
Over the past few years, we have witnessed a rise in the culture of entrepreneurship in India. More and more youth have decided to let go of their cushioned and well-paid jobs, to pursue their dreams. We are also seeing an increasing number of college students jumping on the entrepreneurial bandwagon, and getting the required guidance and support from their institutes—a trend that was more prevalent in the West.
My journey as an entrepreneur over the past nine years is nothing less than thrilling. I moved back from the United States to India as I wanted to create something that could bring about a noticeable change in the financial ecosystem in India.
I do not belong to a family of entrepreneurs and hence, the journey was a challenging one, with even my close family members questioning my decision. However, I had the passion and believed in what I was trying to create.
The early days were tough and being a woman entrepreneur in fintech added to my list of challenges. I learnt that a woman running a lifestyle or beauty start-up might still be acceptable, but it was questionable if a woman created a financial services company.
I remember, initially when I was responsible for managing finances at MobiKwik, often auditors or investors and bankers would be surprised and would request if they could deal with someone male. This was shocking to me given that banking is an industry where female leaders are not uncommon. But this was not the time for me to change the mind-set of the people.
In fact, the only way to change this belief was by proving my potential. That is what I worked more on. Raising four stupendous rounds also made me somewhat of an expert on VCs.
One must always bear in mind that these start-ups are not built in a day. The big companies, which you have today, started as a start-up. So, anyone focussing to be an entrepreneur needs to put in a lot of hard work, execute planning, take on failures, burn the midnight oil to build her own venture.
While there are a few successful women entrepreneurs who have made it big, it is still a tough world for women wanting to become entrepreneurs in India. There are numerous roadblocks including personal and family challenges, as well as acceptance issues across partner and investor community.
While defining a rulebook for this will be difficult, here are some golden tips for women entrepreneurs:
# Believe in yourself
Women looking for entrepreneurship must begin with believing in themselves and in their idea without getting bogged down by criticism that they might encounter in their daily lives.
# Upgrade your skills
They must ensure that they are continuously upgraded in terms of their skill sets and thrive at promoting innovation. One should develop business skills and gain the knowledge and tools needed to enable business growth. There is a need to have a thorough understanding of the local and global business landscape.
# Make the most of government schemes
In the recent past, the Indian government has rolled out initiatives aimed at empowering women entrepreneurs and providing them with the required training and financial assistance to build their company. The government has multiple and massive schemes to fund small and start-up businesses. The women entrepreneurs should make the most of these.
People must make sure they create a convincing business proposal for the approval of funds and take help of experts and financial analysts if required. Keep yourself updated with government policies, especially around your sector of work.
# Promote innovation
Entrepreneurs should make sure that their team is constantly upgrading their skill sets. Soft skill training is equally important and should be conducted for all the employees. Innovation can enable businesses to have a clear edge in this competitive world.
# Maintain work-life balance
If you look at the overall gender diversity in India, it is skewed. Often, household responsibilities are what curb a woman’s career growth—the guilt of having to sacrifice family time for career ambitions.
Lack of understanding and support from the family—married or single, and further, the challenges one has to face while trying to balance work-life is what really discourages women to take up bigger things in life.
Though we do see things improving because of the progressing mindset, we still have a long way to go. So, I encourage more and more young women to believe in their idea and passion and follow their dreams till their end.
I also urge women leaders to promote gender diversity and treat women and men in their workforce as equals. I dream of a day when a majority of the top 10 brands in the world will be built by women entrepreneurs. The day is far—but I am sure we can get there! Together we can!