“Woman-founded companies in my portfolio are able to execute better. They talk less. With men, long before they have even launched their product, they think they have arrived” — Rajan Anandan, the India managing director at Google, declared to a packed audience at The Economic Times Women’s Forum.
“With women, their focus is a lot more on just building the company and building their team. Women should actually promote themselves more,” said Anandan, one of the most prolific angel investors in the country’s startup ecosystem. He was speaking on the changing landscape of women in India’s entrepreneurship ecosystem.
One of the key points that emerged out of the discussion on ‘Women in Entrepreneurship’ was the need to enable women themselves, to look at entrepreneurship as an achievable aspiration and opportunity to build the foundation of the country’s industrial landscape.
“The number of companies coming up by women and ideas of companies driven by women are still not adequate. One of the reasons we don’t see many woman entrepreneurs is because, not many women want to become entrepreneurs,” said Meena Ganesh, who founded startup incubator Growth Story and is the CEO of healthcare startup Portea Medical.
Having more women as role models and encouraging conversations at the family level are crucial, to change willingness among women to start up, Ganesh said.
The panel was also questioned on the system’s ability and willingness to make easy the journey for such role models to come up.
“I think the question to be asked is if we as women want to be path-breakers — and we need to be path-breakers — then we need to put blinders on and be able to say from our deep inner conviction that they (critics) don’t stop us from being who we are. We need those (blinders) to pave the way forward,” said Vani Kola, managing partner at venture capital fund Kalaari Capital.
There is an unfair expectation from women, often imbibed by themselves, to be the best at all roles and juggle both work and home equally well, Kola said. Deriding that idea, she maintained that one must set realistic expectations of what may be feasible than what may be ideal.
“For the longest time sometimes, I would feel that my personal needs cannot come into my work’s way because then others will think I am lesser (than men). This notion of being a super-everything for women must go. I am not a super mom, I am just a mom, I am flawed, take it or leave it. It is okay if you are just focussed on something and do only that,” said Kola to a rousing applause from the audience.
To drive home the point that women should seek more for themselves and think about building their businesses just as anyone else would, Falguni Nayar, founder and CEO of cosmetics marketplace Nykaa, shared personal examples of a flexible and empathetic workplace leading to a better commitment from female employees.
“I feel that if women lean in and want it for themselves, they can achieve it all. For too long, women have been the support system of the family. Personally, I feel that women should make that choice to want more for themselves and that is the starting point and everything will fall into place,” said Nayar.
All panellists maintained that the process of entry into entrepreneurship was tough for women, staying the course and sticking to their paths 5-10 years later too was difficult and one that needed to be taken seriously by corporate structures.
“For startups, the single most important thing is to have more woman role models who all of India looks up to and says ‘I want to be like that; I want to build companies like that’,” said Google’s Anandan, adding that having a support structure among the men back home along with ecosystem elements such as woman-focussed funds would also help stimulate the number of women entrepreneurs to not just begin, but continue to stay and build valuable startups.
“Once you raise $100 million and you have to invest in woman founders only, you will have to go find them, right? You may not agree from a financial standpoint, but I have invested in a few funds like that in the US and that is massive,” Anandan said.
(The discussion was moderated by Archana Rai, editor-South, The Economic Times)