Startup City Magazine
A monthly magazine for business startups and young entrepreneurs.



In various organisations, women were hardly seen in leadership roles and as the trend has today changed the ratio of women leaders in the startup scenario also shows the same image.

The question arises, What is holding them back? While it is alarming that today whole number of start-ups founded in India is growing at a significant pace, the role of women is not seen as much as men. It is neither the lack of talent or ambition that holds them back but they still face the difficulty to succeed. 

In the constantly developing scenario of the Indian startup ecosystem, more and more women are chasing the entrepreneurial dream and succeeding in their ventures but the barriers affecting the low women entrepreneurs’ rate continues to exist. One can look for successful entrepreneurs in India and found a list with many known names appearing on the list but one may not have those kinds of role models in Indian women entrepreneurs list. Why? Aren’t they successful? 

Well, they are, but there are a very few known. Many women entrepreneurs in India have overcome the hurdles of starting a business and created a name for their brand when it comes to listing one may not be able to list any role model who they think inspires them to be a startup owner.

From Neelam Dhawan, MD, Microsoft India to Ekta Kapoor, the creative head of Balaji Telefilms, these women leaders showcase that with passion towards the work and great leadership skills, one can be known as synonymous of success. There have been many initiatives that are seen today to ensure that the young girls and women who are still a part of the traditional household roles inspire and take actions towards becoming a successful start-up. Being aware of their journey and how they faced the challenges of being a woman is essential as they may not be the same as the ones faced by the male entrepreneurs.


India is among the countries where the women business owners face challenges based on their gender. The women leaders and professionals who are a part of the startup scene are usually the prey of the same challenges that other business leaders would face when it comes to generating funding, limited understanding of customers, penetrating the market, hiring qualified employees, and the complex regulatory but they are also facing challenges of less favourable conditions, pronounced cultural biases, and a lack of business resources such as finances, capital, training, and development.


While being a women leader or startup owner in the latest stages of their career, the women entrepreneurs may not face challenges directly based on their gender, the basis of it can be related to them being a woman. The unconscious bias is basically the intentional and automatic mental viewpoint that is created due to the traditions, norms, values, culture and experience.


The most common stereotype of “Women are not meant for business” has existed in the country for a long time. People around the world are of the thought process that men are more competent when it comes to financial matters. Women leaders and entrepreneurs have been facing such attitudes reflected in communication. They are often treated with less respect and they sense doubt when interacting with business partners.

The challenges do not stop for women entrepreneurs here, they tend to have constant negative feedback which makes their mindset towards their venture as women entrepreneur more difficult affecting their confidence. Many women leaders have faced and overcome this challenge and with their strong mindset tend to introduce an idea of being more than what society says about them. While many women leaders and entrepreneurs still tend highly successful women often struggle with self-doubt and underestimate their abilities and performance, while the opposite has been observed for men.


Entrepreneurship is said to be a risky undertaking, women are often easily assumed to be less willing to take risks. One of the most famous Indian women leader and successful entrepreneur, Mazumdar-Shaw, observed a great deal of scepticism towards women entrepreneurs. When she initiated, she was considered ‘high-risk’ by potential funders whose investment she courted for her biotechnology company, Biocon.

When it came to financing, stereotypes appear to manifest in behaviour as fewer women actively approach investors and are more reluctant to divest stakes, as observed by one interview partner. The approach followed by many investors across different industries prefers men over women despite identical content of their pitches. Women rarely own property, which can be used as collateral for loans which is another problem.


The men focused on corporate cultures are prime barriers in women entrepreneur’s leadership. While a male employee may categorise the Indian startup ecosystem as a “bro culture” of “alpha males”, with a lack of empathy and talking about emotional challenges is perceived as a weakness.

Women entrepreneurs do not feel comfortable in prominent industry networks with the sexual harassment and the approach the industry leaders have. Not being a part of such networks also affect their progress as they tend to miss important opportunities to mingle and connect with people in the market and thus, struggle even more than male entrepreneurs with getting access into the market.


India might have come a long way when it comes to the women working outside but their roles have increased and so has their loads. The predominant social norms expect women to first and foremost look after their home which leads them to a position of juggling between both home and company which can be challenging; family support is considered a core success factor for Indian female entrepreneurs. Many women leaders consider themselves lucky to found a family that has a modern outlook and understands their passion which is truly a challenge India has to overcome as a society.


Some perceive the entrepreneurial careers as difficult to reconcile with duties at home, they might be a good opportunity for women, allowing them to work with more flexible hours and space. However, being a woman entrepreneur and a mother leads to further difficulties holding them back. Being an entrepreneur means no maternity benefits and after pregnancy, the guilt is one of the big factors affecting their decision of continuing their career. They need support to ensure like the grandparents or child-care options to look after the kids.


India has been dealing with women’s safety as a factor for years. When it comes to the safety at the workspace as well as during commutes between the office and home, the issue continues to exist in India. Delhi, the capital of India, which is considered one of India’s four global startup cities continues to be notoriously poor in ensuring women’s safety and has high rates of sexual crimes. The perception of danger reinforces social norms, which restrict women’s mobility and thereby, their economic participation and freedom.


Women are multitasking and powerful individuals but there are various factors that harness their potential to become successful. Acknowledging these problems are essential for overcoming these challenges requires a load of passion within the women entrepreneurs themselves as well as tackling the external factors that are affected by the society and the corporate ecosystem.


Some Amazing Women Entrepreneurs In India, Breaking The Barriers

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