Growing India’s women founders by 10X needs collective action across the ecosystem, notes study by TiE Delhi-NCR, Zinnov, Google, NetApp, IAN

New Delhi, 21 March 2023: India boasts of a vibrant ecosystem with ~28,000 active technology start-ups; but regrettably, only 18% of them have women founders or co-founders. One of the primary factors that hinder women from starting up are the stereotypical myths and perceptions prevalent in India, notes a joint study, “Creating 10X Women Founders in India,” by TiE Delhi-NCR, Zinnov, Google, NetApp, and Indian Angel Network. The study also identifies the primary obstacles that women and women founders encounter in their entrepreneurial journey, and highlights the critical steps that all stakeholders in the start-up ecosystem must take to encourage more women to start up in India.

Creating 10X Women Founders

Women-founded start-ups and Male-founded start-ups – a comparison

Interestingly, the performance of start-ups founded by men and women across different metrics are comparable, notes the study. Women-led unicorns generate employment and revenue at a comparable rate to those founded by men. Women founders have similar success rates to their male counterparts, with 7 out of 1000 women-founded start-ups reaching the late stage, compared to 8 out of 1000 male-founded start-ups. And this comparability extends to the utilization of DeepTech as well – 8% of women-founded start-ups are leveraging DeepTech, while a slightly higher percentage of 11% of male-founded start-ups use these technologies. In essence, women-founded start-ups are at equal odds of succeeding as those founded by their male counterparts.

Gender Equity remains a distant goal

Despite comparable metrics, success, and high entrepreneurial intent, socio-cultural barriers hinder women founders’ growth. Besides, their underrepresentation in technology and business domains also inhibits entry into the start-up ecosystem. Though women founders have proven their mettle by successfully building billion-dollar businesses, B2B as well as DeepTech start-ups, precipitous challenges persist. Hence, the study not only highlights women founders’ capabilities, but also draws attention to the obstacles that need to be addressed by the ecosystem, to achieve gender equity.

The study reveals that the entrepreneurial intent of the Indian workforce, including women, is high at 76%. But gender roles make entrepreneurship a less viable career option for women. Additionally, the funding amounts raised by women founders are not at par with their male counterparts. This is because women founders seem more cautious to investors than male founders. Add to this the fact that women-founded start-ups take longer to get ready to raise Series A, and it’s a trifecta of challenges hindering women from actively choosing entrepreneurship.

Collective Action is the Way Forward

To bridge this chasm between women’s entrepreneurial intent and them actually starting up and scaling, the study outlines a two-pronged approach. First, to identify the underlying causes, and second, to take definitive steps that yield tangible, measurable outcomes. The study identifies 6 priority areas for action, and outlines how to address each of them, with examples of successful implementation across the lifecycle of a woman founder’s entrepreneurial journey – from starting up to scaling.

One such initiative is Sequoia’s ‘She Builds’ series, which collaborates with NatGeo India to showcase successful women founders as role models, inspiring more women to pursue entrepreneurship. Another one is the WEE Foundation’s programs that showcase their approach to identifying and encouraging promising women from research backgrounds to take up entrepreneurship. In the latter stages of women founders’ journeys, accelerator programs such as Google for Startups and NetApp Excellerator have been instrumental in helping women founders scale their start-ups through dedicated mentorship, market access, and networks. SheCapital provides funding for women founders through their Diversity and Inclusion fund, and Encubay through their Angel Investment Network.
Speaking about the need for this study in the ecosystem, Atit Danak, Parter at Zinnov, said, “Women founders have proven their ability to successfully build start-ups, with over USD 30 Bn in total valuation of unicorns and 800+ B2B businesses that they’ve built. However, despite their success, women founders still face challenges and biases in the Indian start-up ecosystem. Addressing these challenges is critical to unlocking the potential of 10X women entrepreneurs and bridging the existing gap. With buy-in and collaboration from the larger ecosystem, equity is possible.”

Srikant Sastri, President, TiE Delhi-NCR, commented,“TiE Delhi-NCR, through its focused initiatives, has been at the forefront of creating a level playing field for women entrepreneurs. By launching this report, we aim to outline actionable steps, identify key focus areas and frameworks that will help create a more inclusive ecosystem that benefits all. We’re grateful to our partners for their support.”

Commenting on the report, Sanjay Gupta, Country Head and Vice President, Google India stated,“Over the last decade, India’s start-up ecosystem has made steady progress to cement its position as a leading hub of innovation for the world. It has made determined progress, overcome many set notions and proven its credibility by building very successful and large enterprises. As we enter India’s digital decade, it’s also incumbent on this dynamic start-up ecosystem to reflect and review its own impressions and biases when it comes to women-led start-ups in the country. This report shines the light on this fast-growing community of women founders and calls upon the ecosystem to make India an equitable and inclusive land of entrepreneurs and progress.”