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Why India doesn’t have a female Sachin Bansal

Source | Quartz India 

Speak up, be heard: that was the message that emerged when a group of women entrepreneurs gathered in Mumbai last week to discuss the troubles they face in their professional lives. 

Yet, seldom did they speak about it during their discussions at the event. They had clients to handle, investors to convince, and colleagues to manage. 

Around 100 women and a handful of men thronged the venue at the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), Asia’s oldest stock exchange, for an event called “Women Power 2016” on March 5. 

Organised by The Mentorpreneurs, a business and consulting firm for startups, the event had clearly evoked interest. After all, India is yet to throw up a female version of a Sachin Bansal of Flipkart fame or Kunal Bahl of Snapdeal. Besides, of India’s eight unicorns (startups valued at $1 billion or more), none was founded by a woman. 

In 2014, Dell anlaysed 30 countries (pdf) to study how female entrepreneurship is fostered. While India has one of the world’s fastest growing startup ecosystems, it scored a mere 26 points—fifth from the bottom—in this index. Even Ghana, Nigeria and Panama, among others, performed better. 

An Economic Times study of 187 startups in India found that only 2% had women chief operating officers. Further, of the 500 founders of these startups, only 8% were founded by women, the newspaper reported today (March 8). 

The Dell report said that in South Asia, although 65% of the female population was willing to start a business, “the region’s weaknesses are related to the lack of women’s equal rights.” 

Equality, therefore, is something that needs immediate attention. 

Who will bell the cat?

At the event, the sessions revolved around challenges faced by women entrepreneurs in raising funds, scaling up and even just starting up. I was moderating one such discussion on the “challenges of scaling up”. 

During one of the panels, a woman entrepreneur nudged me. “Why is no one talking about gender biases?” she whispered, off the record. Clearly, she wasn’t comfortable even raising the issue.

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