Ravindranaththe head of Google acceleratorin India, says the challenges facing women entrepreneurs go beyond funding.
- Startup ideas from women entrepreneurs in Tier 1, 2, and 3 cities include startups in healthcare, PCOS, agricultural productivity, and agritechs that are digital first, says Ravindranath.
Despite the success stories of female-led startups such as Nykaa, The Good Glamm Group, MobiKwik and others, there are still few female entrepreneurs in India – as they face unique challenges that their male counterparts do not face.
The proof of this is in the funding numbers. According to a YourStory report, $66.76 billion was raised by startups in 2018-22. Only 6% of this went to startups with female co-founders; and for solo founders, the proportion is razor thin at 0.78%.
A community of female founders
According to Paul Ravindranath, head of Google Accelerator in India, which has been supporting start-ups for seven years, the challenges women face go beyond funding.
“We conducted a survey of applicants for our accelerators and 48% of female founders said they needed a strong mentor to guide them. They’re looking for a community to support funders and a heroic story to follow,” he told Business Insider India.
Ravindranath says the number of female applicants for the program was 10% of the lot when it started in 2015-16 and is now at 30-35%. This year they are launching a special program for women.
Google for Startups Accelerator – India Women Founders is a three-month mentoring program that supports phase-agnostic founders and provides support in the areas of technology, user experience, marketing and leadership.
“The idea is to reduce friction and solve problems that only affect female founders,” he says. For this year, the program has already received over 300 applications, from which 20 will be selected to progress through the program. After completion, there will be a demo day, which will be like a closing ceremony, where you can meet investors, among other things. .
Many of the ideas coming from Tier 1, 2 and 3 city women entrepreneurs include healthcare startups, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and agricultural productivity. “There are also many ideas in the Agritech area that are digital first,” said Ravindranath.
Most of these founders have either a corporate or engineering background, are in their mid-20s to late 30s, and want to solve a problem at scale.
Ecosystem for female founders
The founder of VC firm Kalaari Capital,
In May this year, the Israeli Embassy partnered with IIT Delhi and the Women Entrepreneurship and Empowerment (WEE) Foundation to offer a six-week mentorship program for female entrepreneurs.
Aside from training them and helping them scale their ideas, the common point of all programs is building a network of peers. One of the founders mentored by Google is Naiyya Saggi, who founded BabyChakra, which was later acquired by The Good Glamm Group.
Now Saggi is a unicorn co-founder and a regular contributor to many such forums, and Ravidranath says it’s come full circle – she took her idea of making it a unicorn and is now guiding others to do the same.
“It’s an underrepresented group and more should lead the way,” he says.
The right entrances
In addition to community support, most founders lack the right input at the right time. The trouble with female founders starts at the very beginning. “When we asked the female alumni what stopped them from applying a year earlier because they were ready, they said they weren’t ready. This does not apply to male founders, who also start with unfinished projects and hope for the best,” says Ravindranath.
Female founders tend to ensure they are fully invested and very aware of the resources at their disposal before committing to entrepreneurship. Women also find it difficult to hire co-founders or team members or a tech team and tend to outsource the tech part to an agency.
In fact, many ideas fail at the technical stage, and the program intends to lay a good foundation before moving on to the funding stage.
The Google Accelerator program is designed to help women entrepreneurs with hiring, team structure, team position and culture. It’s also designed to help them perform better, give them pitching strategies, and turn their ideas into investable companies.
Ravindranath calls it “a lengthy process to go through” considering only 15% of all entrepreneurs are women.
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