Women on startup trail
8 Mar, 2009 | The Economic Times
Women on startup trail
- Sarah Jacob, Bangalore
VIJAYA Verma, 49, second-time entrepreneur left IT major Wipro in 1999 to set up a technology company of her own, Alopa Networks. Once the company grew, it got acquired by US company C-Core putting her in the driving seat as the head of its India operations. The entrepreneurial bug bit her again in 2006, with Ms Verma venturing out to start Yos Technologies that provides immediate health information to paramedics at the time of an emergency.
There are several others like Ms Verma who are restless to break out on their own. They are not necessarily looking at only the organic way of growing.
In fact, an Accenture study titles 'Untapped Potential: Stretching Towards the Future' released on Wednesday pointed out a high proportion of female respondents who believe they are insufficiently challenged at their workplace. Nearly 66% of women against 62% men felt their potential was not being stretched in their current role. About 75% women against 62% men in India are developing new skill as they move out of their comfort zone.
Though there are no concrete numbers available yet, anecdotal evidence suggests that women entrepreneurship is on the rise. For NID graduate Poonam Kasturi, one of the founding faculty of design school Srishti, the motivation to set up green company Daily Dump came out of a felt need. She stepping down as faculty in 2008 to manufacture products that convert household waste into compost. According to Ms Kasturi, she started it because "nobody wanted to do this."
If numbers are proof, this zest coupled with an enabling business environment has seen registrations at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore's management programme for women entrepreneurs double in 2009.
Girl comes out on top at IIM B
APOORVA Prasad, a woman entrepreneur achieved first position and successfully completed the management programme for entrepreneurs and family business
(MPEFB-2) course at IIM Bangalore. Ms Prasad is among the 11 women of the 48 students in the second batch of MPEFB course, who graduated on Saturday, IIMB said. "The course provided a lot of exposure and learning for a second-generation entrepreneur like me about business and has made me very confident," said Ms Prasad. The participants who are in the age group of 24 to 49 years were awarded certificates jointly issued by U21Global, an online graduate school, and NS Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (NSRCEL), an entrepreneurial learning centre at IIMB. MPEFB is a management course designed for new-generation entrepreneurs as well as for those running family businesses. "Next year we are also planning to form virtual incubation programmes, where virtual incubate may be too remote from an incubation facility to participate onsite, and so will receive counselling and other assistance electronically," said NSRCEL chairperson K Kumar.
"From 60 participants in 2004, the numbers have jumped to 120 registrations forcing us to run the six week programme in two batches simultaneously," said IIMB professor of strategy Ganesh N Prabhu. He said that the economic slowdown has caused a greater number of women to turn to entrepreneurship as an alternate career profile.
For instance, Indusgeeks, a company that was rolled out in April 2007 which provides 3D immersive spaces on the internet for branding, education and virtual events. Co-founder Ashima Misri, feels that startups are growing primarily due to a premium on innovative ideas. The company now names Tata Indicom, CRY and La Gazzetta dello Sport as its key clients.
While social challenges of balancing family responsibilities does continue to be a reality for women, there is increased activity across sectors. "We now see at least 20 women entrepreneurs founding companies on a yearly basis, a notable growth from the single-digit contributions more than five years back," Indian Institute of Information Technology founder and director S Sadagopan said.
For Dharani Nandakuru, who confounded Alertpedia, a free service which sends SMS and e-mail alerts such as airfare discounts and health new to subscribers, it has become easier to start companies, especially in the online space, without facing too many travel or financial hurdles. "There is an exciting trend of young women who are leading entrepreneurship cells at the college campus level and this spirit will play out on the professional front over the next few years," co-founder and executive director of National Entrepreneurship Network Laura Parkin said. Though TATA-NEN hottest startups contest, which conducted last month, saw women accounting for only 8% of the 600 nominees, the contest reflected a definite shift towards first-generation women entrepreneurs.
President of the Association of Women Entrepreneurs and Career Women in India, Which is an associate member of the CII, Mandip Sharma, said that women are now taking on conventionally male-dominated areas such as exports of vegetables and fruits or electricity products. "While this is on the rise, more women need to take the plunge on their own," Ms Sharma said.