I strongly believe that the world belongs to those who want to make a difference and gender is no barrier. We have enormously talented women in leadership positions in India and many more who are rising to the top. These women are making their mark across a diverse range of businesses. Today, 6 of the Top 10 Banks in India are headed by women and 12% of India’s 5,100 pilots are women. Likewise, there is a huge surge in women-led start-ups in IT & Biotechnology. This is evident from the fact that India has been ranked as the most active country for successful women entrepreneurs, with one-third of early-stage entrepreneurs being women!
A guest column by Kiran Mazumdar – Shaw
This is a welcome change from the situation in the late 1970’s when I started off as a woman entrepreneur having launched my own biotech start-up. I had to run from pillar to post to raise funds for my business as banks were unwilling to lend to me because of my gender! Thankfully it’s not the same anymore.
Today we have specialized venture funds like Saha Fund, the brainchild of Ankita Vashisht, which exclusively invests in brilliant start-ups that are either run by women entrepreneurs or employ a majority of women in the workforce or those that create a service / product specifically for women. The Saha Fund’s aim is to discover talented women entrepreneurs in sectors like e-commerce, social media, mobile, cloud, analytics, education, healthcare, food tech etc. and bring them to the forefront by enabling them to scale up their ventures using digital technology.
Similarly, technology has today become a big enabler and many entrepreneurs are leveraging technology to take their innovative ideas to market and make a difference to people. One such future ‘game changer’ idea is Anu Acharya’s MapMyGene, which is making a significant impact on improving the health status of Indians. Her product is fulfilling an unmet need by making Indians move from the Janamptri (horoscope) to the Genomepatri, which is a report capturing a person’s genomics profile. Genomepatri helps analyze an individual’s predisposition to certain diseases, risks that he or she runs from diet and lifestyle factors as well as potential reactions to certain drugs. It covers about 100 conditions, traits and drug correlations and gives a report on disease predisposition.
Similarly, Anu Sridharan, the founder of the start-up NextDrop, is leveraging technology to make it easier for citizens to cope with erratic public utilities like water supply in India. For Rs 10 every month, NextDrop sends text messages to subscribers’ phones alerting them when water will be supplied at their nearest municipal water tap.
Another smart entrepreneur, Neeti Kailas of the Sohum Innovation Lab, has used technology to design a non-invasive device that screens newborn babies for hearing impairment. Her inexpensive and portable device can be a game changer in India where some 100,000 hearing-impaired babies are born every year, but don’t have access to screening systems that can detect their condition.
In a country like India, the power of digital technology is allowing women to create markets for their products and services in a way that was not possible before.
I believe the time today is just right for women entrepreneurs to flourish in India. All that is required is for the women to be innovative, use their instinct, intellect, resourcefulness and commitment to take ideas to market to tap the enormous opportunities unfolding before them.
In my view, women need to capitalize on their inherent qualities of compassion, sensitivity, multi-tasking and above all, the inner strength to excel. With the right mix of all they can break through the perception of a glass ceiling preventing their success.
Today, the entire world is watching India with great anticipation. There is a newfound confidence among Indian women, a sense of self-belief that they can excel in any domain, compete with their male counterparts on a level-playing field, attain leadership positions and become role models for all. Coupled with their hard work and perseverance, women can achieve anything they set their minds on. I firmly believe the empowerment of the Indian woman will unleash ‘Shakti,’ or the feminine creative power, and lead to transformational societal change in India in the coming days.
We all need to take inspiration from the words of Grace Murray Hopper, the American computer scientist, who said: “A ship in port is safe, but that is not what ships are for. Sail out to sea and do new things.”
About the author: Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is a pioneering first generation biotech entrepreneur, and the Chairperson and Managing Director of Biocon Limited, Asia’s leading bio-pharmaceuticals enterprise.