With the increased representation of women in business and the growing fem-tech and women’s wellness sector, the start-up segment is finally sitting up and recognizing the potential of its female entrepreneurs. A key example of the same is the launch of ‘herSTART’ by President Droupadi Murmu. ‘herSTART’ is a start-up platform for women entrepreneurs created by Gujarat University, Ahmedabad. Committed to helping female entrepreneurs in their innovations, dreams and efforts, the start-up platform will provide women entrepreneurs with the necessary tools to excel in their fields and level the playfield.
Gujarat university currently actively supports over 125 female-led start-ups and with over 15,000 female entrepreneurs involved in the campaign. The ‘herSTART’ initiative hopes to bring unprecedented growth in this data.
India currently boasts more than 100 unicorns, yet women founders find themselves a small percentage of this. The country at large has often been guilty of boxing women in non-viable gender roles and social norms. This outlook has time and again prevented a majority of women from venturing out and realizing their dream projects.
The challenges for women-led start-ups go beyond just a lack of familial support. It truly is a stacked problem that comprises access to funds, socioeconomic status and cultural outlook. Of these hurdles, one of the biggest challenges is financing. Minimal access to funds - personal or familial, forces women entrepreneurs to give up on their dreams. The cause of this dismal financial situation is multifold. Lack of education, lack of familial support for pursuing jobs, no rights over family property/finances etc are a few such contributors. To add to the problem, women entrepreneurs seldom find relevant investors who are willing to take a bet on them citing their work as mere hobbies. Finding the right investors that resonate with the ethos of the company and invest in not just the monetary growth but also the brand language is difficult.
This is where ‘herSTART’ steps in. With a targeted initiative to increase the number of female entrepreneurs in the country, the start-up platform will work as an early-stage start-up incubator helmed by Gujarat University Startup and Entrepreneurship Council (GUSEC). The incubator initiative will support women entrepreneurs in the early stages of their start-ups to hone their ideas and help them find access to resources. The acceleration program will aid women entrepreneurs in streamlining their business plans, getting funding and jumpstarting their firms.
For women in business, especially women from remote regions another key bottleneck they face when starting their business is access to skilled personnel. This includes the right people to help chart the growth of the business, decipher the relevant opportunities and a lack of networking. Limited to no access to professional networks often conditioned by patriarchy further make it difficult for women to sustain and grow at a steady pace. Amidst these issues, very few women can bring their ideas to fruition. This underrepresentation of women founders fuels the vicious circle of low opportunities affecting mentorship possibilities as well.
‘herSTART’ is a comprehensive program that aims to build an eco-system for women to encourage them to start their businesses. Founded to empower women’s innovative ideas, ‘herSTART’ will assist prospective women entrepreneurs to connect with industry experts and advance their dream. Increased interaction between women entrepreneurs and relevant private and government enterprises for funding, mentorship and support including resource acquisition and training modules will give women entrepreneurs a leg up in the male-dominated start-up segment. These opportunities will be free of cost thus widening the accessibility to women from various walks of life. Opportunities include an e-Certificate for all participants, industry support and a single-stop start eco-system that will help women grow with shared experiences as well.
India is predicted to be home to more than 150 unicorns by 2025, ‘herSTART’ will help increase the percentage of women in this category. Extending the right opportunities, support and incubation to women-led startups, the initiative will hopefully not only bring about an economic change but also a monumental change in the sociocultural outlook towards the women of this country.
By Anika Parashar
(Disclaimer: The views in article are those of the author. The liability for the article rests solely with the author.)