The representation of women in India, especially in the top management of companies, is faint. According to the National Sample Survey, only 14% of businesses in India are run by women. Of these, most of the companies are startups and small scale businesses.
Yes, more and more women are working now, but the imbalance exists because their subsequent growth is problematic. Firstly, opportunities are fewer for women in India. According to a report by the World Bank, only 27% of women were a part of the workforce in 2017 as opposed to 79% of men. In fact, there has been a decline from 34.8% to 27% in the two decades before 2013. Secondly, the ladder to higher ranks for women is steeper than it is for men. Which means, as you go higher up the chain, it begins to taper off.
The challenges exist, but there are many exceptional women who are determined to overcome them. Today, we are celebrating the women who have made their mark in their respective fields and whose achievements are an inspiration to us all.
Managing Director of Kalaari Capital, a venture capital firm based in Bengaluru, Vani is an investor known for identifying emerging markets. After spending 22 years in the US, it took Vani two months to decide to move back to India. She doesn’t just invest in businesses but in first-time entrepreneurs.
Also Read: Famous Women Entrepreneurs in India
Priyanka Gill, Founder & CEO of Luxeva India Pvt. Ltd., gives credit to Vani for POPxo’s success, and so do companies like Urban Ladder, Zivame, Stalk Buy Love, YourStory, and Blue Stone, to name a few. She has invested in over 40 companies till now. “Indian entrepreneurs have proven they can create high growth, capital efficient, high velocity businesses - the vitamins for the capital venture industry,” says Vani.
Agriculture machinery business in India has been male-dominated, but around 25 years ago, Mallika Srinivasan took over the Chennai-based Tractors and Farm Equipment as the chairperson and CEO and the company has grown tremendously under her leadership. TAFE is now the world’s third-largest tractor manufacturer by volumes with revenues of ₹9,300 crores. Not only did she lead the company’s growth to its present status, but she also diversified TAFE’s product range to farm machinery and diesel engines and acquired many automobile franchises and plantations to expand the business.
Do you know who is the brain behind your everyday lunches at work? Meet, Rashmi Daga, the founder and CEO of FreshMenu. You probably have never seen a FreshMenu kitchen or signboard but you trust the brand because Rashmi built it so. In an interview with Mint, she said, “I realised that you could get restaurant-quality food home-delivered. That (feeling) was a high. That was my first realisation that this works.” From around 50 orders a day in 2014 to about 15,000 - 17,000 a day today, FreshMenu has become a brand we can bank on for healthy, yummy meals.
The DTU and IIM-A graduate won the ET Startup Award in the ‘Women Ahead’ category in 2018.
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Talking about businesswomen who inspire us to dream big, POPxo’s founder and CEO Priyanka Gill is someone who motivates us every day to bring a change with everything we do. Her mission has always been to create quality content that speaks to women, for women. Under her leadership, POPxo has grown to India’s largest community of women where they read, watch, hangout and shop.
In a short span of five years, Priyanka launched two more digital media companies: Plixxo, an influencer marketing platform, and the namesake Luxeva, the digital guide to all things luxe. From a one-room office in Delhi’s Hauz Khas Village to a swanky space in Gurugram, Luxeva India Pvt. Ltd. is now 190 people strong with Priyanka as their constant guide.
The inspiring story of Nivruti Rai is for every woman who is confused about her career path and worries if it’s too late to change now. There were a number of instances when Nivruti almost quit her job—particularly when her 18-month-old baby was undergoing ear surgery. “And here I am, 22 years later,” she told Fortune India when she took over as country head of Intel India in March 2016.
The head of the tech company in India, Nivruti once wanted to be a fashion designer and is now among Fortune India’s list of Most Powerful Women in India.
Do you remember Surf Excel’s ‘Daag Acche Hain’ ad? Of course, you do! It’s catchy, unique and hard to forget. Not only did it win awards, but our hearts too. The campaign was led by Priya Nair, executive director of the home care division of Hindustan Unilever. The vertical is one of the most important ones in the FMCG company and is valued at nearly ₹10,000 crore.
Under Priya’s leadership, the division reported double-digit growth and improved margins last year. She also leads HUL’s ‘Swachh Aadat, Swachh Bharat’ programme, which has benefitted around 135 million people, according to the company data. The sustainable initiative is in line with the government’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
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India has seen a lot of successful women leaders in the banking sector--Chanda Kochhar of ICICI Bank, Arundhati Bhattacharya of SBI, and Naina Lal Kidwai of HSBC to name a few. But Chetna Gala Sinha stands out because she runs a bank, called Mann Deshi Mahila Sahakari Bank, for rural women. It has 90,000 account holders and ₹150 crores in business. Isn’t that commendable?
“It meant that poor women’s voices and aspirations were taken seriously and that their struggles and economic successes were recognised at Davos,” said Chetna at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2018, where she was invited to co-chair an all-women panel. She even launched an impact fund with an aim to raise ₹100 crores to support women entrepreneurs. That’s #WomenForWomen done right!
There are only a handful of people who have successfully turned their passion into a money-making profession. Chitra Gurnani is one of those names whose passion to travel motivated her to start a travel company, Thrillophilia, along with her husband Abhishek Daga. Thrillophilia curates the best local experiences and helps wanderers plan a stress-free holiday.
The software engineer left her job at SAP and Infosys to pursue her love for travelling. Today, her website is among the top 20 travel websites and considered as the largest adventure travel site of India.
When one talks about ‘women in tech’, Upasana Taku’s name is among the first few to pop up. She and her husband Bipin Preet Singh co-founded MobiKwik, a virtual wallet associated as payment partners with many sellers online. She pursued MS in Management Science & Engineering at Stanford University, and it led her into the finance industry, first, to HSBC in San Diego, followed by PayPal.
However, Upasana was not satisfied with the numbers she was driving for the US, Europe and Asia. “Work was becoming too easy. I had worked on some high-impact projects running into hundreds of millions of dollars, but the satisfaction was not there. I wanted to come back to India and contribute to the ecosystem back home,” she said in an interview. And that’s when MobiKwik, the first mobile wallet of India, was born.
Marilyn Monroe once said, “Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.” That’s exactly what Veena Ashiya, founder of Monrow Shoes, did. Veena became passionate about footwear at the age of five. For her, the ‘right shoes’ came in the form of Ferragamo ballerinas gifted to her by her father at the age of 16. And the conquering part followed.
“My motivation to start Monrow came because I wanted to give women shoes that not only looked great but also were comfortable,” said the 34-year-old entrepreneur in an interview. “As a woman founder of a shoe brand, I can empathise with my consumer a lot better,” she added, drawing from her experience of owning beautiful pairs that are not high on comfort. Veena owns more than 200 pairs of shoes that she stores in a 15x15 sqft shoe room in her house in Bengaluru.
What are you waiting for, now? Take the world and paint it red.
Featured Image: Instagram
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