Outlook 2016: 12 women entrepreneurs to watch out for


Even as the Bansals and the Yadavs hogged the limelight for the most part of 2015, there was a set of women entrepreneurs silently toiling away to take their startups to the next level. Be it e-commerce or fin-tech, these women did not shy away from the wave of entrepreneurship sweeping the country. And the investors were also happy with their efforts, what with many of these ventures receiving early stage funding. As Sairee Chahal of Sheroes, a startup that works towards creating flexible work options for women, puts it, investors are looking more at the business viability and talent behind the venture instead of the founder's gender. Here are some of those women to watch out for in 2016.

Radhika Aggarwal, co-founder, ShopClues

An alumnus of Washington University, Radhika Aggarwal started ShopClues, an online marketplace focused on mostly unstructured product categories, in 2011 with her husband Sandeep Aggarwal and former eBay executive Sanjay Sethi. In the years that followed, ShopClues, run by Gurgaon-based Clues Network Pvt Ltd, the Indian unit of US-based Clues Network Inc, has faced many difficulties, starting with the exit of Sandeep Aggarwal after he was arrested for insider trading in the US. But Radhika and Sethi did not allow that to keep the startup down, and soon it was able to find a niche for itself despite competition from e-commerce giants such as Flipkart and Amazon. This month it raised a fresh round of funds led  by sovereign wealth fund GIC Pte Ltd, with participation from existing investors Tiger Global Management LLC and Nexus Venture Partners, thus raising its valuation to more than $1.1 billion, to enter the coveted "unicorn" club.



Upasana Taku, co-founder, MobiKwik

Upasana, as co-founder of MobiKwik and Zaakpay, is one of the few women in the fin-tech space. Armed with a degree in management sciences and engineering from Stanford University, Upasana worked with PayPal and HSBC to learn the ropes of the trade before starting MobiKwik and Zaakpay with her husband Bipin Preet Singh. Last year, MobiKwik had raised $25 million (over Rs 150 crore) in a Series B funding in a round led by Tree Line Asia, Cisco Investments, American Express. One MobiKwik Systems Pvt Ltd, which runs MobiKwik,aims to turn profitable by financial year 2016-17, after it achieves its target of $700 million gross merchandise value in 2015-16.


This entrepreneur also counts riding motorcycles and completing triathlons among her interests.


Richa Kar, founder and CEO, Zivame


Richa raised a lot of eyebrows when she started selling lingerie online in 2011. Sailing through the initial hiccups, she has now made it a "cool" business, leading to a host of similar startups cropping up. Starting out as an aggregator of top brands, Zivame now has its own private labels as well, with a lion's share of the lingerie e-commerce market. Actoserba Active Wholesale Pvt Ltd, which runs Zivame, has since raised three rounds of funding, bagging Rs 250 crore in its Series C investment round.


Suchi Mukherjee, co-founder and CEO, Limeroad


The e-commerce space is replete with fashion portals claiming to having the largest range of products. But Suchi Mukherjee's venture, Limeroad, cut through the clutter to offer the scrapbooking feature, the USP of the portal. Limeroad, run by A.M. Marketplaces Pvt Ltd, allows users to create unique looks using the products on the portal. The company has since raised at least $50 million from investors including Tiger Global, Matrix Partners and Lightspeed Venture Partners. With a degree from University of Cambridge and London School of Economics, Suchi has previously worked in key positions at Skype and GumTree.


Falguni Nayar, founder and CEO, Nykaa


Falguni Nayar started Nykaa nearly four years ago, and became one of the first ventures in the online beauty supplies segment. Having raised nearly $14 million in external funds till date from investors such as PE firm TVS Capital, family offices of Marico founder Harsh Mariwala, Hexaware founder Atul Nishar and Dalip Pathak, former India and Europe head of Warburg Pincus. Michael Carlos, former president of Swiss fragrance maker Givaudan, Nykaa is now planning to expand to offline stores as well. The website, run by FSN E-Commerce Ventures, claims to get 4 million visitors a month.

Falguni served as managing director of Kotak Investment Banking before taking the enterpreneurial plunge with her husband Sanjay Nayar, CEO at US buyout firm KKR India.



Sairee Chahal, founder and CEO, Sheroes

Sheroes began as Fleximoms, which enabled young mothers to take up flexible jobs after a hiatus. In its present form, Sheroes mentors and guides women to restart their careers, besides curating a range of jobs for them. Since its inception, Sheroes has helped over 10,000 women get inducted into the workforce "at their own terms", and has partnerships with 6,000 companies and over half a million active women professionals on the platform. In August last year, Sheroes, run by Applied Life Pvt Ltd, caught the fancy of investors such as media baron Raghav Bahl, Paytm's Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Google's Rajan Anandan and Flipkart's Binny Bansal.


Pankhuri Srivastava, co-founder, Grabhouse

Anyone who comes to Mumbai for the first time faces much difficulty in finding a house, but Pankhuri Shrivastava and Prateek Shukla turned the problem on its head. Founded in July 2013, Grabhouse's USP is the absence of middlemen or brokers and solving rental issues through technology. With a real estate listing as well as a flatmate search platform, Grabhouse attracts nearly 1.5 million visitors every month. A computer science engineering graduate from Rajiv Gandhi Technological University (Bhopal), Pankhuri started her career as a fellow with Teach for India, an NGO that works towards educating under privileged children. Last year, Cryptopy Technologies Pvt Ltd, which runs Grabhouse, raised $10 million in a Series B round of funding from its existing investors, Sequoia Capital and Kalaari Capital. Grabhouse has an active rolling inventory of 3,000 homes across 11 cities. Around 40 per cent of employees in Grabhouse are women.


Manisha Raisinghani, co-founder, LogiNext

It was numbers and data that had always fascinated Manisha Raisinghani and after a short corporate stint, she had pursued her Masters in Information Systems from Carnegie Mellon. So even as her family expected to join the family business, she had other plans. A TED talk by Facebook's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg on women leaders gave Manisha a much-needed push to get started on her longing to set up her own business. A meeting with old classmate Dhruvil Sanghvi in 2013 where they discussed the problems and complications in the logistics business in emerging markets led them to launch LogiNext the same year. The company is now helping the highly fragmented and unorganised logistics industry solve its problems by leveraging big data. It offers advanced analytics to streamline the logistics and supply chain. Last year, LogiNext Solutions Pvt. Ltd which runs LogiNext, secured $10 million in Series A funding from Paytm.


Anu Acharya, founder, MapMyGenome

The entrepreneurial journey of Anu Acharya started in 2000 when she founded a company called Ocimum Bio Solutions in the US, a genomics outsourcing platform which helps scientist undertake research on genetics. Through three acquisitions and two rounds of funding over a period of 14 years, her company continued to grow leaps and bounds. But that wasn't enough for Anu, her desire to do more led to the inception of MapMyGenome, a startup that offers DNA testing service and personal genetic services.

Anu, an alumna of IIT Kharagpur, remained CEO at Ocimum till 2013 before turning her attention to her new venture. Last year, Mapmygenome India Ltd, which runs Mapmygenome, raised $1.1 million in a pre-Series A funding round from Rajan Anandan, Google's VP and MD for South East Asia and India, and Satveer Singh Thakral, chief executive of Singapore Angel Network, besides others.


Aditi Avasthi, founder, Embibe

Aditi's failure to clear IIT-JEE in 1999 due to lack of mentoring story was the trigger behind the birth of Embibe. Founded in 2012, Embibe is an online test prep portal, which uses technology and data sciences, to help students prepare better for competitive exams such as JEE Main, JEE Advanced, BITSAT and CET/AIPMT. It is now one of the fastest growing and most innovative ed-tech startups in the country. Last year, Aditi was also featured in Fortune India's "40 under 40", and was mentioned amongst the most influential young people in the country.

Mumbai-based Individual Learning Pvt Ltd, that runs Embibe.com, recently launched an open learning source called Learn, a comprehensive platform with over 11000 concepts.


Shubhra Chadda, co-founder, Chumbak

If there is one entrepreneur who can inspire you to follow your dream regardless of the outcome, it is Shubhra Chadda. Five years ago, Shubhra and her husband Vivek Prabhakar stumbled upon the idea to sell souvenirs that represent India's rich cultural diversity and give tourists a little piece of India to take with them. They left their secure jobs and even sold their apartment to raise funds and launched Chumbak Design Pvt Ltd in 2010.

From magnets to key chains to mugs to cushion covers and accessories, the company offers a host of brightly printed objects to give a peppy image of India. At present, Chumbak offers more than 400 products under 48 categories. They have 13 stores in eight cities with plans to open 50 more stores by the end of this year. Last year the company launched its apparel business, and is now straddling both offline and online commerce.


Prukalpa Sarkar, co-founder, Socialcops

Prukalpa Sarkar founded SocialCops to use data to solve the most pertinent problems of the world. The company mines, digitises and visualises data across education, health and various other sectors and boasts one of the largest data libraries open to the public.

The urge to do something extraordinary was always there in her. At the age of 10, she hardcoded an HTML website for Harry Potter fans and during her university days she founded the Singapore Entrepreneurship Challenge that brings together over 150 startups and youth in Singapore every year.

So when Prukalpa started SocialCops with Varun Banka right after she graduated from Nanyang Technological University, it was quite normal for her. The startup, run by Peeply Pvt Ltd, found a place in 2015 Forbes India's '30 under 30' and Fortune India's '40 under 40' lists. Its app Collect, which works without an internet connection also proved helpful during the Chennai floods last year. The Delhi-based startup was funded by 5000Startups, Google's Rajan Anandan and others in 2014 and has never looked back since then.

Sign up for Newsletter

Select your Newsletter frequency