How women entrepreneurs are smashing the glass ceiling

Eighty rupees was all it took a group of women five decades ago to start a business that is now a household name in India. Not many will be able to recall the names of those seven women but the story of Lijjat papad is perhaps the most outstanding example of women entrepreneurship in India.

Over the years, several Indian women have made their mark in professions as diverse as law, medicine, banking, police and politics but there are only a handful of women entrepreneurs who set up successful businesses and created brands as iconic as Lijjat.

Part of the reason is a society that doesn't encourage risk-taking in general, and by women in particular. The government's overarching role in business in the past (think licence raj) and difficulties in getting bank loans didn't help either.

But that is changing now. There has been a steep rise in the number of women entrepreneurs over the past few years. An expanding economy, the government's efforts to make it easier to do business and new technologies that are leveling the gender playing field are creating plenty of opportunities for women who want to venture out on their own.

So what does it take for a woman to set up a successful business? The Techcircle Startup 2016 summit in Bengaluru on Thursday will discuss this in detail. Meanwhile, read on to find out why more women than ever before are turning entrepreneurs and what is their recipe of success.

Namrata-BostromNamrata Bostrom, co-founder and CEO, POPxo.comIt's great to see more women starting up. I think they're now more open and willing to take the risk of launching their own businesses. Startups also offer them a fantastic opportunity to learn a lot in a short span of time. Most corporate jobs don't offer such a steep learning curve. Moreover, each women entrepreneur is solving a problem through her business. These businesses have been created to solve a particular problem which women as entrepreneurs have been able to find.

Bharati-JacobBharati Jacob, founder and partner, Seedfund AdvisorsThe fact that women are more willing to manage diverse issues including areas such as technology, which earlier they may be wary of handling, or in certain cases managing a workforce, or finance, is definitely a reason for the rise in the number of women entrepreneurs. Also, the startup phenomenon in India has enlivened the spirit of entrepreneurship in the country. This, in turn, has demystified the concept of entrepreneurship. Starting a business no longer appears to be huge challenge.

Falguni-NayarFalguni Nayar, CEO, Nykaa.comIndian consumer has evolved and so has her needs. Hence, everything has undergone a change including ordering food, buying grocery or purchasing make-up products. This has provided a chance to women to break away from running small cottage businesses to taking charge in the corporate world. So if there was a time when everybody thought corporate negotiations cannot be handled by every kind of women, this is not the case anymore. Women are no longer scared of handling negotiations. Second, it was always believed that men understand technology from their love for cars to gadgets. This too is a thing of the past now, with women running tech companies or firms which have tech at the heart of the business.

Radhika-AggarwalRadhika Aggarwal, co-founder and chief business officer, Shopclues.comThe evolving consumer need – from watching TV to buying clothes to shopping for basic needs, have opened the doors for multiple business opportunities. And here reside some areas where women tend to excel. Also, women have the ability to find a solution to a problem quickly. This is a skill they have developed from managing their families, which they are able put to use while doing business. Next, by crossing the technology barrier, women have broken the myth that we don't understand the digital world. Nonetheless, we need more young women to drive the spirit of entrepreneurship.

Rajeshree-NaikRajeshree Naik, co-founder and director, Ping NetworkIn many ways, the corporate world tends to have a glass ceiling which only a few manage to break. Today, as entrepreneurs, women can work around their business even while managing their multiple roles in life. With the changing consumer landscape, there are immense opportunities—people are consuming content, shopping, chatting and travelling differently and each one of these gives rise to multiple business opportunities. Growth in the startup ecosystem, the desire to work for a digital firm and the willingness to take career risks are factors that have helped women carve their own space as entrepreneurs.