8 Mar 2016, 13:02 — 5 min read
As today is Women’s Day, I've been thinking a lot about how to empower women and realised that entrepreneurship is the most empowering step that a woman can take. If you’re an Indian woman with hopes, dreams and her own passions, but are stuck at home taking care of kids, or in a dead end job, becoming a woman entrepreneur is a great option for you.
But first, what distinguishes a woman entrepreneur from one who is self-employed? An entrepreneur is different because she creates jobs for others. According to an article in the Times of India, even though the number of self-employed women has doubled to a crore, from 2000 to 2010, women entrepreneurs remain a rarity.
The article goes on to note that, women tend to stick to comfort zones like apparel and hospitality as entrepreneurs. In the more profitable STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) sectors, women are marginalised by the macho culture, excluded from 'buddy networks' and lack female role models.
Today, India ranks in the bottom five of 30 countries surveyed for conditions that foster 'high potential' women entrepreneurship. Women have more limited access to bank loans and the gap is even wider when it comes to venture capital (VC) funding, says the article. I have great hopes for women’s entrepreneurship in India. However, a number of things need to change if more women are to start their own successful businesses.
Here are five tips that will help Indian women claim their rightful place among the ranks of successful entrepreneurs.
1. Think Big
According to Uma Reddy, MD of Hitech Magnetics and Electronics, "Women start small and VCs aren't interested in a small deal size. Further, women have a lower risk-taking appetite.” If women want to attract VC funding, they need to think big and start pitching to VCs with much bigger future projections than they are now doing. After all, if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. Take a risk on yourself and it will convince VCs to do the same.
If you work in a STEM field, where VC investment is crucial, thinking big is even more important. You can take heart from successful entrepreneurs like Biocon’s Kiran Majumdar Shaw and Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of Theranos Inc., who have broken the male monopoly in technology innovation and “gone where no man has gone before.
2. Approach Angel Investors
Don’t make the lack of funding an excuse not to start a business. The most successful entrepreneurs don’t wait around for change to happen. They create their own opportunities and proceed with their plan, bootstrapping their way, if necessary.
Instead of going straight to VCs, you can approach angel investors with a smaller plan. It will give you a chance to assess the viability of your business ideas. Karnataka’s government has launched an angel fund for women, and it is possible that other states may follow suit. In the meantime, dig deep into your personal network for angel investors who believe in you and your business.
3. Find a Mentor or Business Coach
With mentoring programmes from organisations like TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs), TiE Stree Shakti, HEN India and ChaturIdeas, the startup ecosystem is brimming with opportunities for women entrepreneurs in India. The Slideshare here has more information on mentoring organisations for Indian women entrepreneurs.
Many of these organisations have local chapters and can help you find a local mentor to advise you in starting or scaling up your business. There are no more excuses to find a mentor, such as not having enough contacts. Thanks to the internet, you can even be mentored by someone in another part of the world.
As your business grows, you will need to learn skills, such as learning to lead teams, delegate work and hire the right people. If you don’t have immediate access to a mentor, hire a business coach to help you learn the skills that you need to manage and grow a business.
4. Create Work-Life Integration
One of the issues that hold women back from starting a business is the idea of work-life balance and the thought of leaving your kids and having to commute to a place of work outside your home. However, with remote working and co-working spaces becoming more popular, it is now possible to run a business exclusively from home, using the internet to communicate with one’s team.
In decades past, having children meant a disruption to business success, says this article on Fox Business. Today women can conduct their business from their house and still take care of the family. It becomes easier when we stop thinking of our lives in terms of work-life balance and start thinking in terms of work-life integration, which involves “blending what we do personally and professionally, in order to make both work.”
5. Become Digital Savvy
Thanks to digital marketing, the costs of promoting a business have plummeted to the extent that small businesses can now compete with large corporations online for the same audiences. With the help of social media, blogging and SEO, small businesses can create visibility and branding online, for much smaller budgets, than it would cost to advertise in print media. Women entrepreneurs need to take advantage of this opportunity by learning the basics of digital marketing and becoming more savvy about technology. It’s the only way to stay competitive in the years to come.
Posted byPriya Florence Shah
I'm the Founder and CEO of Blog Brandz, Publisher and Editor of Naaree.com and an author and blogger.
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