India is a tough, lonely place for female entrepreneurs

Relegated to a corner?
Relegated to a corner?
Image: Reuters/Stringer
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The world’s fastest-growing startup ecosystem is no place for female entrepreneurs.

Only two Indian cities have made it to a recent ranking of the 50 most favourable global places for them.

India’s Silicon Valley, Bengaluru, ranked 40th, while Delhi came in at 49 in the ranking (pdf) by technology major Dell and consultancy firm IHS Markit.

The ranking is based on inputs from female entrepreneurs, policymakers, venture capitalists, the media, and academics, and measures a city’s ability to attract and support women who want to grow their businesses.

Besides Delhi and Bengaluru, several Asian cities made it to the top 50:

Entrepreneurship in India—just like in Silicon Valley—is heavily male-dominated, with less than 9% of startup founders being women.

“India is already a difficult market to do business in because we have too many other procedural battles to fight, and it is worse for female entrepreneurs,” Sairee Chahal, founder of women-only jobs portal SHEROES, told Quartz. “From a funding perspective, from a mentorship perspective, you’re pretty lonely out there. Access to capital is still all-male; there is a barrier there.”

Gender issues

Besides this overall ranking, the report also ranked the top 10 cities on some sub-categories like:

  • Talent: The likelihood of finding women with the required training and experience to run and scale a business.
  • Culture: The prevalence of relevant mentors, networks, and role models.
  • Technology: Female entrepreneurs’ global connectivity via the internet and social media.
  • Capital: The frequency and value of funding received by woman-led businesses
  • Market: Whether a female entrepreneur operates in a market that has sufficient size such that scale can be achieved.

In terms of market, Bengaluru featured 10th globally, but no other Indian city featured in any other category.

This is ironic for a country that has the world’s third-largest startup ecosystem in terms of sheer numbers. Yet, India’s female entrepreneurs are not surprised.

“Funding still remains an issue…I don’t know if it is the way we want to build out a business or because I am a woman, now I’m starting to wonder,” Arpita Ganesh, founder of Bengaluru-based lingerie retailer Buttercups, told Quartz. “What should change is the investment community getting a lot more women…which is still a challenge here. There are not many woman investors who come out and who actively invest.”