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AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi
Not standing out.
NOT A HOBBY

Delhi is among India’s best cities for startups—but just not for women entrepreneurs

By Shelly Walia

New Delhi’s startup ecosystem is booming. Companies in the national capital received almost $1.5 billion in startup funding last year, and a rash of new firms, including Zomato, Paytm, Snapdeal and Delhivery, have been making news.

But Delhi, it seems, is no place for women entrepreneurs compared to the country’s tech hub, Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore).

Patriarchal mindsets, restrictive families, gender discrimination while accessing finance, government policy, entry into networking groups, and concerns of safety in the National Capital Region (NCR) are preventing women entrepreneurship from thriving, according to a report by consulting firm, Athena Infonomics Research.

The NCR consists of Delhi, and its two suburbs—Noida and Gurgaon.

On a women entrepreneurial ecosystem index, Bengaluru scored 62 out of 100, compared to Delhi’s 47.

The index is based on the insights of women entrepreneurs on how friendly a city is to their businesses—in terms of policy, access to finance, among others—and the social and cultural perceptions of people around them. In Bengaluru, 200 women were surveyed for the study in 2013, while 125 women were polled in Delhi last year.

In Delhi and its suburbs, about 45% of women said family consent was critical in starting a business, working during evening hours and attending networking and social events. Safety concerns “affected the mobility and ability to work in the evening hours,” according to one woman entrepreneur who was interviewed for the report.

Moreover, some 66% of women polled were averse to taking risks of expanding their businesses, because of their responsibility towards their family. In addition, many others faced discrimination while dealing with clients and customers, and thus ”leading to exclusion from their procurement channels.”

This is how women scored on different facets of doing business in NCR, followed by Delhi, on a scale of 100.

Among other factors, what works in Bengaluru’s favour is experience.

“A support system has existed in Bengaluru, with a very strong entrepreneurial setting, and that accelerated (the growth of) women entrepreneurs,” said Anupama Ramaswamy, a co-author of the report. “There were networking organisations, venture capitals… But in Delhi, there were fewer support systems. A woman entrepreneur was viewed as someone who was doing it as her hobby.”

The outcome is evident in how companies run by women in Delhi and Bengaluru fared in terms of the growth of their startups. For instance, 7% of enterprises in Bengaluru have a workforce of more than 100 employees, compared to Delhi’s 1%.