Indian women overcome hurdles as entrepreneurs


Lakshmi Sivadas of NDTV meets with entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs—all women—at the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore to explore their ideas about why urban educated women in India are so often left out of business and not allowed to reach their full potential. India—where women make up only 5 percent of mid- to senior-level positions in companies, much lower than the global average of 20 percent—has an even lower rate of women entrepreneurs. However, the environment in India is evolving rapidly as women enter and start businesses like never before.

Women entrepreneurs in India bring a wide range of expertise, skills and unique lived experiences to the business landscape.

Entrepreneurs at the Institute discuss skills and special knowledge women bring to business; including stability, multitasking, empathy and the ability to think long term and strive toward goals. Women entrepreneurs have always been in India, though it's only been in recent years that they have received more widespread recognition—recognition that, in most cases, is hard won.

"Despite all of this," Sivadas says, "we still don't see too many urban educated women in India in the field of entrepreneurship."

Overcoming challenges

Everything from a lack of support from family and friends, to a lack of access to finance, to an urge to "take it all on" can stand in the way of a smooth entrepreneurial journey for Indian women.

"The challenges are always going to be there ... but believing in yourself and just working toward it is the only way which each one of us are going to achieve it," says one discussion participant.

Indian women in business face stereotypes, social conditioning and their own inner voice and doubts—a set of challenges these women say needs the attention of men as well as women.

Women leaders in a male-dominated industry

Depending on the industry, women in business can face a field dominated by men—and may face questions about trust in their abilities as one of very few women.

While some fields are more welcoming to women, such as the travel industry, women still must confront social pressure and questions about work-life balance and childcare that men rarely face.

"I feel that having to deal with those kind of situations is a pressure in itself," says one businesswoman.

Other fields; such as architecture or the petroleum industry, present much more challenging environments for women. It's a societal mentality these women hope is on its way out.

"I think people should overcome that mindset, support their daughters or their daughter-in-laws to come out; because we are capable, we are hard working, and if we can be successful homemakers then we can definitely be successful entrepreneurs too," says an entrepreneur.

Is there a bias in the kinds of industries women choose?

Many women, even as they reach for leadership roles, tend to stay in lifestyle businesses rather than growth businesses.

"At some point, there is a glass ceiling here as well, where women think 'OK, for this lifestyle, OK I'm an entrepreneur and I'm happy with this,'" says one businesswoman.

"We're doing what we're doing because we want to do it, not because it is easy to do it...Things will change in the next 20 to 30 years; we just need more success stories; we just need more inspiration...It's a fight. We'll fight it out and win."

Watch the entire discussion above, check out the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore to learn about their programs and upcoming events and visit NDTV for the latest news and current events from India.