Indian women entrepreneurs building businesses on a grand scale across multiple sectors

In a country where historically most women run businesses have been small, local ventures there is a small but perceptible shift underway. A handful of entrepreneurs are stepping up to show they have the appetite, skills and vision to take a shot at scaling their young ventures.

 
As Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg asks women across the world to "lean in" to their careers, her ideas are finding resonance in an unlikely quarter-India's women entrepreneurs.

In a country where historically most women run businesses have been small, local ventures there is a small but perceptible shift underway. A handful of entrepreneurs are stepping up to show they have the appetite, skills and vision to take a shot at scaling their young ventures. Across sectors as varied as technology, clinical research and retail these women are poised to burst a common myth that women-led businesses do not grow beyond a certain scale.

"I want to make Zivame a billion-dollar enterprise in the next five to seven years," says 
Richa Kar, founder of the online lingerie retail business launched in 2011 that is targeting revenues of $50 million (Rs 270 crore) next fiscal.

Industry experts say it is such ambition that is making the difference in a country where only a handful of businesswomen like 
Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw of BioconBSE 1.60 %, Shahnaz Husain of Shahnaz Herbals Incand Vinita Jain of Biotique have successfully built large enterprises. While earlier most women would turn to entrepreneurship to support the family, now it is about self-actualisation, there is ambition, says Mahesh Murthy, founding partner at early stage fund Seedfund.

Multiple factors have led to this change, according to Kavil Ramachandran, the Academic Director of ISB
Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Entrepreneurs Programme. "Women now have greater corporate experience and skill sets that gives them confidence and also makes them effective entrepreneurs," he says.

However, even as they prepare to enter the big league, women entrepreneurs are finding that apart from the normal pains of starting up there are some challenges that are unique to being a woman. "It is not just cultural; even women themselves feel they should take greater responsibility at home," says ISB's Ramachandran.