In the year 2021, a total of 42 Indian firms became unicorns, the largest number in a decade. This brings the total number of active businesses that have crossed the billion-dollar valuation threshold to 75, with a total valuation of more than $196.1 billion and counting. However, only 10 per cent of these unicorn start-ups are led by women.
Priyanka Gill, Co-founder of The Good Glamm Group; Upasana Taku, Co-founder and COO of MobiKwik; Ruchi Kalra, Co-founder and CFO of Of business; and Ruchi Deepak, Co-founder, ACKO Insurance – are the women who joined the unicorn league. Notably, these four businesses have male co-founders. However, Nykaa, founded by Falguni Nayar in 2020, is the unicorn firm that was completely formed and operated by a female entrepreneur.
“It takes a lot of effort to start a business. Every entrepreneur, however, must begin somewhere. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to starting a successful business. Business, on the other hand, is unaffected by prejudice. It doesn’t matter when or where you start your venture. It’s evident in the work of these Indian women entrepreneurs. You will succeed if you are good. Though it can take years to get to a point where you are satisfied,” says Pinky Reddy.
Startup Talky shares some interesting facts about Indian women entrepreneurs. Interestingly, when they first began, over 58 per cent of female entrepreneurs were between the ages of 20 and 30. In a financial year, nearly 73 per cent of them reported a revenue of around Rs 10 lakhs. Almost 57 per cent of these ladies began out alone, meaning they didn’t have any other members in their group. A co-founder was present in about 35 per cent of the women-led enterprises. And, approximately 71 per cent of Indian female entrepreneurs employ five or fewer workers.
Pinky Reddy states, “In a country like India, where most women aren’t encouraged to dream large, some women have soared higher than one might expect in such a restrictive atmosphere. These amazing women are inspiring other women to pursue entrepreneurship by sharing their success stories, which involve personal challenges and setbacks. As a result, India is rapidly gaining in the rankings when it comes to a favourable start-up climate backed by strong government support.” She adds, “Despite these changes, there is still a large income discrepancy between men and women in high-level corporate roles. Considering the amount of success women are bringing to the entrepreneurial spirit, so much work can be done in the corporate sector to achieve more prosperity. We need to look deep at the grassroot level and provide solutions in order to facilitate women-led firms to cross the coveted billion-dollar value mark.”
Notably, women still earn 79 percent of what males earn on average, have only 20 per cent of congressional seats, occupy only 5 per cent of Fortune 500 CEO roles, and represent only 17 per cent of global Board positions. Women who work in the trenches are discouraged by these figures.
Fortunately, certain organisations are championing the cause. They’ve grasped what the research shows – organisations with the highest presence of women on executive committees and in leadership positions outperform and compete better than their rivals. Organisations that focus on gender equality, both in terms of compensation and in terms of jobs, are more likely to recruit and, more crucially, retain top talent.
“Impact can be made by educating employees about gender equality, launching innovative initiatives to speed progress toward workforce parity and empowering males to become gender equality activists,” informs Pinky Reddy, an entrepreneur, art curator and philanthropist.
The future seems bright, with the biggest number of women-led businesses reaching the unicorn club this year. However, both companies and investor circles must make progressive and purposeful decisions to accelerate the participation of women founders and business executives. Reddy suggests, “Companies must be encouraged to consider gender equality in the workplaces, particularly in areas like recruiting, retention, promotion, and salary.”
In recent years, there has been a considerable increase in the number of women becoming business executives and creating enterprises. As we progress in this direction, we must now take deliberate steps to promote proportionate capital to be channelled into women-owned businesses in order for them to join the unicorn club.