10 Indian Women Entrepreneurs Making A Big Impact

Posted: April 23, 2013

10 Indian women entrepreneurs making a BIG impact – the story of women and entrepreneurship in India continue to pick up pace.

By Nandini Hirianniah

Entrepreneurship is definitely not for the faint hearted. Though, in India we claim of this ever-increasing support system to help early-stage founders/startups, it just does not seem sufficient.

So, getting started with that initial leap of faith and staying at it, to strike the ball off the field is indeed commendable – irrespective of whether you are a women entrepreneur or not. However, I think, though the challenges posed are the same, women in India for good or bad do face unique issues, which some of us have learnt to face, live with or turn it into our advantage. My kudos to all those Indian women entrepreneurs who continue to move mountains against all odds!

I am listing  a few such ventures led by women entrepreneurs which I think are innovative and something to watch out for in the future.

Some disclaimers:

– I have tried to focus on products, as that is my forte.
– This list is “My Picks” and not limiting.
– The listing criteria has been – the problem the venture is trying to solve and the impact it aims to make, not just the people behind it.
– The listing is in no order of priority. 

Venture: Zaakpay

Founder: Upasana Taku

What they are doing: Simplifying e-payments in India

Why are they listed here: The online or e-payments options in India is complex and broken to a large extent. Building a seamless, easy, secure and trustworthy payments solution is in itself a complicated technical and regulations challenge. Upasana has managed and successfully at that to lay a strong foundation to the product and penetrate the maze in the Indian scenario. More recently, they  have launched the mobile payments option.

Venture: Radhee Disaster and Education Foundation

Founder: Dr. Rita Savla

What they are doing: Radhee is a non-profit venture run by Dr. Rita, based in Mumbai. Their vision is to have various modes of communication to train/educate people in India to save themselves and people around them during emergencies.

Why are they listed here: According to statistics, most damages/deaths/complications during emergency/disaster situations occur because of lack of immediate relief or faulty relief. Most of us are clueless about what needs to be done when we witness a road accident or even when someone at home falls off the stairs. Radhee is dedicated to educating people in India and preparing all of us to handle emergency scenarios. In the past, Dr. Savla and Radhee have helped out during the 26/11 attack, Tsunami and Mumbai train attack situations.

Venture: Wink & Pout

Founder: Preethi Bayya

What they are doing:  A virtual personal stylist who suggests what you could wear for an occasion. Currently for women only on your iphone.

Why are they listed here: Most of us wear clothes that we find on the top of our shelves and are quick to access. The result is, we never end up experimenting or wearing about 80% of our wardrobe. Wink & Pout is trying to solve this problem – helping all of us utilize our wardrobes, mix and match well and also suggest what’s right for our body type based on our lifestyles. Preethi’s eye for detail and her will to put together a personal stylist app that’s easy to access and helpful shows in the Wink & Pout app.

Venture: Bornrich.org

Founder: Nandini Rathi

What they are doing: Born Rich is one of the biggest luxury websites online. It is a destination site that curates information from authentic luxury experiences to hand picked luxury products in all categories from automobiles to hand-faucets!

Why are they listed here: Founded in 2005, Born Rich has constantly strived to keep the content exclusive. Nandini has pretty much single-handedly and carefully put together Born Rich to make it the most affluent destination for people to refer to. Building a content play at a time when there weren’t too many websites or blog networks, Born Rich has created a niche and thrived to excel over a period of time. Recently, Born Rich launched The Rich Files, the world’s first and the biggest community collaborated luxury lifestyle resource.

Venture: Belita

Founder: Garima Jain

What they are doing: Domino’s for beauty services. A professionally managed salon service, at your place and your time.

Why are they listed here: If you are a working woman in India, trying to juggle and manage a thousand things, you’ll really appreciate the need for something like this. Personally having tried those ladies who come home, to managing to get into a good salon before it shuts down – I have almost given up on being called “well groomed”! Belita is an apt service that many women like me will appreciate, call on and pay for. Currently only in Mumbai, they are all set to go national soon. They have also re-invented the concept not just by arriving at your doorstep for a one-on-one beauty session, but also by offering various theme based occasions to include beauty services as part of it. 

Venture: Earth2Orbit

Founder: Sushmita Monanty

What they are doing: India’s First Private Space Startup that focuses on products and services related to satellite launches and other areas of space exploration.

Why are they listed here: With E2O, Sushmita (which is her 3rd venture) hopes to lead India’s foray into International space markets, by capturing a chunk of the 170 billion dollar annual (commercial) space business. They have been working to make Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) the rocket of choice for international satellite-makers looking to get to low earth or sun-synchronous orbits. There are not too many startups we can talk about in India, doing work on areas such as Satellite Research or related topics. And if one such  happens to be headed by a woman, it definitely needs to be mentioned and commended.  

Venture: Haathi Chaap

Founder: Mahima Mehra

What they are doing:  Haathi Chaap literally meaning, “Elephant Imprint”  and they sell products made of elephant poo.

Why are they listed here:  A simple innovative idea that’s organic and safe to use. I use their products. They are very well made, simple yet elegant. The products show that Mahima and her team care for quality. I particularly love their website, it is full of positive attitude and a strange sense of humour. I think solutions of this sort are what’s going to restore a balance in our world for the future. Though some use organic/recycle/green as keywords – ventures and products like Haathi Chaap are the few that hold the meaning of such terms true to what they mean.

Venture: Greenway Grameen

Founder: Neha Juneja

What they are doing:  Their product Greenway Smart Stove is a single burner, high efficiency cookstove designed for everyday use with biomass like wood, cow dung, etc.

Why are they listed here: 70% of the Indian population uses biomass stoves to cook, in largely hazardous environments. This in turn accounts for a large percentage of premature deaths due to the substance that these stoves emit. This is where the Smart Stove conceptualised by Neha comes in. It is more efficient, cleaner and convenient. As per the product information available, it reduces smoke by 70% and fuel consumption by 65%. Though this product may pose challenges in distribution and acceptance initially, I am sure, looking at the team in play, they will make inroads into making a difference. 

Venture: BarrierBreak

Founder: Shilpi Kapoor

What they are doing: BarrierBreak, was founded in 1995 when Shilpi and her team realized the growing impact of technology on the lives of persons with disabilities. With the vision to break barriers of knowledge and disabilities, they pioneered to initiate accessibility in India.

Why are they listed here: BarrierBreak provides customers with accessibility services, training and assistive technologies. They also work to provide equal opportunities for employment for persons with disabilities. In fact, 75% of BarrierBreak’s staff are persons with disabilities, as per their website. They have a series of innovative products that address visual, learning, mobility, speech and hearing impairment. They have also recently expanded into services for the elderly. As pioneers who have recognised the need to include persons with disabilities to cope and be at par with technological advancements, Shilpi’s vision needs a definite mention and kudos! 

Venture: TurnAround Innovision

Founder: Sreepriya Koppula

What they are doing: TurnAround Innovision is the first company in India to provide end-to-end products and services to make 360 degree interactive images. They have patent-pending products that enable cost effective solutions to generate 360 degree product views instantly.

Why are they listed here: Currently, they are working for solutions for the e-commerce vertical; I am hoping that with the technology they are building, they can use the same to solve problems in various other verticals, be it in creating aids for doctors or educational purposes. However, what I saw displayed where images on a single access – I am hoping it is because they are real early stage and are putting things in place. It’s a innovative technological solution to put into place, if they can manage a true 360 degree rotation. Also, looking at their profiles, the team looks capable technically.

This is a list of 10 high impact women entrepreneurs but there are  many others that deserve to be here. Consider this a starting point to commending all those women entrepreneurs who have started out on ventures that are off-beat to make a significant impact to our futures.

Note: I am involved with some of the startups mentioned in a professional or personal capacity, although that is not the reason for their being included!
Special thanks to Jubin Mehta of YourStory for his helpful inputs.

*Photo credit: Mira66 (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)

About the Author: Nandini Hirianniah is an entrepreneur, co-founder at The Morpheus - an Indian start-up accelerator & micro-fund.

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Comments

4 Comments


  1. ROFL @ BornRich. How is that a startup, if you don’t mind explaining?

    • @claire: To quote Paul Graham of Y Combinator: “A startup is a company designed to grow fast. Being newly founded does not in itself make a company a startup. Nor is it necessary for a startup to work on technology, or take venture funding, or have some sort of “exit.” The only essential thing is growth. Everything else we associate with startups follows from growth.” Hope this answers. Happy to clarify further, as required. Read more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Startup_company

  2. Kamalika Ghosh -

    Ummm I know this is not exactly a fit here, but I would like to add Lalfakzuali’s name here and here’s her story – http://m-lp.co/UoKEWT. Don’t worry, I am not spamming! I was generall browsing through Women’s Web and I came across this. Just before coming here I was reading this article on how women in Mizoram…yes Mizoram, one of the seven sister states in north east India which many people think is till ‘backward’ and may take a lot of time to develop. How women here who have been ‘kicked’ out of their houses by in-laws and husbands have carved and are still trying hard to carve a niche for themselves. The way the story unwinds as you read it is heart rending. Once you are done reading, let me know what you think. 🙂

  3. Feeling awesome to see this great inspiration

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