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In the Indian Start-up scenario here are 10 women led Indian Start-ups that got the money coming in.
On the 69th anniversary of India’s Independence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the Start-up India Initiative from the ramparts of India’s iconic Red Fort. Five months later he launched the Start-up India Plan on 16th January 2016. By relaxing the labour and environment regulatory procedures; simplifying the business registration and exit processes; offering transparent and fast track patent protection measures; ensuring funds, credit guarantee schemes and a relaxed tax system to innovators; and, by providing opportunities to showcase innovation and collaborating platforms, the Prime Minister’s plan is all set to give more strength and impetus to the budding Start-up sector of Indian economy.
From lifestyle, to education, from technology to social enterprise, start-ups have emerged as the new game changers in almost all segments of the Indian economy over the last half decade. And what is interesting to note is that women entrepreneurs have been at the helm of some the most successful start-up initiatives in our country. Zivame, Yatra.com, Shopclues, Menstrupedia, Chumbak, Thrillophilia – the list of women led start-ups in India is increasing steadily and significantly. Women led start-ups are also scaling up the numbers when it comes to attracting global investors. According to a report on Startups by Nasscom dated October 2015, Indian start-ups raised over $5 billion in 2015 (more than double the investment they received last year). The number of companies that raised funds also doubled to almost 400. What is to be taken note of here is that the report found a 50 percent increase in women entrepreneurs compared to the numbers of 2014. Interestingly, women entrepreneurs also constituted around 9 per cent of founders who are less than 35 years old. These numbers point to a rising acceptance of women entrepreneurs in the country.
All said, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Many hurdles still obstruct women with entrepreneurial zeal in our country. In fact, while listing up start-ups which raised funding in 2015, I came up with an initial list of 37 firms. Out of these only seven had women as founders or co-founders! On an institutional level crucial social stereotypes still restrict women’s access to funding. The fact that almost all of the female-led start-ups that have raised funds in 2015 are concentrated in the metros reveals the lack of women-centric avenues in smaller cities and towns. The number of women in venture capital remains abysmally small. Basic problems such as opening a back account in her own name or securing loans still remain major hindrances for many women entrepreneurs, since the collateral is often not in their names.
Will Mr. Modi’s Start-up India Plan improve the scenario for women entrepreneurs? Will we see the number of women entrepreneurs in start-ups increasing further? These are questions which the coming years will answer. Here let us take a look at 10 Indian start-ups with women founders that got funds flowing from global investors into their accounts in 2015:
For most women, making mid-career choices is a crucial task. This is the stage when most women start families, and in order to achieve the work-home balance look for part-time jobs, or work-from-home opportunities or sometimes take a few years break before returning to work. However, the opportunities to allow women to make these choices are very limited, often leading them to exit the workforce permanently. To bridge this gap Sairee Chahal co-founded Sheroes.in in 2014. The website focuses on women who are seeking a career with a work-life balance. It curates work from home jobs in India and is building a community of working women connecting them to mentors and resources. In 2015, Sheroes.in raised INR 5 crores in an angel funding round from Raghav Bahl and Ritu Kapur led Quintillion Media, 500 Startups and a group of individuals, including Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Rajan Anandan, Binny Bansal, Mekin Maheshwari, Girish Mathrubhootham, Indus Khaitan, and Krishna Mehra. Today it boasts of a network of 300,000 women professionals and over 10, 000 women who have been able to find a work-life fit using the initiative.
Launched in 2013, by Parul Gupta as a search engine for online courses, Springboard has expanded to curated learning paths and has teams across Bangalore and Silicon Valley. Sensing an increasing demand for trained data scientists and UX Designers in the tech industry, Gupta started Springboard with the objective of providing these career related skills to students and professionals through an incredibly personalised curriculum co-designed with industry experts. Springboard’s approach of combining a project-heavy curriculum with one-on-one mentorship creates accountability and ensures that the graduates are ready to thrive in the new economy. With 100 data scientists and designers as mentors, Springboard’s programmes have seen increasing demand from students across six continents, and many of its alums have ended with jobs in companies IBM, Boeing and Reddit. In 2015, Springboard managed to raise 1.7 million in seed funding from a clutch of investors including LinkedIn co-founder Allen Blue and Inmobi founders Naveen Tewari and Amit Gupta. With this new round of funding we can expect to see capacity enhancement and product innovation happening in Springboard in the coming years.
For Nidhi Agarwal, 2015 has been a successful fund raising year for her venture Kaaryah, a brand of western, non-casual wear for Indian women focused on providing the best possible fit with its 18 sizes. In the beginning of the year she managed to secure investment from none other than industrialist Ratan Tata and within six months she managed another round of investment from TV Mohandas Pai and The Saha Fund. However, the road to this success was not an easy one. One hundred and thirteen! That’s the number of investor pitches, Agrawal had to make in 365 days since the launch of her apparel brand in 2014, before sealing the deal with Ratan Tata. An MBA from Kellogg School of Management and a certified Chartered Accountant by education, Agarwal has learnt patience and persistence are the key things that matter to make things work. Today Kaaryah serves 3500 orders monthly and also sells from platforms like Myntra, Jabong, Flipkart, Snapdeal, Limeroad and PayTM apart from its own portal. Agarwal dreams of making Kaaryah the largest brand of western formal wear globally.
One of India’s largest cash back and coupon platform, CashKaro.com has been on a roll in terms of raising funds since 2015. In November last year the company raised Rs 25 crores in a Series A seed funding from Kalaari Capital, and at the beginning of the new year they joined industrialist and angel investor Ratan Tata’s rapidly growing portfolio of start-ups. The Gurgaon based cash back firm was launched in 2013 and in the initial year itself had raised an investment of $750,000 from a group of London based investors. CashKaro.com is the brainchild of Swati Bhargava, who co-founded it with husband and fellow LSE graduate, Rohan Bhargava. Swati, a yoga enthusiast and mathematics genius, had earlier founded and headed a similar business (PouringPounds) in UK. When she made a profit of more than what she had expected with PoruingPounds, she moved to India to start a similar venture and has now conquered a fat slice of the Indian market with CashKaro.com. CashKaro offers cash-back and coupons over 1,000 partner websites and has recently forayed into product search and discovery segments. The company claims to credit over Rs 20 crores across a million registered users as cash-back. With the new round of funding, CashKaro is eyeing to expand its operations to Singapore and other South East Asian markets.
Launched in 2014, The News Minute is a Bangalore based digital news platform, with a specifc focus on the 5 South Indian states. It was conceptualised and founded by noted journalist and author Chitra Shubramaniam and former Times Now bureau Chief Dhanya Rajendran, along with Vignesh Vellore, a former HR manager at a software firm. In 2015, the news platform raised angel funds from Raghav Bahl and Ritu Kapur-led Quintillion Media, which publishes TheQuint.Com. The platform hosts diverse content including breaking news, ground reportage, special features, news analysis, opinion articles and blogs. It attempts to bring national reach to local stories from the south. The team aims at expanding its team of reporters, enhancing technology and marketing its content to a wider audience using the new funds. The News Minute, which is at present an English news platform, also hopes to launch its vernacular verticals in the near future.
At 22, Kanika Tekriwal fought cancer successfully to start JetSetGo, India’s first online marketplace for private jets, helicopters and air ambulance. JetSetGo is the outcome of Tekriwal’s varied experience of 8 years in the aviation industry, both in India and abroad. Over the years she noticed frustration among customers while dealing with brokers and operators of chartered and private jets. Customers had to choose from options which were forced upon them by brokers and operators and, often did not meet their requirements. There was also lack of transparency regarding prices. Customers felt the need for a professional and comprehensive charter service, providing a variety of aircrafts with a transparent pricing system. This is where Tekriwal pitched in with JetSetGo. JetSetGo is an interactive technology driven platform enabling users to search and charter aircrafts and helicopters across India at reasonable prices. It claims to have on board almost 80% of India’s private jet fleet giving customers a wide range to choose from. In 2015, JetSetGo raised an undisclosed amount as funding from former Indian cricketer Yuvraj Singh’s investment venture YouWeCan. This funding is expected to give more wind to JetSetGo’s wings letting it fly higher and better.
Ritu Soni Srivastava had donned many hats before she became an entrepreneur. She had been a radio jockey, the content head at 93.5 FM and a marketing professional with Bharti Airtel. A nagging weight gain problem post childbirth, led her to become an entrepreneur. After trying pretty much everything and with a strong will, Ritu not only managed to get back in shape but it also led her to think how others struggling with weight gain issues could benefit from her experience. People spend a lot of energy and resources on health coaches, medications, gym subscriptions, and so on. Ritu believed she had something that could help everyone who wanted to reduce weight, achieve their goals more effectively. Thus was launched ObiNo, a virtual weight loss coaching platform in 2014. ObiNo was started by Ritu under the bigger banner of Manna Healthcare Pvt. Ltd. With features like healthy meal suggestions, diet plans, and water reminders, ObiNo is designed specifically for Indians, helping them lose weight in a safe, healthy and affordable way. Currently Obino charges between Rs. 499 and Rs. 1,499, for personalised diet and fitness plans, and claims to have 10,000 users with over 500 paid clients. In 2015, ObiNo raised an undisclosed amount in its seed round from US-based venture capital fund RoundGlass Partners, which will be used for market expansion, technology enhancement and product innovation.
If we go by the age of the founders, MyChild App is perhaps the youngest start-up in India. This mobile application, which helps parents to detect psychological and learning disorders in their children, was launched in 2015 by three 19 year olds-Aafreen Ansari, and Harsh Songra, along with their friend Shreya Shrivastava. Though the App has been developed by Harsh Songra, who himself suffered a learning difficulty as a child; the idea was launched as an entrepreneurial venture only when Aafreen Ansari a college dropout from Bhopal came on board. She is presently the COO of the firm, manages the finance and budget section, and also does research on psychological healthcare and writes contents on it. MyChild recently raised a funding of $100,000 led by 500Startups, angel investors like Samir Bangara, Anisha Mittal, Amit Gupta, Pallav Nadhani, Lalit Mangal, Arihant Patni, Dr. Ritesh Malik, Deobrat Singh, Saurab Paruthi, and Singapore Angel Network. The App currently has more than 10,000 downloads, but with this new round of funding, the founders want the app to touch 50 million parents over the next few years.
An alarming 20% of the Indian population suffers from depression today, says a report by the WHO. A survey report by Assocham, released in 2015, highlights that the rate of emotional problems such as anxiety and depression has increased by around 50% among corporate employees in the last eight years. While mental health issues have been rising, discussing them openly and dealing with them medically is still a taboo. According to government estimates one in five people in India needs psychological counselling. However, for an estimated 70 million people living with psycho-social problems and disabilities, there is less than 50 government mental health establishments. This existing gap in the mental healthcare system of the country led IIT-Guwahati alumnus Richa Singh to launch YourDost, an online platform for emotional wellness, in December 2014. YourDost offers complete support to people looking to discuss any kind of emotional issues by providing them instant online access to experts along with the much-required anonymity. Since its inception the platform has received close to 70,000 users till date, and has been growing at a monthly rate of 40 per cent. With 10,000 registered users, a team of 75 experts service around 300 one to one interactions on a daily basis. In November 2015, YourDost raised Rs 2.5 crore in its first round of Angel funding to cover its marketing and expansion needs. Founder Richa Singh believes that technology combined with empathy and right kind of experts will go a long way in helping people going through various emotional and mental challenges and equip them better to deal with the issues.
Another start-up which got resources flowing into its account in 2015 is FitCircle, a chat-based health and fitness platform. This Mumbai-based health and fitness platform raised an undisclosed amount in Pre-Series A round of funding from Webaroo co-founder Beerud Sheth and Ravi Mantha an ex-President of TiE Singapore. Founded in 2013, by IIT Alumni Aarti Gill along with Mihir Gadani, FitCircle, is a flagship product of Zywie Ventures Pvt Ltd. It provides free coaching to individual users. Besides, people can also buy products on the platform as recommended by the experts. The startup provides daily workout challenges and enables users to track their activities through their smartphones. It caters to private fitness communities or circles and helps them interact with each other through online and offline mediums. Currently, the company has over 2,500 members, out of which 45% are said to be active on the platform. Few of its corporate clients include P&G, Medtronic and Nielsen among others. With new funds flowing in we can expect to see FitCircle expanding its customer base, hiring fitness experts on board and improving its technology platform.
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