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Indian businesswoman Aditi Bhutia Madan paints a picturesque recollection of her childhood in Darjeeling, filled with aromatic pine forests, the magnificent break of dawn across the Himalayas, and most importantly, her grandmother’s savory momos. The steamed dumplings, integral to her early memories, later became the inspiration for her enterprise.

Obstacles in the Path of Ambition

A former MasterChef India contestant, Madan demonstrated undeniable prowess in her culinary skills. However, she grappled with the quintessential problem of securing official financing to grow her Yangkiez By MomoMami venture, a hurdle all too familiar to Indian female entrepreneurs. High interest rates and stake demands from loan sharks loomed over her aspirations. “There were a lot of challenges…First, because you’re a woman,” Madan recounted in her interview with Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Turning Point with Women StartUp Programme (WSP)

Madan’s fortunes changed as she became a part of the Women StartUp Programme (WSP) at NSRCEL, a business incubator at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore. The programme imparts vital business skills to female entrepreneurs, including the art of pitching for investment. Madan secured INR 7.5 million ($91,000) from investors on Shark Tank India, using her newly acquired pitching skills.

Unequal Opportunities for Women in Business

According to the government data, India sits at 57 out of 65 on the MasterCard Index of Women Entrepreneurs, with only one in five Indian companies led by women. Barriers such as uneven access to capital and persistent bias impede women entrepreneurs. A recent study by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), World Bank’s private sector arm, states that women-led businesses encounter an unmet credit gap of over $11.4 billion. They received a mere 5.2% of outstanding credit from Indian public sector banks.

The Gender Discrimination Plight

Gender discrimination and persisting conservative beliefs regarding women’s roles form the root of the financing gap in India. Preksha Kaparwan, co-founder of artificial intelligence data analytics startups AlphaaAI and Super AI, highlighted the stark treatment contrast she experienced compared to male entrepreneurs. She insisted that investors must remain neutral to gender. Her sentiments were echoed by Jibin Mathew from WSP, who shed light on the discriminatory practice of considering a woman’s age and marital status while making investment decisions.

Struggling for Equal Funding

Despite the challenges, efforts are underway to address the imbalance. Anisha Singh, an entrepreneur-turned-investor, founded the She Capital fund five years ago to support female business founders. Singh’s fund has found numerous success stories despite the struggles of advocating for women-led businesses.
According to a study by the Academy of Management, despite women-founded and co-founded startups generating more revenue and jobs, they are often asked ‘prevention’ questions about potential risks, contrasting with ‘promotion’ questions asked to men regarding their objectives and successes. This significantly hinders their ability to raise capital.

The Road Ahead

Tackling gender discrimination is a formidable task, but creating a women-focused sense of community and providing training can help women realize their full potential. Faced with these challenges, female business founders can carve their path in the business world and contribute significantly to the Indian economy. As Singh stated, “I know you know your business…[So] why do you hand that over to somebody else to speak about it?”

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