Women founders of Indian tech start-ups: On the long road to equality

Female start-up founders in India refuse to be fazed by endless odds, as the ecosystem gears up to support them.

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A few months ago, thirty-year-old Rubal Chib, along with her co-founder Dr. Srishti Batra who was pregnant at the time, pitched for their food tech start-up qZense Labs, on the Indian edition of the American business reality TV show Shark Tank. A short while later, Chib was in India’s capital city New Delhi. As she was walking down a street, a teenage girl and her mother came up to her, and the youngster told her she had been inspired by seeing Chib and Dr. Batra on television and one day planned to found her own company.

The forces of change

Those like Chib are the outcome of the change in the upbringing of girls in many middle-class families across India. Chib is the daughter of a lawyer and healthcare professional who worked for the government defence department. She spent her childhood moving across the country, due to her parents’ jobs. This taught her to take disruption in her stride. Chib does not hesitate to credit her upbringing for where she is today. Her unconventional parents encouraged her to explore her interests, did not insist on high performance during her student years, and never came in the way of her choices.

Of equal importance, they treated her and her older brother the same and Chib grew up discussing science and the stock market with her sibling.  With this solid grounding, Chib has always had a clear idea of her goals and dreams and is unafraid of failure and risk-taking– essential qualities for entrepreneurship.

This wave of female empowerment is intertwined with a larger social transformation. According to Ravi Chhabria, Managing Director, India at NetApp (which runs the global startup program NetApp Excellerator), Indian metros like Bangalore, which attracts the highest start-up funding in the country, draw smart, young immigrants from all over the country. These young people have broken away from earlier cohorts in two ways. One, they have a stronger appreciation of the disruptive nature of new technologies such as cloud and AI which helps them unearth new business models and start companies faster. Second, they leave behind traditional baggage such as the need for job security and strictly defined gender roles. And this shift, Chhabria says, will lead to an environment where a greater number of women chase their founding dreams.

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