Column: On Women Entrepreneurs

DQI Bureau
New Update

From the days when entrepreneurship was seen as a proposition meant either

for those who were already well off and so could afford to get into

'business' or for those who could not find jobs or were not so well

educated, we have come a long way. Over the last decade, thanks to the success

stories of Infosys, Satyam, Spectramind, Indiaworld and several others, there

has been a major transformation in the profile of 'entrepreneurs', the

approach to 'entrepreneurship' and the resultant mindset towards

entrepreneurship. Yet, when compared with the proportion of men, women

entrepreneurs in the IT industry are a miniscule number. If we were to analyze

the proportion of women employees in IT organizations, there has been a healthy

growth which on an average stands at 20-25%-which was less than 10% a decade

ago. The expanding business, exposure to opportunities, access to the right

education and 'the right fit' IT industry offers to women, have made this

possible. However, these factors have not helped in women taking on the mantle

of entrepreneurship in the IT Industry as a noticeable trend. Despite the fact

that  freelancing as an independent

consultant has been in vogue more due to the convenience of the individuals and

companies concerned, the ecosystem required to succeed as a woman entrepreneur

is absent in the country.


How about the entrepreneurial women we find in some other sectors, why do

they take the entrepreneurial route? Most of these ventures fall into one of

these categories-traditional and 'safe' zones familiar to women like

catering or assisting husbands in their shops/business; professional expertise

based which is self-run like running a dispensary as a doctor, providing

tuitions to students, or providing legal/tax guidance; women focused business

such as fashion and cosmetics; artistic business such as media. IT Industry does

not lend itself to most of these characteristics and despite the fact that the

industry itself is growing at an amazing rate of 35% plus annually, the number

of women entrepreneurs continues to remain an insignificant number. What then

are the key challenges which inhibit women from becoming IT entrepreneurs?

The first challenge lies in the definition of entrepreneurship itself.

Entrepreneurship involves the ability to identify the right opportunities, risk

taking and access to capital/market. Largely women like to 'play it safe'

and do not 'network' amongst business circles as much as men do. Setting up

the business, raising capital, going and seeking customers, doing 'deals' as

the opportunities come along and creating conviction among the male dominated

stakeholders regarding their seriousness about their venture- when it comes to

financing, are not easy matters. Further, if a woman is married and has a family

to take care of, it brings additional limitations especially into the

entrepreneurial venture. An entrepreneur has to breathe and live his/her dream

24x7, physically and mentally, and is required to be available to attend to the

call of the business whether from the customer, the employees or the market

forces. This calls for the ability to put up with tremendous amount of pressure

and stress which do not come easy to most women when they also do not have an

effective support system from the family or society to become 'the daredevil



entrepreneur has to breathe and live her dream 24x7, and have the ability

to put up with tremendous stress... which does not come easy"

Despite the above stated challenges, we are beginning to see women in the

entrepreneurial zone lately which is a positive trend. While the success of

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw with Biocon is well known, few other women have come

forward to set up entrepreneurial ventures around the support system required

for the IT Industry in areas such as recruitment, training and counseling. How

do we get more women to become entrepreneurs in the IT Industry? The first step

has to be taken by women themselves. Especially women who have had experience

working in the industry are ideally suited to identify the opportunities where

they could set up a venture of their own, based on their expertise and

understanding of the market. Women have the natural flair for creativity, and

the motivation and perseverance to make things happen. Should a woman decide to

be an entrepreneur, these characteristics will help her immensely. However, as

an entrepreneur, one needs to get the germ of the business idea oneself and be

self-motivated all the time.

Next, the companies they are associated with and the industry as a whole

should be supportive of entrepreneurial initiatives and come forward to nurture

them especially at the start-up stage. The government and the industry should

come up with mechanisms to draw more women into IT entrepreneurship through

innovative policies. Venture funding agencies could take a leaf out of their

books to come up with policies and trigger mechanisms relevant to the Indian


Lastly, our education system does precious little to support

entrepreneurship. Except for recent initiatives of the IITs and a few other

leading institutions which have set up incubation centers, youngsters have very

little exposure and encouragement to venture out on their own. Recognizing the

importance of entrepreneurship in their economy, countries like the UK catch

people when they are young and most universities in the UK have started offering

entrepreneurship as an elective for undergraduate programs, be it Chemistry,

Arts or Engineering. This is a fantastic way to engrain the tenets of

entrepreneurship early in life and let the seed to germinate and flower in due

course. Our education system should also actively participate in encouraging

entrepreneurship, and given the goal of India to continue to dominate in the

global IT space for a long time to come, this is the time not only for educating

more women to become IT professionals but to tap the huge untapped potential of

women to become entrepreneurs so they contribute towards more wealth creation as

well as more opportunities for job creation for the country.

Given the right policy framework and the right eco system, Indian women

are known to overcome all barriers; can IT entrepreneurship be any different?