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Can women lead a tech boom in India?

India has hardly any startups founded by women. The government and tech industry are hoping to change that, ...

Posted: Oct 10, 2018 3:58 PM
Updated: Oct 10, 2018 3:58 PM

India has hardly any startups founded by women. The government and tech industry are hoping to change that, and create millions of jobs in the process.

Only about 8% to 10% of Indian entrepreneurs are women, according to a senior executive at India's main tech industry body Nasscom. That's far lower than the United States, where 39% of privately-held firms are owned by women, according to a report last year by American Express.

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"Hopefully in the next three to four years time, the number of women entrepreneurs, technology-led, will be drastically changed," KS Vishwanathan, vice president of industry initiatives at Nasscom, said at a conference in New Delhi on Tuesday.

The event was organized by Facebook (FB), which highlighted its own initiatives to promote women entrepreneurship.

"We need a lot of work to make sure women are coming ahead and running a tech business," said Satyajeet Singh, Facebook's head of platform partnerships in India.

The company has been organizing meetups and mentorship programs for over 170 women entrepreneurs in 24 Indian cities since last year, Singh added.

A survey commissioned by Facebook last year found that four out of five women in India wish to become entrepreneurs, and that the country is missing out on millions of potential new businesses and jobs by failing to empower them.

Silicon Valley rival Google (GOOGL) also has a program to support Indian women who want to launch startups, while the number of women who have signed up for a Nasscom program to train for a career in tech is "tremendously high" at 4,000 to 5,000 people, said Vishwanathan.

The Indian government has also launched several programs aimed at helping women-led startups.

"It's a very interesting time to be a female entrepreneur right now," said Meenakshi Gupta Jain, founder and CEO of Helper4U, adding that the environment is "very conducive" for women looking to start a business.

Jain founded Helper 4U in 2014, an online database which helps domestic helpers find employment. She was supported in building her business by a handful of programs, including one for women entrepreneurs that helped her do a mini MBA program.

Without such programs "it would not have been possible to reach where we are now," she said at the event on Tuesday.

India still has a long way to go, however. Facebook's research showed that only 2% of funds raised by Indian startups in 2017 went to female founders.

The country also has one of the lowest female employment participation rates in the world. Only about 27% of Indian women aged 15 or older were classified as working or actively looking for a job, according to recent data published by the World Bank.

A report published by McKinsey earlier this year said India could add as much as $770 billion to its already fast-growing economy by addressing gender inequality in the workforce.

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