KOZHIKODE: In a state with a high sex ratio, women are still eons away from cracking open the male-dominated startup glass ceiling. A report published by the Kerala Startup Mission (KSUM) shows, of the 757 technology startups in the state, only four per cent and 13 per cent were founded and co-founded, respectively, by women.KSUM CEO Saji Gopinath said in the global technology startup space, women presence was dismally low compared to men.
“In Silicon Valley, the dreamland of all startups, women founders and co-founders were pegged at a measly 17 per cent. However, if we consider service and college startups, the number is reassuring. In the service sector, many women are leading the pack as founders and co-founders. The same is the case with college startups as well,” he said.
The reason for the low presence of women in the startup scene is the long-term risks and high-failure rates in technology startups, observes Gopinath. “KSUM will initiate a research on it soon.”Many women entrepreneurs told Express support from family was a crucial factor.
Rasmi Poduval from Thrissur, an IIM-Bengaluru graduate who started Seamstress, an online handloom shopping startup in 2011, said she brought her children along on most business trips. Luckily for her, her family was very supportive. Her mother-in-law brought her into their family business. Later, Rasmi set up her own company.
Shabna Baig of Enzyne HR Solutions has a different story to tell. As she planned to convert her human resource solutions company into a technology-based HR firm, she approached public sector banks and other financial firms in the state. “When I decided to launch a smartphone app for providing human resource solutions to customers, I approached many banks. But, no one gave me a loan. They even rejected my applications for loan exclusively meant for women entrepreneurs,” she said.
‘System demotivates ambitious girls’
“In our society, ambitious girls face many limitations. Every time, the system around the girl tries to demotivate her. If she overcomes it, she wins. To succeed, she needs more will power,” said Anjali Chandran of Impressa, a handloom tech startup which she started in 2014 after quitting her job in Wipro.
Though her family was very supportive, others tried to discourage her, recalled Anjali.“During the initial stages of building a startup, the founder needs to spend more time on it. I began after the birth of my girl. Fortunately, I got support from my family to spend time to build my company,” she said.
“Our society thinks, if a girl quits her job or doesn’t have a job, she should take care of her family and children and not try to build a company. I got severe criticism from people because I left a ‘good, safe job’ and started my own venture,” she said.Anjali, a speaker at various entrepreneurship programs, is getting more enquiries from girls seeking tips to found a startup. Some also seek her mentorship.
“I believe the scenario is changing slowly. I am getting more inquiries from girls about startups,” she said.
Special schemes to raise funds On the hassles women faced during fund-raising, KSUM CEO Saji Gopinath said, “Special schemes will be designed to promote women founder and co-founders.”
In the programmes KSUM conducts for startup founders, lots of girls are participating. Saji Gopinath hopes they will become entrepreneurs in future.