Female entrepreneurs are shaping India’s future
Two weeks back, Berlin was host to two inspiring delegations – Female founders of smart city companies and women-focused accelerator program leaders from India were in town to connect with the Berlin startup scene.
No journey was too long or strenuous for them to make their way to Germany! Some of the delegates had been on planes, trains and buses for almost 24 hours, others had 20 hours of layover time to spend exploring Kiev airport, courtesy of a delayed flight.
With two delegations this time, which meant double the work, the enpact team worked wonders with the week’s agendas for both groups. A group of ten people made up the “Accelerator Team” (the men being outnumbered two to eight here) as well as the “Founders Team”, which was naturally made up of only women. Now you may be wondering, why naturally?
This is because the founder delegates came to Berlin as part of the program “Female Entrepreneurship in Berlin and India” (FEBI) which is supported by the Berlin Senate and the GIZ and aims to connect the German and Indian startup ecosystems to enable its members to learn from each other. The group had diverse and exciting backgrounds: some were first-time entrepreneurs, others had already ventured into the IT startup scene 26 years ago.
The most important thing they shared was the drive to bring on change. “Ten years ago, there were no opportunities in the Indian ecosystem to start a business. But now, our ecosystem is looking for change, and the government is encouraging women-led initiatives in multiple industries. That’s a big step,” says Shampa Choudhury from Citility.
India is one of the fastest growing populations, with two-thirds of the people living in rural areas. Two of the entrepreneurs in the delegation aim at making the lives of these people easier and more connected to the globalized world, by personalized assistance solutions for farmers (Sai Gole from Leanagri) and improved supply chains (Anita Bai Meena from Agrowave).
Some founders focus on the other third and have come up with products that improve safety and mobility in cities, especially in megacities, of which India currently has five (to put this into perspective, all of Europe has four). Divya Sharma from Bikxie describes her app-based taxi service, with blue cabs for men and pink for women, as “making transport faster and safer for women”. The taxis, where the pink version is exclusively in the hands of female drivers, are already operating in nine cities in India.
Vandhana Parkavi Valaguru from Journee, an AI-driven transit intelligence platform, points out a key difference between the Berlin and the Indian startup scene: “In terms of smart mobility, Berlin focuses more on electric mobility and fast charging stations.” Safety and ease of use for its participants are not (yet) areas of focus.
Speaking of different focus areas, it is time to shine the light on the other half of the delegation. These delegates came as part of the “Program Designers’ Lab” and were focusing on the question: How can we empower even more women to become founders successfully? The accelerator representatives were quick to agree it all boils down to two essential elements: access to funds, and having a reliable network.
The good news is: they came to the right place. After all, networks are enpact’s specialty. Bringing the right people together, casting for the perfect mentors and finding the entrepreneurs who have the passion – and, let’s be realistic, also the business model – that it takes. In various workshops and trained by top-level speakers, these delegates got handed the tools to further hone their skills in picking the right mentors, securing funding and spotting a solid business idea.
Jag Singh, MD of Techstars, shared his knowledge of the inside workings of the world’s biggest accelerator network, and the road it took to get there with the female Founders. Both delegations got to meet the former Regional Director of Uber India, Gagan Bhatia, who gave the startup founders speed mentoring sessions, where they learnt what matters in scaling their own businesses.
Last but not the least, the accelerators’ agenda included learnings from the enpact mentoring program to inspire their own acceleration programs in India.
A highlight for the two delegation groups was the Asia-Pacific Week, with five days of conferences on various topics and full of networking opportunities, insights from keynote speakers, experts and ambassadors, and even app-assisted matchmaking.
Detailing all the highlights of the week would fill another week itself, or at the very least ten pages! So, in a nutshell, what was the delegates’ impression?
As Ayushi Mishra, Co-Founder of Dronamaps, summed it up: “Germany is a good-luck charm for me. Every time I come here, good things follow for me and my business – I am sure this time will be no exception to that rule. I have made great connections, gotten plenty of inspiration, and cannot wait to put it all into action.”