Even as start-ups in India have struggled to raise big-ticket investments, find talent and stay afloat in the backdrop of fears of recession, women-led start-ups have made a mark.

About 33 unicorns or those with potential to become unicorns have a woman as their founder or co-founder.

“The percentage share of women-founded start-ups across stages of growth is in line with their participation in the ecosystem, indicating equal odds of success compared to their male counterparts,” a recent Nasscom report on the status of start-ups in 2022 said.

Unique challenges

It, however, is not quite an easy task. They have to face and overcome some unique challenges that are over and above the problems that all start-up founders face.

“As a woman entrepreneur in India, I have experienced the unique challenges that come with navigating a society that still has the remnants of gender biases and stereotypes,” Neelima Marupuru, Co-Founder of digital marketing and technology service company MediaMint, told businessline .

Traditional gender roles

“We need to forge through hurdles like lack of access to capital, limited networking opportunities, and the persistent notion that women belong only in certain industries,” she observed.

While work-life balance can be a challenge for any entrepreneur, it can be especially daunting for women in India who are expected to fulfil traditional gender roles and familial obligations, she said.

Funding up

According to market intelligence firm Tracxn, out of about 2,200 women-led start-ups in India that have received funding, 36 per cent have progressed to the Series A stage, and 24 per cent have gone on to the Series D stage or beyond.

Among the cities in India, women-led start-ups in Bengaluru have raised the highest funding of $11.3 billion, followed by Delhi NCR ($5.7 billion) and Mumbai ( $ 3.5 billion). 

In 2021, five start-ups led by women went public, while in 2022 there was only one woman-led company that had an IPO.

Yeshasvini Ramaswamy, Serial Entrepreneur and CEO of Great Place To Work India, said acceptance levels for women have gone up in the last 20 years. Besides, support from associations like Nasscom and government policies have also played a good role.

Rising shares

The Nasscom report pegs the share of all start-ups in the ecosystem with at least one-woman founder or co-founder at 18 per cent. It said the women-led start-ups wrest a share of 17 per cent of all investment deals between 2019 to 2022.

“But as we continue to push for greater equality and representation, we can also create a new narrative for what it means to be a successful woman in business and in life,” Neelima said..