I had earlier briefly touched upon the challenges women founders face

I had described my interaction with a young woman from Hosur who was keen to launch her own restaurant but faced family pressure to go down the conventional path of a career and marriage. Her story is common across India, and millions of similar dreams get snuffed out regularly at the altar of social traditions and expectations.

There are many reasons why women founders are often at a disadvantage compared to male peers. 

For instance, men find it easier to network and seek out business opportunities as compared to women. Men also get more opportunities to connect, engage, interact, and learn from experienced mentors and veterans. Of late, women entrepreneur-themed events are making things easier for women, otherwise at most industry gatherings the men dominate the networking and the information flow.

Owing to social and cultural norms, Indian women are constantly forced to choose between their professional and family lives. As the venture and the family grow, maintaining a perfect work-life balance becomes an almost impossible challenge and, more often than not, the business suffers. A friend recently had to sell off her fledgling but promising SaaS venture because she was struggling to take care of her growing kids at home. 

Start-ups, whether male- or female-founded, compete strongly for customers, capital and employees; and in these battles, women-driven ventures lose out. 

Sometime back, a lady founder who was building an exciting direct-to-customer lifestyle venture became distracted from the business and, in due course, started scouting for a male co-founder merely to help the venture build a customer base, attract and hire talent, and convince investors that the venture had a better chance of success since it has a male co-founder.

While I do not have any supporting data, based on my interactions with entrepreneurs over the years, I strongly believe that women suffer from a higher level of self-doubt and their fear of failure is bigger. This is a big issue because the mortality rates of start-ups are quite high and founders must be open to failure and move on to their next start-up. 

Unfortunately, due to social deadlines, women have maybe one or, at most, two chances to make it count and hence they are under pressure to somehow succeed.

To deal with these hurdles, women entrepreneurs should actively seek out mentors for help. It is also a good idea to try and engage with successful women entrepreneurs who have been there and done that earlier. 

Thankfully, there are quite a few now, and most of them will be happy to help. 

(The writer is a serial entrepreneur and best-selling author of the book ‘Failing to Succeed’; posts on X @vaitheek)