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Sainy Banerjee Pal
10 May 2018 . 1 min read

11 Women Entrepreneurs In India & Their Success Stories


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India is and had always been a hot favorite destination for trade and business. With favorable climate, affordable amenities and a huge amount of manpower, India has become a hub for growing commerce day by day. And while it is prospering from the business front, our Indian women have left no stone unturned to make the most out of it.

With minimum to no support women in business have proved that leading a company all by themselves is not beyond their ken.

In the country like India where some of the Indian women are much neglected, there are some who have soared higher. Thanks to these powerful ladies, that they have faced struggles, challenges and made their way to the top list of entrepreneurs in India. This has not only helped the society economically but also has done a lot in terms of exposing the potential that a woman holds.

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Let us see the 11 Successful Women Entrepreneurs In India, who have proved that a woman can rule any world if she determines to.

#1. Vandana Luthra

" I am not VLCC, I am a part of the 6000 professionals who run it."

Company: VLCC Healthcare Ltd.

Age: 49

Education: Polytechnic for Women in New Delhi

Prior Work Experience: homemaker

Her Entrepreneurial Journey in India

Who doesn't know VLCC?

It is a beauty and wellness giant and has its presence in 11 countries across Asia, Africa and the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council). It is widely recognized for its weight loss solutions and therapeutic approach to beauty treatments. One stop-solution for every beauty related query, VLCC has a staff strength of over 4,000 professionals, including medical doctors, nutritionists, physiotherapists and cosmetologists, and having served over five million consumers (including repeat consumers).

The founder, Mrs. Vandana Luthra, is awarded the Padma Shri in 2013 for her contribution and is listed as the 33rd most powerful woman in business in India by Fortune India, in 2015. Along with these accolades, she was also appointed as the Chairperson of the Beauty & Wellness Sector Skill Council by the Indian government. Furthermore, she is a General Body Member of the New Delhi-based Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga. The Steering Committee and the Sub-Committee formed by India’s Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship on the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana also has her as an active member.

But nothing happens in one day. Vandana and VLCC didn't happen overnight. A homemaker initially, Vandana started her journey in 1989 when the first of her two daughters was only 3 years-old and today a grandmother to three kids, Vandana still lives her dream.

Remembering her days of struggle she says, “When I started, there were hardly any women entrepreneurs in India. It was a male-dominated environment. I had to face a lot of criticism, a lot of people tried to ensure that I did not succeed and grow. The only thing I believed in was that my concept was unique, unusual and it was being introduced in India for the first time.

It took me a good five to six years to convince the medical fraternity to understand that wellness was a larger domain and it required the collaboration of beauty, health and fitness experts; in other words a cosmetologist, a nutritionist, and a doctor. Eventually, I did manage to convince them”.

#2. Suchi Mukherjee

“You need to start off with basics and device a plan to deal with teething issues.”

Company: Limeroad

Age: 45

Education: Economics and Finance from London School of Economics

Prior Work Experience: Lehman Brothers Inc, VirginMedia, eBay, Skype, Gumtree

Her Entrepreneurial Journey in India

Suchi, a woman of substance, always envisioned of building and growing businesses that are focused on simple yet in-demand consumer products. It is said, that the idea of Limeroad came to her, while she was on her Maternity leave.

She embarked on the journey of making Limeroad, in 2012 along with Manish Saksena, Ankush Mehra, and Prashant Malik. The company has now raised a funding of $20 Million from Lightspeed venture partners, Matrix Partners and Tiger Global. Limeroad has a strong team of 200+ IIT-techies to NIFT-design geeks. It has 1.5 million scrapbooks posted by users so far, and 100,000 scrapbooks made per day. Their Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) has also grown by a massive 600% since their launch.

Nevertheless, Suchi and her associates had to face numerous challenges like,  finding the right people to build a solid team which has a combination of skill and can-do attitude, getting the right kind of infrastructure. Amongst the N-number of hurdles like complex bank processes, net gateways for the payment methods and refunds, delivering unique products at an economical price, the most troublesome part for Suchi and her team was to partner with vendors to ensure a sustained stream of products. The existing eco-system for the professionally trained vendors is a daunting task to date. But as she was determined to achieve what she had dreamt of, nothing could hold her back.

#3. Richa Kar

“If you are strong, focused and passionate about what you want to do, everything falls into place.”

Company: Zivame

Age: 30

Education: Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies

Prior Work Experience: SAP, Spencer’s Retail Ltd.

Her Entrepreneurial Journey in India

Richa is the proud founder of online lingerie store Zivame, which is derived from a Hebrew word ‘Ziva’ which means radiance and Zivame stands for a ‘radiant me’. She has practically changed the way women used to think and buy their inner wears. Zivame has been successful in educating Indian women across the country about intimate wear.

Richa, who bravely removed the shyness from lingerie and added a fashion element to it, grew up in Jamshedpur and completed her engineering from BITS Pilani. She worked briefly in the IT industry and later acquired Masters’ degree from Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies in 2007. After that, she worked with a retailer and global technology company.

So what made her come across this unique idea of selling female inner wears, online, that too in a conservative country like India. When asked, she says, “It was around March when I realized that there is a high surge in orders during Valentine’s Day sales period. Almost a quarter of the lingerie maker’s sales were generated online”.

Once the idea struck her, there was no looking back. With an initial investment of rupees 30 Lakhs, from friends and family, Zivame.com went online. She did face a lot of apprehension and discomfort while explaining her business idea to her family and others. But she was firm to rise above all, which she certainly did.

#4. Falguni Nayar

“I am building Nykaa to have a life of its own.”

Company: Nykaa.com

Age: 50

Education: IIM A

Prior Work Experience: Temasek, Kotak.

Her Entrepreneurial Journey in India

Think of a woman who is an IIM-A alumnus, a former MD Of Kotak Mahindra Capital Company, mother of two and a fifty-year-old. Now place yourself in her shoe, would you like to launch a dynamic e-commerce business or lead a complacent life ahead?

Some women won't, just like, Falguni didn't. As it is rightly said, it is never too late, Falguni quit the job at Kotak where everything was going absolutely right, to become the successful beauty entrepreneur.

Today, Nayaka sells more than 35,000 products from 650 brands, both international and Indian, luxury and mass, and is constantly adding new labels to its stock. According to the news, ‘ TVS Capital invested about Rs.25 crore and they have also got Rs.60-crore Series C fundraising is a clutch of investors, including high net-worth individuals, non-resident Indians (NRIs) and family offices.’ Also,  it receives 15,000 orders a day, mostly from consumers between the ages of 22 and 35.

#5. Vani Kola

“Having a great work culture is not an option – it is a necessity”

Company: Kalaari Capital

Age: 51

Education: Arizona State University

Prior Work ExperienceCertus Software, Rightworks

Her Entrepreneurial Journey in India

I bet, many of you probably might not know this lady very well. Vani Kola is the one who has a solid reputation for picking the best young minds and mentoring them to build successful enterprises. Ever wondered where did the investment for the startups like Snapdeal, Myntra, VIA, Apps Daily, Urban Ladder, Zivame, Power2SME, and Bluestone, come from?

Well, she is called the “ The Mother of Venture Capitalism in India”. According to her own websites, below are the 5 things to know about her,

  1. It took her 2 months to decide to move back to India even after spending 22 years in the US.
  2. Her daughters are her inspiration.
  3. Being in a profession of high intensity, she needs to maintain her stance and she does so by meditating.
  4. While many are appearing for their SSC at the age of 16, she enrolled for the engineering degree.
  5. Only studies were never her goal, she has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and also completed multiple marathons.

This wonder woman is profiled in numerous books and has been identified as one of the Fortune Most Powerful Women in Business. She has been a successful entrepreneur in Silicon Valley for 22 years and now works with first-time entrepreneurs to build strong global companies. She focuses on technology companies, leveraging India’s domestic growth to create high growth enterprises.

The name Kalaari capital is sourced from Kalaripayattu, which is a form of martial arts which was originated in Kerala. This form is known for its power, artistry, creativity, collaboration, focus and rapid, soaring movements. With a total of 55 investments and around 2,000 proposals a year, Kalaari Capital has become India’s leading investor in early-stage businesses. It not only invests but also takes care of the entrepreneurs under them throughout every aspect of growth and leads them to success.

Not fearing the failures, stereotypes and marching towards the success, Vani says, “The cliché is true; Silicon Valley is a vibrant place full of ideas and possibilities. When I started my own company (Right Works Corp), I was willing to accept failure.”

#6. Pranshu Bhandari

“Women need to very show the investors that they’re committed to their plan and need to let the merchandise represent itself”

Company: Culture Alley

Age: 26

Education: Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies

Prior Work ExperienceWipro

Her Entrepreneurial Journey in India

The startup launched its English language learning application in October 2014. In eight months the English app has seen 3 million installs on Android from India. They have recently raised $6 million from Tiger Global and Kae Capital.

Learning an alien language is not an easy but an indispensable task, at least when it is the need of an hour. This is what Pranshu realized, when her husband, had been to China for an exchange program. Since he was a vegetarian, it was a mandate for him to learn basic Mandarin, in order to explain the locals about his eating preferences.

This idea got her thinking and analyzing to the extent, where she decided to leave her job and focus on her entrepreneur dream, founding (CultureAlley is the parent company ) Hello English. Pranshu and her team since then did an extensive research on the idea and initially thought of creating an app that could help people learn different foreign languages. But something changed her mind.

Read: 21 Women Share How They Overcome Entrepreneurial Challenges - Part 1

Digging out the numbers she says, “One billion people from all over the world try to learn a foreign language every year; about 60 percent are learning English”. Hence, they developed a free app that could help native Indian speakers learn English in the most effective way possible. The team employed language experts from Oxford University for help with the app as well as local experts who specialized in each of the languages supported by Hello English. As a result, the app was developed from the user's perspective. With 475 interactive lessons and games associated with reading, writing, speaking, and listening, it also has a bilingual dictionary, available in 22 languages.

Pranshu and her idea have bagged a couple of badges to prove her excellence. Most prominent ones are

2015: Listed as Forbes India’s 30, under 30 achievers for creating an app that is one of the top 10 educational apps in the world

2014: Received the Most Innovative Mobile App for India Award from the Internet and Mobile Association of India

2016: Received the Most Innovative Mobile App for India award from the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).

2016: Best Apps of 2016 in 'Made in India' category by Google Play Store

2017: Number #3 Educational app on Google Play Store in India.

#7. Shradha Sharma

“When you know you have to fend for yourself every inch of the way, it gives you a different kind of grit and tenacity”

Company: Yourstory

Age: 30

EducationMICA

Prior Work ExperienceCNBC TV18, The Times Of India

Her Entrepreneurial Journey in India

How well do you handle negativity?

How well have you faced the adversities in your life?

These reflections are what has made Shradha Sharma, the successful lady she is today. With a unique idea of enterprising the storytelling concept, Shradha has mastered the art like no one else. In her interview, she emphasizes on the below three points,

1. Most of our defining moments in our lives are shaped by adversities we face and overcome. They will continue to shape who we are. Let’s embrace adversity.

2. I have a story. You have a story. Everyone has a story. Be bold and share your story. If you are not happy with your current story, go ahead and change what you need to change to make a better story.

3. Let’s start Listening and learning from stories of others, people who have faced and overcome adversities. They will help us think better and in turn, shape our own stories in a powerful way. We have 15,146 plus stories right on our website if you are looking for a starting point. Let’s Start, it.”

A girl from the city of Patna, who was raised in a broken and dysfunctional family, having a minimum support system, is today marshaling the stories coming across from an utterly diverse background.

#8. Upasana Taku

“Kick up a storm or die trying”

Company: Mobikwik

EducationStanford University

Prior Work Experience: Paypal, Zaakpay, 2020 Social

Her Entrepreneurial Journey in India

Kashmiri by blood and having Gujarat as alma mater, Upasana has relentlessly fought her way to the top. She worked on her marriage day, she shared home-cooked meals with the team of 5, gave up the luxurious lifestyle, patiently ignored to the gender bias and faced multiple challenges only to give back to her homeland. Of course, she had the entrepreneur calling from within her but also wanted it to be in the best interest of others too.

She left a promising career in the silicon valley, only to give financial access for the underserved, in her country. There was no looking back until she founded MobiKwik along with her husband in 2009.

Read: 21 Women Share How They Overcome Entrepreneurial Challenges - Part 2

Speaking about her company, she says, “MobiKwik was very simple and need-based. We launched MobiKwik as a recharge platform and, soon, it became the mobile wallet of every Indian. I take pride in saying that MobiKwik was the first mobile wallet of India. We are quite a bit dependant on the trivial amount for either change or paying for mobile recharges. With the invention of MobiKwik, one can easily do these payments without worrying about the actual cash. Your phone hence acts like your wallet.”

Further speaking about her journey she says “Tenacity is key. When you start something new, the ecosystem doesn’t accept you easily, people say no. It took us 10 months to get the first bank on board for wallet loading, while the second one happened in 15 days. It took us 3-4 months to get our first few top merchants in 2014. Within 3-4 months we closed eBay, Domino's and other large merchants. All because I held on tight.”

#9. Aardra Kannan Ambili, Sanchi Poovaya, Ranjana Nair

Company: Ray IOT solutions Inc.

Education: MSC (Artificial Intelligence) (University of Georgia)/ Master of Mechanical Engineering (Cornell University)/ B.E (CS) (Anna University)

Prior Work Experience: Yatra, HAX/ Wipro/Microsoft

Her Entrepreneurial Journey in India

Ever wondered, what all we do to check the well being of the baby, when in the womb. And when the baby born, what do we do for tracking its health? Of Course, we do take the little one for regular checkups and vaccinations. But with a busy schedule of working parents, it gets more difficult to take the utmost care of the newborn. Would it not be great, if there was a mobile app that could tell you about your child’s health, every time you want to know, by keeping a track of its breathing and sleeping patterns?

This is what three women engineer and scientist (Aardra Kannan Ambili, Sanchi Poovaya, and Ranjana Nair) thought when they paid a visit to one of their close friend. The friend had recently become a mother and all the while was worried about her baby.   The trio noticed that she was restless about the little one and was constantly excusing herself to check if the baby is sleeping well, or if the baby is breathing fine.

That was the turning point in girls’ life and they went ahead to invent the world's only non-contact health and sleep monitor for babies. They invented Raybaby, which is a non-intrusive device, that monitors how much your baby has slept, how much he/she needs to sleep more when the baby wakes up or rolls over along with his/her breathing patterns. These measured data is then sent to the parents through their mobile app, with no hardware attached to the body of the baby.

The firm had such a genius idea that they managed to fetch an investment as far as 1.07 crore last year, from the HAX investments. Moreover, Ray Iot is also supported by Johnson & Johnson.

Talking more about the Raybaby, we can say that it works on the radar technology. That means it is absolutely safe on the infant as the baby is not exposed to any emissions, nor is there a battery-operated band looped around the child.

#10. Shahnaz Husain

“ You don't have to be born as beautiful, you have to acquire it.”

“I believe that one should never stop trying because that way, you cannot fail. I believe that nothing is impossible. You can be what you will yourself to be. You can make your own destiny.”

Company: Shahnaz Herbals Inc

Education: La Martiniere Lucknow, La Martiniere Road

Her Entrepreneurial Journey in India

Shahnaz was married while she was a teenager and also became a mother soon. Remembering the time she says, “When I turned 16, my daughter was a month old. She was like a little toy doll to me and then, as she grew older, we became best friends too. She attended junior school and I enrolled in senior school. We shared everything.”

But she always knew she was not going to be a housewife only, all her life. She fought against all the odds and ultimately became a brand in herself. She is known as the “Queen of Herbal Beauty Care” and was awarded Padma Shri by the Government of India in 2006. She is the most prominent businesswoman in India, who has her business running over 138 countries, which has around 600 franchises and associated clinics across the world.

As it is rightly said, only dead fish goes with the flow, Shanaz never let the challenges overcome her aspirations. She studied beauty even after her marriage, managing all the task of a wife, mother, and daughter-in-law. When she was 27, she shifted to Tehran with her husband. She slogged and worked extremely hard to get a job as a Beauty Editor of Iran Tribune. It is said that she would write on every topic one could think of and managed to give 10,000 words a week,  which was far more than the expectation (500 words).

While she was specializing in cosmetology and trichology, she dealt with numerous skin disorders and came to know that most of them were a result of the inclusion of synthetic products. That is when Shahnaz thought that she would start a herbal clinic.

With a minimum investment of rupees 37,000 from her father, she started her salon in the veranda of her house in Delhi, in 1977. Fortunately, she had her technology from abroad and was all set to fly.

With a totally new concept of “care and cure”, along with the formulation of her own Ayurvedic products, she began with Shahnaz Herbals Inc.

#11. Sairee Chahal

"I was faced with questions like can you do it? Gladly, things are changing and now, they can see me doing it”

Company: Fleximoms, Sheroes

Age: 40

EducationIMT Ghaziabad, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Prior Work Experience: Heidrick and Struggles, CII

Her Entrepreneurial Journey in India

CEO and founder of Sheroes, Sairee is not only an inspiration for other women but also has strived hard to make a direct impact by finding jobs for them. She is a finalist for the Cartier Women’s Award Initiative for 2012, an Aspen Fellow, nominated for the Editor’s choice for L’oreal Femina Women’s Award, featured in India Today and a mother isn’t content to rest on her laurels. She is constantly walking on the roads of a mutual growth of women and towards their complete inclusion in the workplace.

Sairee says in Tech in Asia in a recent interview that, “The idea for Sheroes came from the observation that I was surrounded by so many women who had left their career options behind for social responsibilities [such as raising a family]. I just want to show them that this doesn’t need to be the end of the road.”

Sairee, who is a former journalist is currently holding a “Sheroes summit” in major Indian cities to connect women professionals with businesses. She further adds, “The push toward a Digital India is a watershed moment for all educated women in the country. Digital access is a boon to those who cannot engage in a typical 9-to-5 job yet wish to continue their careers.”

Her robust initiative has helped over 1,000,000 women across the country, from various background. Sheroes is being used by as many as 2000 corporates, having the presence in 65 cities. According to Nasscom, there was a 50 percent increase in women joining the start-up ecosystem over last year.

Sheroes is not only about finding jobs, it is a lot more than that. It is a community altogether, where a woman is safe, free to talk her mind out, can seek for help from the experts, read and be informed about every aspect of life and connect with many women like her, who are sailing on the same boat.

After researching about these fabulous ladies, reading and listening to their success stories, I feel convinced that a woman does not need any support to become something. She has it all, only one thing that needs to be done is to start the journey, never losing hopes!


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Sainy Banerjee Pal
An engineer by profession but an ardent writer by heart, Sainy has been writing from the age of 12. She has a huge collection of her handwritten diaries. Her friends call her a therapist for broken hearts and can connect instantly with anyone. She lives with her doting husband who is also her critic for her write ups. Imaginative, spirited and filled with compassion, she always has a lot to say, to those who care to listen.

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Responses

  • T*****

    Great Article. Even we post some great stories of women entrepreneurs. Do Check them here - www.thewomenz.com
  • S*****

    Was very inspired reading women entrupenure achivements. And how they followed there passion.
  • A*****

    Superb inspiration by reading successful women.... great
  • S*****

    Thank you Sreeja and Sudha, who has inspired you the most in the article?
  • S*****

    Motivative article
  • S*****

    Very inspiring
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