Women Entrepreneurs: 10 Successful Women of India 2022
As per the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) data, women’s share in total entrepreneurs of India is 14%, and 35% of directors for startups are women. These figures reflect the changing landscape of Indian entrepreneurship with a growing number of women entrepreneurs.
Gone are those days when women were considered weak and naïve. Today, there are many inspirational stories of women’s entrepreneurship. Here is the list of 10 Successful women entrepreneurs in India.
“The more we can break the rules, the better off we’re going to be.”- Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi. Well, a glance at Indra Nooyi’s illustrious career explains the same. The Chennai-born Indra Nooyi has been the CEO of PepsiCo for 12 years.
Before donning the role of CEO in 2006, Indra served various positions at PepsiCo. for 12 years, thus making her stint with the brand for 24 long years. Under Indra’s leadership, PepsiCo’s revenues grew at 5.5% annually. This success was not achieved easily.
During her term as CEO, to revive the declining sales, she came up with many initiatives. She diversified the brand toward healthy food products. She also focused on expanding the brand in emerging markets, thereby growing sales.
Indra, with her strategies, placed PepsiCo. in a strong position and sustained competitiveness over its rival. Currently, she is a member of the board of directors, Amazon.
Indra Nooyi has been consistently rated among Most Powerful Women by Forbes from 2008 to 2017. She was conferred Padma Bhushan by the Indian government in 2007. These are just a few to name in her exhaustive list of honors. Indra has been conferred with so many titles by many institutions.
Indra’s success journey was shaped by her mother in her childhood. As a child, she and her sister were asked to come up with speeches of what they would do if they become some world leader, every day during dinner time. She was encouraged to dream big and believe in achieving it. That helped her grow as a leader and address complex issues effectively.
When it was very unusual for girls to have basic education, Indra post graduated from the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, and went to Yale School of Management, US. Sending Indra abroad unmarried, was a big decision for her family, but they backed her. Traditional values and family were also key to her success.
Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi is undoubtedly the most successful and influential women entrepreneur from India. She laid a path to many budding women entrepreneurs by exhibiting confidence at every level of her career.
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Kiran Majumdar Shaw
The Chairperson and Managing Director of Biocon India – a Bangalore-based biotechnology company, Kiran Majumdar Shaw’s entrepreneur journey began on a bumpy road. Kiran originally dreamt of being a brewmaster, like her father.
After completing a bachelor’s in science from Bangalore University, she gained a Master’s Degree in melting and Brewing from the University of Melbourne, Australia in 1975. Soon after she realized that building a brewing career in India was an uphill task for women.
At this juncture, Kiran met an Irish entrepreneur, who drove her to start Biocon India, as an enzyme manufacturing company for the brewing industry. The challenges came her way as difficulty in raising loans and pooling personnel for business.
Tiding over the problems, Biocon India started exporting enzymes and making profits. In later years, with a focus on development services and clinical research Kiran, transformed Biocon into a Bio-pharmaceutical enterprise. Biocon came up with two subsidiaries – Syngene (1994) and Clinigene (2000) in this direction.
In 2004, to raise more capital for research purposes, Biocon went for IPO, which was oversubscribed 32 times. Today, with more than 11,000 global employee base and net revenue of INR.56,588 million (2019), Biocon India is a globally recognized company.
Forbes has named Kiran in World’s 100 Most Powerful Women and List of World’s Self-made Women Billionaires. She was among Fortune’s Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Asia-Pacific and the list goes on. She was also honored with Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan by the Government of India.
Throughout her journey so far, Kiran Majumdar Shaw ventured into new business areas. She was never deterred by failures and never backed off from taking risks. That forms an inspiration to many women entrepreneurs. In her words, “I really believe that entrepreneurship is about being able to face failure, manage failure and succeed after failing.”
The 84-year-old, Indu Jain, is the chairperson and CEO of Bennett Coleman & Co. Limited, which owns a widely recognized Times Group. The world’s largest selling English daily -The Times of India, the world’s second most-read financial newspaper- The Economic Times, the television channels like Times Now, Movies Now, and many other big names come under this group.
Indu Jain is the widow of the late Ashok Kumar Jain, who was the former Chief of the company. Although the company belongs to the pre-independence era, it became most popular and profitable under her leadership.
Today, the revenues of the company are more than $1.5 billion. It also has an employee base exceeding 11,000. Indu Jain is the matriarch of the Times Group, who is courageously taking forward the company.
She is also a multifaceted woman with an interest in arts, literature, and culture. Indu Jain is the chairperson of Bharatiya Jnanpith Trust, which presents Jnanpith awards for the highest literary works. She has influenced women entrepreneurs all over India to believe in themselves.
She is also a spiritualist, who believes that “As we journey deeper into the 21st century, developing technology for outer growth, we must also harness the power of our millennia-old civilizational knowledge to infuse our modern lives with spiritual traditions. Traditions and culture that once took India to the pinnacle of success.”
Indu Jain is a philanthropist as well, who initiated Times Foundation for creating a better society through developmental and transformational changes.
For all her contributions, Indu Jain was honored with Padma Bhushan in 2016. She was also given Lifetime Achievement Award by the Institute of Company Secretaries of India for corporate governance in 2019. Indu Jain was named in World’s Richest Person List by Forbes. There are many other honors upon her conferred by many institutions.
Nevertheless, it was Indu Jain’s hard work and swift decisions that made all the achievements possible. She is truly an inspiration for nascent women entrepreneurs.
Arundhati Bhattacharya was the first woman to serve as the Chairperson of India’s oldest and largest commercial bank, the State Bank of India. In 1977, Arundhati joined the bank as an officer and rose to the remarkable chairman’s position by climbing the career ladder with diligence and teamwork. She is one of the top names for women entrepreneurs of our times.
When she donned the role of Chairman in 2014, Arundhati was welcomed by a pile of bad loans, which stood at $11 billion. At the time when the economy was slow and borrowers were defaulting the repayments, the biggest challenge in front of her was to improve the bank’s productivity and reinstate investor confidence.
She carried out this task very effectively. She began by fixing the problem of non-performing assets. The percentage of bad loans started coming down from 5.6% to 4.2% between Sep2013 to Sep2015.
Her every move as Chairman of SBI took the bank to new heights. Under her leadership, SBI improved mobile and internet banking services to give a digital edge for the bank in the changing times. SBI also began employee training and HR programs promoting meritocracy.
The milestone, however, was the merger of five associate banks and Bhartiya Mahila Bank with SBI, which positioned SBI in the World’s Top 50 banks. For all her achievements, Arundhati was ranked in Forbes World’s Most Powerful Women List and Most Powerful Women in Finance.
Arundhati Bhattacharya’s journey clearly puts forth the message that one should never deter from embarking on new avenues. Sometimes, the results may not be evident instantly, but the path will pay off in the long run.
Her advice to women aspirants in an HBR Ascend interview was, “My only advice is don’t give up. Giving up is very easy. It’s a matter of seconds. Always try; if you try, paths will open. Who intervenes, I don’t know. I’d say it’s divine intervention, but things will work out.”
Vandana Luthra is the founder and chairperson of VLCC Health Care, beauty, and wellness service centers that operate in countries from Asia, The GCC, and Africa. When the first center was opened in 1989 in New Delhi,
Vandana knew that there is a daunting task for her. Firstly, being a first-generation woman entrepreneur and secondly foraying into a business segment that was never tried.
The concept of merging beauty with fitness and providing one-stop-shop solutions from head-to-toe looked futuristic way back in the 1980s. The business model itself stood challenging to raise funds. Surpassing challenges, she was able to raise loans.
Weathering criticisms she took her unique business idea forward. Her efforts paid off when people started embracing the concept. Today, VLCC offers numerous beauty and wellness products and services in 330 locations across 150 cities in 14 countries.
Family played a very key role in nurturing Vandana’s success. In her childhood, she was influenced by her parents’ good deeds towards the poor. Vandana’s mother ran an organization name Amar Jyothi to educate kids.
Her parent’s way of impacting the lives of others drove her to create an impact on the lives of people with a wellness approach. In later years, she was supported by her husband in her entrepreneur journey, who encouraged her to scale up the business.
Forbes listed Vandana in Asia 50 Power Businesswomen in the APAC region, while Fortune named her in 50 Most Powerful Women in Business in India. In 2013, she was awarded Padma Shri by the Government of India. She was also made the chairperson of Beauty and Wellness Sector Skill Council, which is a government initiative to provide training in this sphere.
Vandana Luthra’s message for aspiring women entrepreneurs is, “Stay focused and determined. Always look for motivation from within. Never lose faith when the hurdles may seem infinite.”
Every entrepreneur’s journey has ups and downs. But, only after crossing the threshold, the journey becomes visible and success is celebrated. However, there is a story to be heard in the making of an entrepreneur. YourStory is that means which presents great stories of budding entrepreneurs to the world.
Shradha Sharma is the name behind the beginning of YourStory, a digital platform to publish the stories of Indian startups. In 2008, with a seed capital of two lakh rupees, she started the venture. Her stint with Times of India and CNBC TV18, before this venture, formed the base for her plans.
However, she did not receive any support from people with whom she was associated earlier. Moreover, she had to receive negativity that the company may not last for long. Despite all the odds, she continued with the business model. YourStory posted profits between 2011 and 2015, which were reinvested in the company.
Gradually, the company attracted investments from Kalaari Capital, Qualcomm Ventures, University of California, Berkley, Ratan Tata, Mohandas Pai, and so on.
So far, YourStory narrated over 22,000 entrepreneur stories and enabled over 50,000 entrepreneurs with business funding and networking possibilities. Apart from English, stories are published in 12 Indian languages with a reader base of over 10 million globally. YourStory also expanded in Germany to bring out startup stories in Germany and is eyeing more global expansions.
Hailing from Bihar, a state where a conducive environment was not present for girl education way back, Shradha undeterred graduated from prestigious colleges and always gave her best. She was listed in Forbes Power Trailblazers and was among LinkedIn’s List of powerful influencers.
Shradha’s journey is truly an inspirational story. She advises aspiring entrepreneurs, “don’t wear the labels that the world puts on you.” Belief in oneself and a clear vision would bring success.
Suchi Mukherjee is the founder of LimeRoad.com, an online eCommerce portal, which was initially started for women to offer a wide variety of products from dresses, shoes, accessories, and so on. The business idea of LimeRoad occurred to Suchi in her maternity leave. When she was reading a magazine, Suchi came across a piece of jewelry, which she wanted to own.
However, she was then in London and the jewelry was from a local store in Mumbai that would make a long wait. Soon Suchi realized that there is a need for consumer technology for revealing products easily and entertainingly as though reading a magazine experience. And at the same time a platform for the display of a wide range of products that come from manufacturers of South-East Asia.
In 2012, tapping into the digital revolution of India, LimeRoad came into existence. With the concept of scrapbooking, wherein the users can create a catalog and share it on social media platforms, LimeRoad became more interactive and engaging with customers.
On the other hand, the vendor base is also supported by training and photography services to meet the growing order requirements. Today the company contends with giants like Amazon, Myntra, Flipkart, Snapdeal, and so on in the eCommerce space.
All this was made possible with strong family support and Suchi’s wide contact base. Before starting her own venture, Suchi had a career of a decade and a half, holding significant positions across companies. After completing her master’s from the London School of Economics in 1998, she joined Lehman Brothers. She then moved to Virgin Media.
It was only after joining eBay, Suchi gained more insights into the functioning of the business. Her stint with Skpye and Gumtree – part of eBay, nurtured Suchi’s leadership skills and ignited an entrepreneur spark in her. LimeRoad was then launched from this hunger, roping in the right talent base.
Such was listed among Rising Talent – Global Leader under 40. She also won NDTV Unicorn Start-up and ET Start-up awards. Suchi Mukherjee is a role model to current-day entrepreneurs who want to make the most of the digital era.
At the age when people tend to retire, Falguni Nayar began her entrepreneur journey with Nykaa, an online beauty, and wellness retail business. In 2012, at the age of 50, Falguni started Nykaa, to fill the gap in the Indian beauty retail segment.
An MBA graduate from IIM Ahmedabad, Falguni was having a good career with Kotak Mahindra Bank before the launch of Nykaa. From being the Head of International Business, she became Director of Institutional Equities Business in Kotak Securities. Later she went on to become the Managing Director of Kotak Investment Banking.
At this juncture, Falguni wanted to embark upon a venture of her own, motivated by successful entrepreneurs like Ronnie Screwwala and Ajay Bijili, who turned a small idea into big businesses. Moreover, hailing from a business family and hearing a lot about trade and stock markets in her growing ages helped harness her entrepreneurial skills.
As the name stands, Nykaa – derived from the Sanskrit word Nayika, is beautifying and celebrating the actress in a woman with its offerings. Nykaa sells 1500 brands with over 3 lakh products, including its own label. The brand also sells products through 68 brick-and-mortar stores in India. Nykaa receives 13 lakh orders per month, with 72% of monthly repeat customers.
Falguni Nayar is one such entrepreneur who is meticulous about every business aspect. She believes every detail is important in business. This dedication made Nykaa the largest omnichannel beauty retailer in India. For her contributions, Falguni was listed in Asia’s Power Businesswomen by Forbes. Vogue India named her Businessperson of the Year 2019.
She received many more awards and accolades for her achievements. Falguni’s success story makes it evident that age is just a number and dreams can be chased at any point in time.
The founder of Menstupedia, Aditi Gupta, is one of the social women entrepreneurs who turned a taboo subject into prime education for everyone. With digital platforms and printed comics, Menstrupedia is creating awareness about menstruation and hygiene for girls.
Aditi Gupta was born in Garhwa, Jharkhand in a conservative family, wherein like many Indian households, menstruation was treated as a forbidden thing. She was treated impure until the completion of the period. Many taboos were in a place like not to touch pickles, not to touch the bed, and so on during menstruation.
She realized that the condition was the same as many Indian girls. Few were even deprived of using Sanitary Pads. These conditions drove her to break all the misconceptions about the subject.
As a research scholar at the National Institute of Design, Aditi worked on a project about menstrual unawareness in India along with activity partner Tuhin Paul. They came up with a comic book to guide girls about periods. In 2012, they took a major step in this direction by launching the Menstrupedia website.
In 2013, with the help of a crowd-funding campaign, the Menstrupedia Comic book was developed. Menstupedia comic is being used by over 7500 schools and 270 NGOs in India. It is also translated into many Indian languages and a few foreign languages as well.
For her social initiations, Aditi was listed among Forbes India 30 under 30. She is also a Global Shaper alumnus and also the International Visitor Leadership Program Alumni.
Aditi Gupta’s success proves that a social issue can be addressed effectively by selecting appropriate tools and channelizing efforts in that direction. Entrepreneurship can also be in the way of social change.
In 2009, Upasana Taku, along with her husband, Bipin Preet Singh founded MobiKwik, a digital financial service platform. MobiKwik, one of the firsts in the digital payment segment, was launched to make payments easy for people in India.
Upasana was a B.tech graduate from the National Institute of Technology and holds a Master’s from Stanford University. She began her career with HSBC working across numerous job profiles. Later moved to PayPal, wherein she acquired knowledge of payment systems, fraud identification and management, and so on.
She was having a progressive career path and a comfortable life. All that didn’t entice her for long. Upasana’s entrepreneur hunger was such that she left a formidable career in the US, to be part of new India success stories. In 2008, she came back to India and joined an NGO, named Drishtee.
She was keenly looking for avenues that could create an impact. Around this time, she met Bipin, who was working on MobiKwik idea. Upasana too joined him in setting up infrastructure for business. With a seed capital of 8 lakhs, the office was started in Delhi. Gradually investments were flowing in from Sequoia Capital, American Express, Tree Line Asia, and so on.
Upasana’s journey proves that perseverance and handwork can determine success. Today, MobiKwik is in the second position in the mobile wallet space in the country and records 1 million transactions every day. For her achievements as an entrepreneur, Upasana Thakur was listed in Fortune India Under40, received the ‘Best Woman Entrepreneur Award 2017’ from ASSOCHAM, and many more accolades.