2021: Conducting Business in India as A Woman

Challenges bring women closer like nothing else ever does, regardless of culture. They are specific, unrelatable to other genders, and, for the most part, should have been addressed by now. While this is a vast topic that has nuance, today we’d like to approach one specific facet of it. 

Sometimes, the country you are trying to penetrate adds more layers than you are prepared to peel. There are many additional considerations that come with establishing yourself as a woman business leader in a new market. Let’s look at some insights and takeaways that may help you best leverage the market potential India has to offer for your startup.

To explore other topics related to navigating the business landscape as a woman, take a look at our articles The Power of Words and The Impact of Imposter Syndrome on Women Leaders.

Preparing for Roadblocks: 2 Key Challenges

1.       Gender Bias

Wage disparity is the most evident and well-known form of gender bias across the globe. In India, women in self-employed, family-run enterprises, and agricultural sectors earn $0.79 for every $1 men do. Meanwhile, in the non-agricultural sector, this gap is inflated to women earning $0.69 for every $1 men earn. 

According to a survey conducted by Linkedin, 85% of working women in India believe they missed out on a raise, salary increase, or promotion because of their gender. Studies also indicate that a third of women experience prejudice while pitching to investors. When raising capital, they encounter more reluctance based on their potential risk factor and have to provide additional justification to get support for their ideas. Pushback in the form of assumptions and confirmation bias regarding starting families can sometimes lead women in India to short-lived entrepreneurial dreams. It takes a steeper motivational index to pursue business aspirations and navigate the roadblocks.

2.       Child and Family Support

Culturally, the expectation for women is to maintain a distance from the office. They were seldom seen fitting into the shoes of a business owner, running a firm, or creating a legacy. The imbalance in the familial hierarchy and lack of support from the inner circle is a situation that women in developing economies grapple with to a higher extent. 

While women continue to ace walking the tightrope, they could catapult further without the societal disregard and disproportionate load sharing. The subliminal issues that lead to hesitance in supporting a daughter’s business ventures and not registering property/collateral under their names is an impediment to raising funds, finding capital or applying for loans.

Capitalizing on Progress: 2 Key Opportunities

1.   E-Commerce

In India, women entrepreneurs are riding the digital wave with unique product offerings and optimized business models. They are strong contenders in the E-Commerce space more than ever. 

The world has taken notice of the gender gap and is taking steps to rectify it. Between media and government incentives, there are various opportunities one can take advantage of to conduct business as a woman in India. 

Initiatives from The Government of India like the Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP) encourage aspiring women entrepreneurs to start and scale their businesses through incubators, acceleration programs, mentorship, funding and more. Furthermore, there are focused funding exercises, subsidies, tax benefits, support groups, and networking events also cropping up to support the development of women-led ventures. 

From better seeding opportunities to creating products and solutions, the bridge is being laid and the gap is closing.

2.   White-Label Companies

Women are strongly moving the needle and the manifestation of stereotypes is changing as businesses become borderless. The pandemic has urged the world to aggressively move towards digitalization and thus, the scope for Saas companies is higher than it has ever been. It is expected to rise to a trillion dollars by 2030 and create at least 5 million new employment opportunities. 

Previously, SaaS unicorns from India were generating revenue from developed countries, but with economies realigning themselves, there is a shift. With the pandemic came fresh perspectives and NASSCOM projects. The domestic SaaS market share is projected to expand at a rate of 6x by 2025, with a potential to raise about $13 billion. Problems across all industries are being solved by tech companies, and the demand now exceeds stereotypical CRM & ERP tools

Women see problems with a unique lens which is being explored to great success in the white-label space.

Navigating the Landscape: 2 Key Suggestions

1. Making the Right Connections

They say one thing leads to another and it’s interesting to see the results of a domino effect, especially in a business. In India, this could be equated to a single person. Engaging with the right people can help accelerate your business in the right direction. Whether it is trying to wade through regulatory elements, administrative agencies, government bodies, or industry experts. Attending virtual events, connecting with fellow business leaders, are great ways to make connections and gain an understanding of the pulse of the ecosystem.

Learning how to conduct business in a respectful manner per an established culture is crucial. Our articles Conducting Business in India and Canada-India Cultural Landscape for Business are great resources to get you started. Making sure you communicate in a manner that works specifically for India will increase your success rate and decrease the hurdles you face. 

2. Think Local Act Global

We have all been hearing some version of “think global, act local”. When scaling into countries with a cohesive cultural setup, understanding needs through nuances is important.  Keep sensibilities in mind when navigating the scaling and entry process.  Focus on understanding the subtext of service/solution that your company has to offer applied to the Indian market to mitigate the early risks.

Wearing a woman’s thinking hat helps. Our article Embracing Feminine Leadership Qualities highlights a number of approaches that women tend to take that benefits businesses. 

Key Takeaway

The good news is women have been breaking glass ceilings and seeping through the slivers, one idea at a time. The voices are getting louder, the representation better, and the future hopeful.

Two major challenges to look at as a woman conducting business are gender bias and lack of family support towards women-led projects. But, as a Canadian woman targeting to enter the Indian market, some part of this is already not applicable, which makes it relatively easier to navigate. In addition, there are also many opportunities to explore, like e-commerce and white-label companies.

Furthermore, by implementing suggestions like making the right connections and thinking like a local, you can combat challenges and find success for your venture. The edge for a Canadian entrepreneur scaling to the Indian market is that the most cultural challenges are often mitigated. There might be other scaling strategies that companies need to focus on to work around the new market and sensibilities, but the inherent issues embedded are at an arm’s distance.

Do you feel the challenges women face in India are similar to those still seen in Canada? What steps can we take to further close the gap?

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