There’s something so special about a woman who dominates in a man’s world. It takes a certain grace, strength, intelligence, fearlessness, and the nerve to never take no for an answer. – Rihanna.
Back in the days, Madam C.J Walker was the first independent woman entrepreneur to break through the stereotypes norms. Since then, the times have changed and women are on a remarkable journey of entrepreneurship and leading with positive belief and confidence. Globally, all women have overcome criticism and breaking the trends to prove themselves beyond the stereotypes. This effect was also seen to impact the Indian corporate world. From being homemakers to successful entrepreneurs, women in India have come a long way.
Every woman, who aspires to dream, can achieve anything irrespective of having leadership qualities. Making space in the world of men is courageous.
Here is the list of top 10 successful women entrepreneurs in India:
- Vandana Luthra
- Richa Kar
- Upasana Taku
- Shradha Sharma
- Kiran Majumdar Shaw
- Sairee Chahal
- Falguni Nayar
- Vani Kola
- Suchi Mukherjee
- Aditi Gupta
Let us discover them
Vandana Luthra ( Founder of VLCC )
Education: Polytechnic for Women in New Delhi
Prior Work experience: Homemaker
“I am not VLCC, I am a part of the 6000 professionals who run it.”
Vandana Luthra is an inspirational entrepreneur who is the founder of VLCC Health care Ltd. She is an Indian businesswoman, philanthropist, and chairman of the ability council for the beauty and wellness sector (B&WSSC).
Vandana Luthra set up a company, in 1989, called VLCC as a Wellness centre. VLCC is a very popular giant of beauty and wellness and is present in 11 countries throughout 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). However, this success was not overnight.
While Vandana Luthra started her entrepreneurial journey, there were hardly any women entrepreneurs in India. She had to face a lot of criticism in the male-dominated environment. In 2010, she won the Enterprise Asia Women Entrepreneur of the year award. Further, she was honoured by India’s fourth-highest civilian honour, Padma Shri award from President of India in 2013. In 2015, she’s listed as the 33rd most powerful woman in business in India by Fortune India. 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.
Richa Kar ( Founder of Zivame )
Education: Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies
Prior Work Experience: SAP, Spencer’s Retail Ltd.
“If you are strong, focused, and passionate about what you want to do, everything falls into place.”
Richa Kar is the Founder of a successfully established online lingerie store Zivame. While working in the SAP department she tracked the online sales of Victoria’s Secret which is America’s largest retail company of women’s lingerie. She noticed that the sales and profits had crossed the target, but there was no such brand for Indian Women. In a conservative country like India, women feel shy about purchasing lingerie offline, as most shoppers in such stores are male. Also, women could not expect fitting and styling tips from stores like this. Keeping all of these issues in mind, Richa founded the company in 2011.
Richa came up with the name “Ziva” for her idea which means Radiance in Hebrew. But since that name was not available so she settled with Zivame, which means Radiant Me. Zivame has been successful in educating Indian women across the country about intimate wear.
Richa boldly removed the awkwardness of lingerie and added a fashion element to it. She encountered several discontent and awkwardness as she explained her business idea to her family and others. And yet she was firm to rise above all else, which she ultimately did.
More about Zivame:
Zivame was founded with the vision of helping women uninhibitedly shop for intimate wear. Along the way, the team saw the power of this idea and how it helped women break norms. Now taking it ahead and investing in a community that’s influencing women in different ways. From its online-offline stores to the new category launches, all the innovations are driven by ideas that weren’t thought of before.
Upasana Taku (Founder of Mobikwik)
Education: Stanford University
Prior Work Experience: Paypal, Zaakpay, 2020 Social
“Kick up a storm or die trying”
Upasana is the Founder of Mobikwik—an easy replacement for the wallet. When you start something new, the ecosystem doesn’t accept you easily, people say no. Though the concept seems relatable it was fairly new for the market to accept it. However, Upsana was calm enough to build her idea into a venture. 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.
Her gender was one of the major obstacles that she faced. She observed that woman in a position of managing finance was unsettling. And this is why she talks about courage that a woman has to take when in the helm of affairs.
Upasana is pure inspiration, she decided to quit the privileged life, ignored the gender discrimination patiently, and confronted numerous challenges just to give back to her homeland.
More about Mobikwik:
MobiKwik is the first-ever truly Indian payments app with an option to access digital credit and deliver a better & financially secure future to millions of Indians. Its technology-driven network connects over 110 million users to over 3 million online and physical stores, and each other, and enables payments and financial services – credit, insurance and wealth, at the click of a button.
Shradha Sharma (Founder & CEO of YourStory)
Prior Work Experience: CNBC TV18, The Times Of India
“When you know you have to fend for yourself every inch of the way, it gives you a different kind of grit and tenacity”
Shradha Sharma, the Founder, and CEO of YourStory is a courageous entrepreneur who was bold enough to call it quits while working for a famous media house like CNBC in Mumbai. While working she had the opportunity to interview several entrepreneurs and learn about their success stories. She wanted to feature these success stories but several channels rejected this idea. This is when she noticed that a million stories are storming around but there is no platform to cover them.
While working for CNBC, Shradha started YourStory as blog one night. She was well exposed to the business practices of news channels and newspapers so she applied the same here. Soon the platform turned into India’s biggest platform for start-ups and entrepreneurs related stories.
She was awarded the L’Oreal Paris Femina Award and was included in the list of Worlds’ Top 500 LinkedIn Influencers. In 2019, she got to interview Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India. Shradha is one of the most successful and influential women entrepreneurs in India.
More about YourStory:
YourStory brings people stories of entrepreneurs and change-makers, funding analyses, resource pieces and the first glimpse of emerging trends from India’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, as well as profiles of great businesses and entrepreneurs from all over the world.
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw (Founder of Biocon Limited)
Education: Master Brewer
Prior Work experience: Trainee Manager
“I managed to do things with a lot of common sense, a lot of determination, and a lot of foolish courage.”
Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Indian businesswoman who, as chairman and managing director of Biocon India Group, led a pioneering enterprise that utilized India’s homegrown scientific talent to make breakthroughs in clinical research.
Kiran attained her knowledge of brewery from Melbourne in 1975 and returned to India. However, she could not find a job in India as she was told that she could not be hired as a master brewer in India because “It’s a man’s work”. She was also well aware of the cultural norms that often limited the social mobility of women. Thus, she started looking for job opportunities outside India.
After a brief period as a trainee manager at Biocon Biochemicals Limited, of Cork, Ireland, to learn more about the business, Kiran returned to India. She started Biocon India in 1978 in the garage of her rented house in Bengaluru with a seed capital of Rs. 10,000. Although it was a joint venture, Indian laws restricted foreign ownership to only 30% of the company, which meant that 70% of the company belonged to Kiran.
In 2005 Kiran also received the Padma Bhushan Award, one of India’s highest civilian honours, for her pioneering work in industrial biotechnology.
More about Biocon:
Biocon Limited is a globally recognized, innovation-led organization that is enabling access to high quality, advanced therapies for diseases that are chronic, where medical needs are largely unmet and treatment costs are high.
Sairee Chahal (Founder & CEO of SHEROES)
Education: IMT Ghaziabad, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Prior Work Experience: Heidrick and Struggles, CII
“I was faced with questions like can you do it? Gladly, things are changing and now, they can see me doing it”
Sairee Chahal has established the platform SHEROES with an idea to help women get ‘more from life’—from careers and jobs to health, family life, and wellbeing.
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 mutual growth of women and towards their complete inclusion in the workplace.
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 per cent increase in women joining the start-up ecosystem over last year.
More about SHEROES:
SHEROES is a women’s community platform, offering support, resources, opportunities, and interactions via Sheroes.com and the SHEROES App. SHEROES—Communities for Women, is a safe and trusted space, where members discuss health, careers, relationships, and share their life stories, achievements, and moments. The app also offers a dedicated ask SHEROES helpline where community members can talk to counsellors on all aspects of their growth journeys.
Suchi Mukherjee (Founder of Limeroad)
Education: Master’s in Finance and Economics
Prior Work Experience: Consumer Division Management Team
“Don’t just dream about success, work for it!”
Suchi Mukherjee is the Founder and CEO of Limeroad—a social commerce site for the urban woman. Suchi has combined the fun of picking clothes from a magazine-like layout with the convenience of an online portal.
Suchi is a Cambridge University alumnus and has studied Economics and Finance at the London School of Economics. Her career pathway is very impressive, as she has worked for Lehman Brothers, Virgin Media, and eBay. Suchi was also a part of the initial development of both Skype and Gumtree.
Back then she was on her maternity leave when she noticed that there was a gap in the e-commerce market i.e. a woman devoted portal to find inexpensive accessories and products. After understanding the consumer business and the perfect balance between demand and supplies she established Limeroad
More about Limeroad:
The clothing brand Limeroad is here to make a buzz. Its unique selling point is its Scrapbook. It lets you create your look and lets you choose between the item that best fits you. Although Limeroad specializes in women’s clothing, they have now also branched out to men’s and kids’ clothing too. Their fashion is not only groovy in style but also affordable by price.
Aditi Gupta (Founder of Menstrupedia)
Education: Engineering Graduate and a New Media Design Post-Graduate
“Menstruating women are impure. This taboo has nothing to do with where you are from. From the interiors of India to big cities, if there was a myth I could do away with, it would be this.”
Aditi Gupta is the Co-founder of Menstrupedia—a platform working towards breaking the taboo around menstruation. This venture stemmed out form her personal experience with the so-called ‘taboo’ of menstruation. For her, menstruation was often a painful time which she had to go through without any help to mitigate the pain. Later she found out that terrible menstrual cramps were the story of every girl next door. She decided to create a website on menstruation to educate women.
Menstrupedia successfully challenged a lot of stereotypes which did cost her several uncertainties and hesitations in the beginning. However, today the platform has become extremely popular amongst the girls and women seeking to gain awareness about menstruation. The platform has reached more than 14 lakhs users through online and offline efforts. Along with books and comics, Aditi also started an online store for selling menstrual products and merchandise around feminism, gender equality, and women empowerment.
More about Menstrupedia:
Menstrupedia is a friendly guide to periods which helps girls and women to stay healthy and active during their periods. With a team of dynamic and passionate people with complementary skills, Menstrupedia aims at delivering informative and entertaining content through different media. Menstrupedia is a small but definitive step to shatter the myths and misunderstandings surrounding menstruation for ages.
Falguni Nayar (Founder of Nykaa)
Education: IIM Graduate
Prior Work experience: Managing director at Kotak Mahindra Capital Company
“I wanted to stand for those women who want to be beautiful for themselves, not for men or other women.”
Falguni Nayar is the Founder of Nykaa, the one-stop destination for cosmetics and other beauty range. She endeavoured her journey at the age of 50, a time when most people think about retirement she set herself into a new journey.
It was after resigning that Falguni began to think about various ideas and also how to shape everything in the form of an organization. Still, Nykaa was never really in her head until she observed the unbiased approach used among retail and online beauty shop sales managers to select the best products. She saw how her friends in the States relied on Amazon shopping. She saw the lack of good beauty sale experience in India and combined the two to launch Nykaa in 2012.
Shortly, several well-renowned brands started listing themselves on the platform. And soon enough Nykaa’s turnover crossed 200 crores, along with 850 brands and more than 50,000 products.
More about Nykaa:
Nykaa has quickly emerged as India’s largest omnichannel beauty destination with millions of happy customers across the country. From bringing the consumers their favourite brands and keeping them up-to-date with the latest beauty trends, expert advice and videos, to more than 68 Luxe and On-Trend Stores, an ever-growing online community for beauty buffs, and a Beauty Helpline, Nykaa goes out of their way to give consumers only the very best.
Vani Kola – Founder & Managing Director of Kalaari Capital
Education: Arizona State University
Prior Work Experience: Certus Software, Rightworks
“Having a great work culture is not an option – it is a necessity”
Vani Kola is the one who has a solid reputation for picking the best young minds and mentoring them to build successful enterprises. She was listed as one of the most powerful women in Indian Business by Fortune India. She is the founder and Managing Director of Kalaari Capital, one of India’s leading early-stage venture capital firms.
During her 22-year career in Silicon Valley, Vani was the founder and CEO of Certus Software. Prior to establishing Certus, Vani was the founder and CEO of RightWorks.
More about Kalaari Capital:
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.”