“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”– Helen Keller
Until a few decades ago, the mention of an average Indian woman would elicit a picture in our minds of a woman inside a house, cooking and serving her family members, looking after the kids or caring for the elderly and sick members at home. Of course there were working women who stepped out of their homes but mostly engaged in conventional professions like teaching, banking, hospitality industry etc. Now, with an increasing count of women entrepreneurs in India, women are taking up all professional spaces and leading them with empathy and confidence.
But the idea of women entrepreneurs was still dealt with resistance and hostility in India almost until the 1990s. Deep rooted patriarchy, social prejudices, traditional and cultural norms were few of the obstacles blocking the way of any Indian woman taking the entrepreneurial path.
However, despite all odds, there are women who withstood every hindrance and dared to chase their dreams. With their sheer perseverance, courage and talent these women have proved their mettle as successful entrepreneurs.
We have curated a list of 7 such self-made successful women entrepreneurs in India who have shattered the glass ceiling and made their distinct mark in different industries, some of which were until now considered male bastion:
7 such self-made successful women entrepreneurs in India
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw
She is the Founder and chairperson of Biocon India, the first Indian company to produce and export enzymes to the U.S and Europe. Despite studying fermentation science and earning a degree as a brewmaster from Melbourne University, Shaw faced a lot of criticism in India for aspiring to launch her career in brewing, which was the stronghold of men.
But an undeterred Shaw identified the right opportunity, took a leap of faith and started Biocon India from the garage of her house, with a seed capital of just INR 10,000/-. From manufacturing industrial enzymes, she eventually led Biocon to evolve into a completely integrated biopharmaceutical company. At 69 years, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw is a visionary working to ensure equity in healthcare through affordable innovations and has been adorned with numerous national and international honours for her commendable contributions in this sector.
Founder and CEO of Nykaa, a beauty and wellness e-commerce platform and currently the most popular businesswoman in India, Falguni Nayar is India’s richest self made woman entrepreneur. She quit her job in investment banking to tread on the path of her entrepreneurial journey with Nykaa in 2012, just months before turning 50 years.
In her own words, the journey of Nykaa has many firsts and is empowering for many, be it women or young entrepreneurs without a backing, or those from non-tech background trying to use technology. With a net worth of $3.4 B and recipient of many prestigious awards like EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2021, Falguni Nayar is an inspiration for many. Her message to women is “Never shy away from being the primary actor (Nykaa) of your life.”
An alumnus of National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, Aditi Gupta was concerned and intrigued about the stigma around menstruation from her personal experience in adolescence. She found a severe lack of awareness about menstrual health and hygiene in India, even among educated people. This motivated Aditi to work towards breaking the myths about menstruation and de-stigmatizing it.
Aditi along with her husband started a website called Menstrupedia in 2012 which provides user-friendly information about menstruation, hygiene and puberty through comic books and relatable media. Menstrupedia’s resources have benefitted around 13 million girls and women across the world. Aditi was listed in Forbes India Under 30 list in 2014, was named as one of BBC’s 100 most influential women in 2015 and received Business Today Most Powerful Women Impact awards for bringing a change in society through her innovative work in menstrual education.
Chattisgarh based microbiologist Shaikh Razia, has transformed the way people look at Mahua flowers. Mahua (Madhuca Longifolia) usually associated with the making of alcohol, consumed by tribal people also has great nutritious value. After discovering the health benefits of mahua flower, Razia started Bastar foods, a business venture which engaged local tribal women to produce ladoos and other healthy snacks from Mahua flowers. She also established proper market linkages to sell the products. Currently Bastar Foods has 8 manufacturing units and provides gainful employment to around 350 tribal women.
Chayaa Nanjappa is one of those successful women entrepreneurs in India whose story is both inspiring and heartwarming. She is the founder and managing partner of Nectar Fresh, a social enterprise engaged in sourcing and processing natural honey. Nanjappa is a first generation woman entrepreneur, under whose aegis, Nectar Fresh has been recognized as the first ‘Women Owned’ enterprise in India by We Connect International- a global network for women entrepreneurs.
Today Nectar Fresh has made its way to the shelves of huge retail chains like Walmart and Spar Hyper Market and is demanded by the best in hospitality industry like Hyatt, Radison, ITC, Marriot, etc. Chayya Nanjappa’s business model not only makes her brand a corporate success but also empowers rural farmers and local tribes by providing them with a sustainable livelihood.
Sairee Chahal is nothing short of a youth icon. She is a dynamic entrepreneur dedicated to the purpose of bringing gender parity in the workplace and believes in the power of technology to achieve this goal. Chahal is the founder and CEO of SHEROES-an online ecosystem exclusively for all women from college fresher to stay-at-home moms to find support with regard to employment and entrepreneurial opportunities or content and community support and interactive platforms. Being a woman herself who has dabbled through multiple roles of being a corporate professional and serial entrepreneur, she understands the nuances of business and the challenges faced by women in balancing various roles in life. Hence each of her ventures revolves around the idea of providing solution-oriented change for women at work.
Belonging to the Rabari or Rewari community, an indigenous nomadic tribe of cattle herders, Pabiben is the founder of one of India’s first Women Artisan Enterprises, Pabiben.com. Through hard work and perseverance, she has transitioned from a daily wage worker to an artisan and now a successful businesswoman who has put the traditional Rabari art of intricate embroidery work on the world stage.
With her passion and creativity, she invented a new art form called ‘Hari jari’ which has earned her a global clientele. Working towards empowering rural artisans by mentoring and supporting them to use their traditional crafts in creating sustainable livelihoods, Pabiben is not just an entrepreneur but an agent of positive social change.
Donate for Women Empowerment
“Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.” This quote by Maya Angelou aptly sums up the fact that one empowered woman creates many more empowered women. Inspired by the successful business women in India, there are many other women with dreams and aspirations but held back by lack of resources. Your contribution can propel their growth. Donate for women empowerment and help create many more success stories that India can be proud of.