The Indian startup ecosystem has grown remarkably over the last decade. In fact, India has become the third-largest startup ecosystem globally after the US and China. Linked to this meteoric rise is the steady growth of Women entrepreneurs. The sixth economic census by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) underlines that women constitute around 14% of the total entrepreneurship in India, and this number is bound to grow with many Women leaders emerging as role models for other women to emulate and jump aboard the entrepreneur-‘ship’ to success.
With one out of every 5 startups successfully run by Indian women, India is seeing an uprising concerning women entrepreneurs. Over the years, many women leaders have emerged who are dominating their respective industries by their sheer hard work and talent. This list is to recognise such women who have built world-renowned brands.
1. Falguni Nayar, CEO & Founder of Nykaa
Nykaa, India’s biggest fashion and lifestyle portal, is a creation of Mumbai-based, India’s first self-made female billionaire entrepreneur Falguni Nayar. After serving 20 years as a venture investor and merchant with Kotak Mahindra, she suddenly announced her departure to pursue her dream. Nykaa was founded in 2012; capitalising on the scope of beauty and skincare products online, Nykaa created history. Falguni Nayar is associated with one of the top B-schools in India, IIM Ahmedabad.
She has been honoured by ‘Businesswoman of the Year’ at the Economic Times Awards for Corporate Excellence 2019, for her contribution to the Indian beauty industry, and the ‘Woman Ahead’ award at the Economic Times Startup Awards in 2017. With the Nykaa IPO creating a buzz in the share market, She has marked her presence in Indian Startups history and a real-life example of “Age is just a number”.
2. Akanksha Hazari, CEO & Founder of LoveLocal
Akanksha Hazari is the CEO & Founder of LoveLocal, a hyperlocal eCommerce startup that is revolutionising how India shops by empowering local retailers and digitising the $1.1 trillion unorganised retail market. LoveLocal has grown 40x since its inception in January 2020 and currently serves over 35+ cities and 1300+ pin codes across India. Akanksha is a Princeton University and Cambridge University alumnus. A successful second-time entrepreneur, Akanksha has 10+ years business experience across India, MENA and the US.
She has won multiple awards, including the Hult Prize 2011, where she was awarded $1 million by former US President Bill Clinton and the Vital Voices Global Economic Empowerment Award 2016 from Secretaries of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Madeleine Albright and is named / recognised in US Senate Resolution 418. Akanksha is the only Indian tech entrepreneur to be featured in the book – “100 Women Using their Power to Empower”. The book celebrates 100 global women leaders who are redefining power, in which Akanksha is featured alongside Melinda Gates, Serena Williams, Greta Thunberg, and many other inspiring women. Akanksha speaks six languages and is a former competitive squash player ranked among the top 20 junior players internationally.
3. Upasana Taku – Co-Founder of Mobikwik
India’s largest independent mobile payments network, MobiKwik, was founded by Upasana Taku and Bipin Preet Singh in April 2009. It allows you to shop at stores, pay bills, recharge, send money, accept payments with 1-tap and connect over 30 million users with 75,000 retailers.
An alumnus of Stanford University, Upasana has over 10+ experience in the fintech sector. Her entrepreneurial journey has been an inspiration for many. She has been awarded the “Best Woman Entrepreneur Award 2017” by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM). The co-founder has become the first female to run a payments company in India and strongly believes in her vision for India’s fintech market.
4. Kamalika Bhattacharya, CEO & Co-Founder of QuoDeck
Kamalika Bhattacharya is the Co-Founder and the business brain behind QuoDeck, a B2B SaaS Digital Learning and Engagement Platform that enables organizations to use interactivity and games to engage audiences such as employees, value chain and gig workforces.
Her passion for entrepreneurship has been built over many years through her 22-year long career, where for the most part of it, she has worked with startups and ventures to raise private equity and venture capital for them.
She co-founded QuoDeck in 2017 along with Arijit Lahiri with a view to combine their love for gaming with their ambitions of building a global product. Under her leadership, QuoDeck has grown into a thriving company with marquee Fortune 500 clients.
In her past avatar as an investment banker, she has held senior roles in business building in companies such as ADP, ICRA, IDFC and Intellecap. At QuoDeck, she heads business development and drives the team’s hunger to be better, bigger and faster.
She holds an MBA from the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad, and is an Economics graduate from Osmania University.
5. Anuja Joshi, Director of Join Ventures
Anuja Joshi is the Co-Founder of the Indian chapter of Interflora, the world’s largest, most recognised, and respected flower delivery service. Supported by a network of over 58,000 florists worldwide, Interflora delivers to approximately 140 countries. For over 100 years, Interflora has enjoyed a reputation for excellence. Used throughout the ages, the Mercury Man emblem has been recognised worldwide as a symbol of swift and timely delivery and the very best quality floral gifts.
Anuja heads Interflora India business and has led the execution of floral decor at some of India’s largest weddings and corporate events. She is a trained classical dancer, interior designer and an alumnus of The London School of Economics (LSE). She also holds an MBA from Symbiosis Institute of Management Studies, Pune and has served in leadership roles for many other companies in the past.
She is also the director at IGP.com, one of the world’s and India’s leading multi-category gifting company, providing one of the best-curated collections of festival merchandise, gifts, fresh flowers, cakes, plants, gourmet foods & personalized products for all occasions & festivals.
6. Smiti Bhatt Deorah – Co-Founder of Advantage Club
Smiti Deorah is the Co-Founder and the Chief Operating Officer of HRTech startup Advantage Club, an AI-enabled platform for driving employee engagement. Over the years, the company has emerged as the leading employee engagement platform in India and is growing 20 percent on an MoM basis. The company has also gone global with a presence in more than 70+ countries. The company has reinvented the wheel around employee benefits and engagement by building deep engagement products that can be further personalised according to each user’s behaviour.
She is an alumnus of the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) and has done her master’s in computer science. Smiti has strong experience in B2B relationship building and account management. Smiti has worked in one of the world’s tech giants ‘Microsoft’ for over 2 years and gained expertise in what she does. As a founder at Advantage Club, She wears various hats at the company, focusing on Business Development, Marketing, Hiring, Content and Customer Relations, making her a superwoman entrepreneur.