When women business owners pitch their ideas to investors for early-stage capital, they receive significantly less than men. But there is a noticeable change coming to the world of venture capital;the field is slowly getting more balanced to fund women led startups. Though the percentage of all women-owned businesses using VC funding is very less, some investors are recognizing the women talent and offering a helping hand.
Mumbai-based serial entrepreneur, strategic marketing adviser, and mentor Nilesh Jain is helping startups to grow exponentially on a global scale. With over 20+ years of experience, Nilesh is an investor for over multiple companies including 3 women-led companies, been the CEO and Co-Founder of 5+ companies and have handled leadership and senior roles throughout. Nilesh is moreover a value driven, passionate investor and adviser working with purpose-driven technology companies to solve problems that have an impact over a billion lives.
Here’s an excerpt of the conversation that ensured when HerMoneyTalks caught up with Nilesh.
HerMoneyTalks: Tell us about your journey as an entrepreneur and investor
Nilesh Jain: I come with a hard core engineering background, had spent close to 18 yrs in the US and moved back to India in 2011, and is angel investing early stage start-ups in India. My leadership experience spans from hardcore technology and healthcare industry, to manufacturing, software products, supply chain companies and many more, transforming growth stories for multiple companies.
I have funded 2 companies in the US. One of them was a women lead company, headed by my wife.
HMT: Bootstrapping a company takes a lot of courage. What is your experience in funding women led start-ups?
NJ: In India, it is not biased towards women entrepreneurs. Investors like us need to make a change in this.We live in an era where United States rejects a female leader and the Saudi Arabia debates over basic human rights for women; stark contrast to what we speak of – EQUAL OPPORTUNITY.
I have funded 3 women led companies in India. The first one is Hey DeeDee, which is a last mile & mid mile logistics delivery platform, done by women on 2- and 4-wheelers, to address the biggest pain point for almost all e-commerce companies – on time delivery is the biggest USP. Girls/women with lesser education and less fortunate backgrounds can skill themselves, in a 5 day course and aspire to own a vehicle with a zero down payment amount, and get an asset worth 70k on their own name. We have invested over a million dollars in it, as part our commitment to women entrepreneurship.
Another company which we are mentoring is also similar. Based out of Bangalore, she’s helping the transgender community and generating employment for them by training them for the corporate world. This 21 year old entrepreneur has quit her job with Goldman Sachs as she wanted to do something that creates a social impact. We extending all support for her, as this venture has a significant social impact and is helping people who struggle in giving their daily livelihood.
HMT: Do you think the funding ecosystem in India is conducive for women?
NJ: We need to create an ecosystem in India for funding early stage companies. We talk about equal opportunities everywhere. But I’m yet to see a lot of investors especially angel investors and VCs actually driving and promoting the thought process of equal opportunity in business. Let’s start from ground zero especially when we talk about Women led companies. Now there are some funds like Saha Fund, Trinity Capital, Female Founder’s Fund, that focus solely on promoting and supporting female-led businesses.
HMT: What is your confidence level in investing women led startups?
NJ: Very high. It may be biased, but women are capable of it. It is a fact. Women are multi-taskers, it is less riskier and they are more ethical with rooted principles. The dedication of women is much higher to bring success to what they do and have a bigger vision. I have seen many woman who have a strong will and a strong sense of determination. It is all about giving them the support to do what they are good at doing. Another factor, is the massive social change that is upon us – more and more women are committed to building large businesses and are doing whatever it takes.
HMT: Women are not coming forward to pitching platforms. What do you think about it?
NJ: A startup is the toughest of all businesses, and it takes every ounce of courage, willpower, and a strong foundation to bring it to success – guerilla warfare. Working with women entrepreneurs I have experienced a couple of things. Women are less risky averse and move forward with less capital, get more for the money’s worth. We are telling them it is okay to take risks-calculated risks-and fail fast but fail small. We encourage them to be more bold &to come forward and experiment. Having 2 daughters, I know how important it is for women to be independent and have independent thought leadership in a biz environment.
HMT: What can be done to make a change here?
NJ: Globally, there is a lot of push around gender diversity and inclusion – across Governments, Management Boards and Entrepreneurship.We really need to talk a lot more about it, highlight more success stories of women and investors. We can also advocate, women entrepreneurs coming forward in certain areas like social impact areas. For example, women are capable of solving certain problems, and there are certain areas where they can create an impact. As media you can inform investors of more success stories and that there are better investment areas with women entrepreneurs.
We need to make an effort to change this statistics – Only 9% of all startup founders in India are women, and worst only 2% of all Indian startups that got funded in 2017-18 were led by women.