Conclave seeks ways for strong women presence in startups

India warrants an ecosystem that guarantees far stronger participation of aspiring women entrepreneurs by removing the hurdles on their path to business ventures, a national event noted  in its efforts to lessen female under representation in businesses related to science and technology.

Gender sensitivity is essential to ensure inclusivity in heading or working with startups, according to speakers at the ‘Women Startup Summit’ being hosted by the Kerala Startup Mission (KSUM).

Kerala IT Secretary Mr M Sivasankar listed three major factors that are hindering the prospects of women entering entrepreneurship in a big way in the state. One is ‘social barriers’, where, say, ‘safety’ of girl students in hostels restricts their study hours in the campus.

Second is the increasing need for women with reasonable professional experience (of five to ten years) heading‘brown startups’. Thirdly, there is near-absence of women coordinators in KSUM’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Centres.

Kerala State Planning Board member Dr MridulEapen noted that most educated women in a high-literacy state like Keralaare yet to be conscious of their potential in business ventures. “The proposals and points emerging in a meet like this will have their resonance in the policy making decisions of the board,” she added at the inaugural address of the day-long event being organised in association with the Indian Women Network under the Confederation of Indian Industries. “The summit is definitely a strong step towards woman empowerment.”

Dr Eapen said it was wrong to go by the general notion that startups should invariably be on products that novel and innovative. “See, there are products that are necessity-based and others that are opportunity-based. Women should make use of their immense potential,” she exhorted at the start of the meet that also brought together successful women leaders, startup founders and policymakers besides aspiring entrepreneurs.

The session also called for providing women entrepreneurs and workers in startups with basic facilities such as food and transportation.

Earlier, welcoming the gathering at Integrated Startup Complex in Kalamassery, KSUM Chief Executive Officer Dr Saji Gopinath said the meet would be an occasion for women to help retrieve the entrepreneurship chances they typically miss out owing to the lapses in the system. Given that women in the state have proven their eminence in higher education, KSUM is duty-bound to promote their professional profile by facilitating opportunities, he added.

Teja Ventures founding partner Virginia Tan, while addressing the audience over live video, spoke of the “She Loves Tech” she initiated in 2015 and the steady progress the movement made across continents over the four years to become the world’s largest female technology startup competition.

The meet comes in the backdrop of Kerala having 13 per cent women participation in the technology startup ecosystem and the state government’s proactive steps for increasing the participation of women in the sector. The administration has implemented multiple policies and schemes, which focus on supporting the women startups. Based on the concept “Of Women-By Women-For Women”, the state government schemes can be availedby women startups from across the country.  The support facilities offered by the government was shared in the women summit.

KSUM is the nodal agency of Government of Kerala for entrepreneurship development and incubation activities in the state.

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