Sitting around a table in the Leela Palace Hotel with Kalpana Jain, Senior Director at Deloite in New Delhi, we were listening and asking questions about the status of entrepreneurship in India. Kalpana was one of the most outspoken guests. She has worked with many companies in M&A activities over the past 20 years. What she had to say about the status of entrepreneurial companies was enlightening.
She has engaged with a number of women-led businesses, especially during the last 5 years. More often than not, even when a women is the CEO of the company that woman she turns to her husband or family when it comes to finances. She was careful to explain that businesses in India are more likely than not to be family businesses, and in that case, women often do not own property. Financial arrangements then fall to the responsibility of the husband, or in the case of a single woman, to her family.
This perception was supported by Shahana Balu Kanodia, an attorney with Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge LLP, and who bridges practice in India and her practice in Boston. She maintained that the cultural differences were still quite evident, but maintained that change is coming to India. It will take time.
As I sat listening to the divergent views emerging among the entrepreneurs, it was clear to me that while some felt they were held back by the cultural expectations of women, others were moving forward with conviction. These were the women who were leading scalable businesses and seeking support from the Indian Angel Network (IAN), The Indian Entrepreneurs (TIE) and other organizations.
This is when we at Springboard turned to the discussion about the training available to them. Padjama Puparel, President of IAN. said that they make no distinction between men and women in their training. She implied both were learning the skills they need to develop their businesses. She did say that in 2010, only 5 percent of their entrepreneurs were women, and in 2011, 17 percent were. While this is an encouraging uptick, women still have a long way to go. We also had to be mindful that the entrepreneurial ecosystem is still very early in its development, for both men and women. A very constricted amount of early capital is available. Networks like IAN and the TIE Network are supplying much of the capital along with training.
Which led me to delve a little deeper into the training process. What do entrepreneurs experience when they come into the system? It seemed from the discussion that it was quite variable, depending on which mentors where matched with which entrepreneurs. So the experiences seemed to be uneven.
The Springboard program for entrepreneurs has been developed over 12 years time, and doesn't focus only on the training to raise funds. It is a program of staying with entrepreneurs through boot camp, coaching, funding and building scalable companies. Human Capital is what Springboard emphasizes. It's the Human Capital that leads to funding and partnerships for growth. I think there are things we could share with organizations like TIE and IAN.
Our initial impressions? Much more work needs to be done to understand the market, the challenges, and opportunities. Springboard will be at work determining how we can assist in supporting entrepreneurs, especially women. The time is NOW.