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For women investors, too, raw deal is a reality in the Indian startup ecosystem

Women who write the cheque also have to face bias at the workplace. “Years ago, when workspaces were designed, they were designed by men -- for men. That has not changed," one woman investor summed up the scenario now.

March 08, 2021 / 01:16 PM IST

Ordeals of women entrepreneurs when they go to raise funds for their startups have been widely talked about. However, you will be surprised to know that the situation is not a lot better for women who write cheques in the industry either.

Unconscious biases against women investors when they go to raise money from limited partners or meet entrepreneurs for their pitch sessions are quite rampant, a bunch of leading investors told Moneycontol.

According to Alka Goel, Founding Partner of Alkemi Venture Partners, if women do not speak in meetings, they are the wallflower, and if they do, they are assumed to be aggressive. "What would typically be associated as a leadership trait for men, in the case of women, becomes -- hey, she's too loud," she said.

This happens at a time when the representation of women in the investment ecosystem continues to be minuscule as compared to their male counterparts.

According to a 2019 report by International Finance Corporation (IFC) in participation with management consultancy Oliver Wyman, and global investment management firm RockCreek, women held only 10 percent of all senior positions in private equity and venture capital firms globally. The India numbers were at an abysmal 7 percent.

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"Consciously, I don't think LPs discriminate, but we all have to acknowledge that an unconscious bias exists. Years ago, when workspaces were designed, they were designed by men -- for men. That has not changed," Nupur Garg, founder of not-for-profit organisation WinPe said. Before starting WinPe, Garg spent over a decade and a half in IFC across multiple roles.

The investors were speaking at Moneycontrol's special episode of the Setting Sail podcast on the occasion of International Women's Day on March 8.

Anisha Singh, an entrepreneur-turned-investor, said she decided to set up an investment fund after witnessing rampant instances of gender bias when it came to investing in women-led businesses.

Founder of merchant marketing platform MyDala, Singh announced the launch of a women-focussed investment fund - She Capital last year.

She Capital focusses on investing in startups with either women as sole founders or teams with women co-founders. It invests in early-stage startups with a corpus of Rs 200 crore.

"I started raising for MyDala when I was six months pregnant. I didn't know till then that there was such a thing as being too pregnant to raise money," Singh said, referring to an incident when she was refused money citing her pregnancy.

"We should look at the larger masses, and say if we want to have the change at an ecosystem level, we have to start looking at things in a larger picture. There are biases and we need to change that. The only way we can have founders to get more funding is by having more funders that are female-oriented," she added.

According to Sushma Kaushik, Partner at Aavishkaar Capital, firms should have a diverse team so that new perspectives are heard and the change has started to happen. She claims that, at her investment fund, almost 50 percent of the team are women at all levels.

"If you look at all consumer investments that have happened in China, most investing teams have women in the decision-making role, because it's very intuitive to understand where this whole thing is headed," said Kaushik.

According to her, even though the women's share of wallet in many other countries are lesser than in India, we miss out on a lot of opportunities, given that it is not intuitive for men.

"How will men understand why women buy lipstick online? It requires a woman to be at the decision-making position to say, ‘yes, I do see such a trend evolving and  I do believe this will open up a large opportunity’," she said.

"That is where things are headed. And that's going to make a big difference, going forward," she added.
Priyanka Sahay
first published: Mar 8, 2021 01:16 pm

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