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Celebrating a New Dawn for Women Entrepreneurship in India

Chandra R Srikanth talks to one of India’s leading female business leaders, Ghazal Alagh, about the many challenges and opportunities that the current start-up ecosystem presents for women in India.

November 20, 2022 / 06:32 PM IST

In a country where only a tiny minority of women get an opportunity to work outside the home, women entrepreneurs have assumed a greater importance. On the occasion of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, as the world celebrates the rise of equal opportunity and social progress, we in India must seize the chance to inspire a new generation of female entrepreneurs, who will be key to the country’s development. A special Women’s Entrepreneurship Day interview, presented as part of ‘Leap To Unicorn’, an initiative by IDFC FIRST Bank and Network18 to empower the most promising start-ups in the country, sought to do just that. Chandra R Srikanth, Editor, Technology, Startups & New Economy, Moneycontrol spoke to Ghazal Alagh, CEO & Co-Founder, Mamaearth, about her journey as a female entrepreneur and the road to success.

In spite of being the founder of a newly-minted unicorn, Ghazal Alagh retains a modest view of Mamaearth’s eventual success. “From a proposition point-of-view, D2C was fairly new. And we went online not so much as an option, but possibly the only way we had back then”, she recalled, peppering her story with disparaging comments she heard from distributors and investors as she, a new mother, tried to raise a company and a baby simultaneously. Ghazal Alagh had a source of support that not many women entrepreneurs can count on – her husband, Varun, was her co-founder. She credits him for bringing a commitment and honesty to the partnership that powered their young company through early challenges. It was something Ghazal Alagh felt she missed in her earlier unsuccessful ventures.

Still, the road to success for women entrepreneurs is fraught with conflicting needs, guilt, self-doubt and workplace biases. “Very early on I had team members who left the company because they said Ghazal doesn’t have experience and add value to us”, Ghazal Alagh reminisced. For some, it could be a debilitating blow to their self-esteem. But for Ghazal Alagh, it became another reason to succeed. “I knew I might not have the degrees or the industry experience this role required, but I was also very sure that if I put my time and energy into something, I would master it”. Mamaearth grew exponentially from its launch in 2016, which presented Ghazal Alagh with a different dilemma. “There was the mom-guilt, because sometimes you have to take time away from your child”, she said, articulating one of the most significant obstacles to women taking up leadership and entrepreneurial roles.

But Ghazal Alagh believes women can have it all. “You just need to prioritize what needs to be done at a certain point in time. Guilt just pulls you down”, she advised would-be entrepreneurs. At the heart of Ghazal Alagh’s proposition is a self-belief, fuelled by an unshakeable sense of purpose; something that is best captured by her favourite term, ‘figure-out-able’. Ghazal Alagh hopes that other women entrepreneurs can find their own purpose too, and avail the great opportunities that an expanding start-up ecosystem affords them. To watch this conversation click here: