At Accenture, we believe in the potential of technology startup founders and entrepreneurs to create change that benefits society. In India, their innovation and creative thinking led to impactful solutions in fintech, edtech, healthtech, enterprise tech and more, and helped boost the economy through job creation and improved life outcomes for many.
However, the gender diversity gap in our tech startup ecosystem continues to hinder overall growth. Our numbers tell a story. In a recent Reserve Bank of India (RBI) survey on the Indian startup sector, only 6% of all Indian start-ups is women-only founded. Also, about 70% of startups in the country have less than 20% women in leadership roles. Why do so few female-led companies start, grow, and thrive in the world’s third-biggest startup hub?
Female-led companies received only 5.8 percent or $1.69 billion of the total startup investments granted to companies between January 2018 and June 2020. Of this, only 1.43 percent or $480 million went to startups with women-only founders. These percentages dropped even lower at the onset of the global crisis. In the first half of 2020, women-founded startups received $280 million in funding—this represented a 24 percent decrease in investments when compared to $369 million in the same period in 2019. For the period April-December of 2021, the money raised by women-led startups accounted for only 2.06 % of the total funds raised.
Several cultural and ecosystem constraints lie behind these numbers. Aspiring women entrepreneurs in India not only lack access to funds, they also experience limited government and industry support. Moreover, they struggle with finding female tech role models and other women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields to look to for ideas, motivation and inspiration.
Turning this around requires improving support for our female techpreneurs. Doing so changes the name of the game in the startup ecosystem for women.
To create a more supportive ecosystem for women tech founders and entrepreneurs, we need to take more steps to break gender constraints and stereotypes. The time to turbocharge their rise is now as we look to build a new and better normal.
All members and stakeholders in the ecosystem, including government and industry bodies as well as investors, have important roles in enabling our female changemakers’ advance. Corporates, in particular, possess the resources and expertise necessary to enhance women entrepreneurs’ access to new markets, networks, mentorship and technology know-how.
“Increasing women’s participation and encouraging entrepreneurship are key levers for continued economic growth, and nurturing women-led startups are essential to realizing India’s innovation potential. We need ecosystem collaboration to build comprehensive strategies that remove barriers and promote women-led businesses including comprehensive policy initiatives, equal access to funding, expansion of mentorship channels and support networks.”
— Rekha M. Menon, Chairperson and Senior Managing Director, Accenture in India
“Accenture is committed to growing women in technology, both within Accenture and in the broader ecosystem and the Women Founders Program is one of many initiatives that reflect this commitment.”
— Mahesh V. Zurale, Lead – Advanced Technology Center, Accenture in India
“By setting up the Women Founders Program, we aim to unlock growth opportunities for women entrepreneurs by enabling them with mentorship and market access as well as practical tools to help them realize their business goals.”
— Avnish Sabharwal, Managing Director – Accenture Open Innovation in India
“The Program can open new doors for female founders and entrepreneurs to make a bigger difference in society with their transformative ideas and solutions. By leading at the frontier of innovation, they can also inspire budding female changemakers to follow suit.”
— Ruhi Ranjan, Lead – Europe Markets, and Inclusion & Diversity, Advanced Technology Center in India
“It is important to continuously take strides to advance gender equality in the tech entrepreneurship space. More women creators and ideators means more innovation that triggers meaningful progress in our society. The Program enables us to address the gap in access to capital that exists between female and male tech founders.”
— Raghavan Iyer, Lead – Integrated Global Services, , Advanced Technology Centers
“Ultimately, everyone benefits when we widen the space for more women to contribute to solving society’s hardest problems. I’m excited to discover the exciting ways that they’ve harnessed technologies such as AI to improve people’s lives.”
— Gopali Contractor, Lead, AI Practice & AGBG, Lead, Inclusion & Diversity for Cloud First Advanced Technology Centers in India Global Lead, Learning Data & AI, Accenture
Accenture promotes and supports the drive toward greater gender diversity and inclusion—in our company and across our value chain, which includes our tech startup partners. To help accelerate the advancement of women as leaders and founders in the tech ecosystem, Accenture is launching the Women Founders Program, a first-of-its-kind initiative by Accenture in India. Anchored by Accenture Open Innovation, the program aims to help address the diversity gap by providing funding to women-founded Deep Tech & Enterprise SaaS startups.
The program will award early-stage, women-led technology startups with an equity-free grant of USD 60,000. It will also connect the winning female founders to Accenture leaders and experts and ecosystem partners. It aims to help pave their way to greater success through access to tech expertise, global & Indian clientele, mentorship, industry and investor communities and new markets.
Seize the opportunity to be part of the Women Founders Program. Check out our requirements below to know if you qualify.
To be eligible for the program, women entrepreneurs must be:
Your company must be:
Eligible to participate in our program? Fill out our application form on or before March 14, 2022.
Applicants will be shortlisted and selected by leaders from Accenture and the ecosystem on the basis of product differentiation, disruptability quotient, leveraging of deep technologies, commercial viability and founder profile.
View our timelines below.