Women entrepreneur may be defined as a ‘women or group of women who initiate, organize and run a business enterprise.’

Women entrepreneur is any women who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business. Women Entrepreneur may be defined as a woman or group of women who initiate, organize and run a business enterprise.

Government of India has defined women entrepreneurs as owning and controlling an enterprise with a woman having a minimum financial interest of 51% of the capital and giving at least 51% of the employment generated in the enterprise to women.

Some of the successful women entrepreneurs are:-


1. Shahnaz Hussain 2. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw 3. Smt. Girija Venkatesh 4. Miss Savitha 5. Smt. Sujatha Bhaskar 6. Smt. Guna Mallara 7. Smt. Manda Vilatkar

8. Smt. Saroj Sharma 9. Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi 10. Ekta Kapoor 11. Sunita Narain 12. Neelam Dhawan 13. Naina Lal Kidwai 14. Sulajja Firodia Motwani 15. Dr. Jatinder Kaur Arora 16. Sarada Ramani

17. Ishita Klianna 18. Vandana Shiva 19. Jyoti Jeevan Naik 20. Pia Singh 21. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw 22. Swati Piramal 23. Rajshree Pathy 24. Radhika Roy 25. Farah Khan 26. Vandana Luthra 27. Suchi Mukherjee

28. Anu-Sridharan 29. Aditi Gupta 30. Priya Naik 31. Ajaita Shah 32. Sheetal Mehta Walsh 33. Leila Janah 34. Gloria Benny 35. Saloni Malhotra 36. Pooja Warier.

Successful Women Entrepreneurs in India

Successful Women Entrepreneurs in India

Successful Women Entrepreneur # 1. Shahnaz Hussain:

Shahnaz Husain is one of the successful woman entrepreneurs of India. She popularized herbal treatments for beauty and health problems. ‘Shahnaz Husain Herbals’ was the name of her company. It was the largest of its kind in the world and had a strong presence in over 100 countries, from USA to Asia. By 2002, the company had over 650 salons around the world, employing 4200 people. The network of the company was $100 Million.


Shahnaz Husain was born into a royal Muslim family. Her father justice N.V. Beig was a progressive thinker who instilled in her a love for poetry and English literature. She received her schooling in an Irish convent. A western education coupled with traditional family background gave her wide exposure and developed her personality.

When her husband was working in Iran, she got interested in cosmetology. After she began her training, she realized the importance of ayurvedic cosmetics and harmfulness of chemical cosmetics. She trained extensively in cosmetic therapy for 10 years in some of the leading institutes of London, Paris, New York etc.

On her return to India in 1977 she setup her own salon at her house in Delhi with an initial investment of Rs. 35,000. She succeeded in her attempt. She identified ayurveda as a niche market and catered it. Her products gained popularity in India and she explored opportunities abroad. Her treatments booked many months in advance.


The turning point in her business came when she represented the Festival of India in 1980. Her team was given a counter in the perfumery section of Selfridges in London. She managed to sell her entire consignment in 3 days and also broke the store’s record for cosmetics sales for the year. Her products were carried by many prestigious stores across the world.

Successful Women Entrepreneur # 2. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw:

Kirna Mazumdar shaw is a leading entrepreneur in Biotech business. She studied malting and brewing in Australia. Thereafter she established her dream unit – BIOCON in 1978. BIOCON manufactures enzymes and has successfully produced 70 enzymes. The strategic initiatives of Ms. Shaw made her enterprise a leading bio-pharmaceutical company.

Today BIOCON has emerged as one of the leading industry in Biotechnology and entered into the markets of advanced countries to sell microbial enzymes. It is the first ISO 9001 company in bi-technology and the first Indian company to produce human insulin having pichia pastories – an yeast organism as raw material.

According to Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, the earlier days were very tough and full of difficulties. She did not get support either from financial institutions or from any other source since Biotechnology was a new concept during those days. Though the sector had potential for growth authorities concerned did not recognized its prospects. Even to hire human resources was a difficult job to run the business with all these difficulties she managed to remain in the business.


Kiran Mazumdar Shaw launched her business in 1978 with joint effort of an Irish firm – (a) Biochemizyme and (b) Biocon-Quest India Ltd. The products of these units brought laurels to her. After recognizing her leadership quality, she was made to assume different public responsibilities including vice president of AWAKE.

She is a creative innovator, visionary, planner, skillful manager and good decision maker. She says that she is supremely happy with her achievements.

Successful Women Entrepreneurs in India

The role of women in manufacturing activity is quite sufficient. And, small-scale enterprises have been the breeding ground for women to prove their entrepreneurial activities, skills and contribute to the national development. Women entrepreneurs have entered all fields of manufacturing activities and are willing to experiment and change with time. She is characterised by a positive attitude and a healthy image, determination, experience, persistence and hard work.

She accepts challenges and delights in her work. She is very task oriented and understands her workers. Women entrepreneurs both in rural and urban India are successful. Both young and old, trained and untrained, educated and uneducated are in the forefront of the industrial revolution in India.


The involvement of women entrepreneurs is spontaneous, far greater. The satisfaction and sense of achievement derived is major motivating factor and plus point.

Entrepreneurship is indeed an extremely challenging and exciting business. The promise and jubilation that lie ahead must surely outweigh the initial trials and tribulations. Overpowering the discouraging vicissitudes of the game, the entrepreneur sprints ahead to reap a rich harvest when the sapling that he nourished begins to bloom.

The successful women entrepreneurs come from different background. With initial training, they have scaled new heights and also provided employment opportunities to others. These success stories will inspire other women too.

1. Smt. Girija Venkatesh:

Smt. Girija Venkatesh is a shining example of a successful woman entrepreneur. She was born in August 1961 and completed her B.Sc. with Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics in 1984 from Bangalore University. She is married to an engineer working in HMT watches, Bangalore.


SISI Bangalore gave her five month training in Lens Grinding and Polishing. She also attended a course on Decoration of Glass & Ceramic-ware at this Institute. As she was contemplating to start a unit for the manufacture of ophthalmic lenses, it was found that with prestigious watch manufacturing units like HMT, Titan, Befora coming in a large way for the manufacture of sophisticated watches, starting up a unit for the manufacture of mineral glasses and watch crystals was more relevant and challenging.

With the added background of her husband already working in HMT watches the initiative was almost spontaneous. A visit by her husband to Japan and South-east Asian countries for survey-cum-study and also after finding out the latest machinery available at Japan for the manufacture of mineral glasses and watch crystals was very fruitful. The couple convinced HMT, Titan and Befora about their capability of manufacturing mineral glasses and watch crystals to absolute standards and decided to go ahead with the project.

As a result in the Electronics City at Bangalore, Smt. Girija Venkatesh along with a couple of more enterprising people have a unit on the flat allotted by M/s. Bangalore Mechactronics Pvt. Ltd., KSSIDX in 1990.

When they approached KSFC and State Bank of India both readily gave them financial assistance by way of term loan and working capital respectively. The cost of the project is around Rs.60 lakh, out of which the advanced imported machinery from Japan is valued around Rs.35 lakh.


Both thereafter selected suitable candidates including women and engineers and trained them at their unit so that the end-product sustains the rigid standards as demanded by the leading watch manufacturers. After facing the initial teething problems of quality, they have enforced rigid quality control at every stage. Nineteen people are now employed with them.

Through personal contacts, the unit is able to procure sizable orders and they don’t envisage any problem for their products. Small Industries Service Institute, Bangalore is proud that one of its trainees has come in the Electric City of Bangalore.

2. Miss Savitha (Screen Printer):

Miss Savitha is an example of a young lady entrepreneurship who was very keen to stand on her own feet by taking up a self-employment venture. She worked for some time as an accountant in various companies. Small Industries Service Institute, Bangalore identified and selected her for the screen printing course organised under the Nehru Rozgar Yojana. Miss Savitha has assisted with a loan of Rs.12,000.

In right earnest she set up her unit. She has since obtained good orders for screen printing from public sectors like HMT, LIC, Banks and other institutions apart from individuals. She is even making wedding cards, greeting cards also. She has paid back the bank installments, only one-third is outstanding. Owing to prompt repayment she is entitled for some special concessions, subsidies etc. After meeting all her expenses, she is able to have regular four figure income.

Small Industries Service Institute, Bangalore is satisfied with the quality of their training programmes which are found useful for the self-employment programmes.

3. Smt. Sujatha Bhaskar:

Smt. Sujatha Bhaskar is a brilliant example of a woman entrepreneur who by sheer hard work and application has started a sophisticated unit for the manufacture of carbide tipped brazed tools. She was fortunate to have Shri Bhaskar as her husband who is a shop floor man and experienced in the line of carbide tipped brazed tools. With her management abilities and enterprising nature she started a small unit, viz., M/s. Rupa Engg. Works, 625, Medahali, Vigonagar, Bangalore – 49 for manufacturing carbide tipped brazed tools.


Source of Inspiration:

After seeing her capabilities and enthusiasm, officials of SISI Bangalore suggested that she should go in for a bigger unit with sophisticated machinery by getting the machinery on hire-purchase from NSIC. A suitable project report was prepared and put up to NSIC for consideration. NSIC and SISI officials together helped her get the machinery of Rs.8.63 lakh sanctioned to her. She took a spacious shed measuring 2,500 sq. ft. on lease having all the required infrastructural facilities.

Smt. Bhaskar completed successfully the Export Management Course conducted by SISI and also a course on Management Development Programme organised by TECSOK and Canara Bank. She got permanent SSI registration from Karnataka Directorate of Industries, the registration number of KST and CST, Sub-contract registration issued by SISI Bangalore and GP registration from NSIC.

Canara Bank has provided her with working capital.

Her unit is having good orders from public sector undertakings like HMT, BEML, MICO apart from other, large private sector units like Mitsubishi Corp., VST etc. Carbide tipped brazed tools have export markets also.

SISI Bangalore has helped Smt. Bhaskar right from the initial stage of identifying the entrepreneurs getting machinery on hire-purchase, in training programmes, and in various other Government facilities and is also trying to help her in marketing. SISI Bangalore is proud to be closely associated with the development of her unit.

4. Smt. Guna Mallara:


Smt. Guna Mallara, a native of Chickmagalur and Managing Director of M/s. Toto Foods Pvt. Ltd., Baikampady, Mangalore, is one of the well-qualified entrepreneurs of D. K. District. Being the wife of a mechanical engineer, with her academic qualification winning a lucrative employment for herself would not have been a problem. But Smt. Guna Mallara chose to become an entrepreneur.

Since her college days as a social worker she was exposed to various problems faced by the women and children in the society. After her marriage she was in Nairobi (Kenya) along with her husband Shri S. Mallara who was looking after export and import business there. On return to India she nurtured a desire to establish and manage a small-scale unit in Mangalore. By doing so Smt. Guna thought she could fully utilise her knowledge and ability.

Besides running a profit earning industry she wanted to contribute something useful to the industrially backward district of D.K. Giving shape to her plan with her husband’s assistance, Smt. Guna decided to set up a small-scale unit at Baikampady to manufacture energy foods (weaning foods).

A little bit of market survey which she herself conducted, gave her the confidence to opt for this line of manufacturing.

Smt. Guna established her unit in the name and style of M/s. Toto Foods Pvt. Ltd. under self- employment programme employing 17 female and 15 male staff during 1989. The Karnataka Small Industries Development Corporation Ltd., Mangalore allotted two work-sheds to her in Baikampady industrial estate.

Pursuing for term loan and working capital loan did not pose a serious problem to her as the Bank of Baroda, Mangalore extended Rs.23.5 lakh towards land and building and plant and machinery and Rs.19 lakh towards working capital. She availed the technical assistance from the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysore. She supplies her products to Social Welfare Department and Integrated Child Development Scheme for the nutrition programme.

5. Smt. Manda Vilatkar:


Smt. Manda Vilatkar had the ambition of becoming a business woman or an industrialist. So she joined entrepreneurship development programme conducted by SISI Indore in February 1990 which equipped her with necessary knowledge of management, accounts, taxes etc. As a result of this EDP followed up with the visit to The Plast India Fair in New Delhi, she set up Forrnoplast Pvt. Ltd. to manufacture disposable plastic containers.

With loan from the MPFC for the purchase of machinery and working capital from Indore Paraspar Sahakari Bank Ltd., she purchased the machinery from Wonderpack Ltd., Mumbai. The unit took off in August 1991. The unit is running on single shift basis. Various products of her unit- are cups of 50 ml. 100 ml. 1/2 kg. and 1 kg. Capacity, tea and coffee glasses, boxes etc. with appropriate lids. Various Government dairies, ice-cream manufacturers, hostels etc. are some of the prominent buyers.

6. Smt. Saroj Sharma:

On successful completion of the one-month entrepreneurship development programme on Food and Vegetable Preservation by SISI Karnal at NDRI Karnal in March 1991, Smt. Saroj Sharma started ‘Swadist Vyanjan Centre’ which gives training to the girls in cookery and vegetable and food preservation.

As part of the training programmes, Shri T. R. Sehgal, Director, SISI Karnal and his team had taken the participants around different units engaged in food and vegetable preservation, gave them tips in marketing. The participants, including Smt. Sharma, were later helped in introducing jam, jelly squash, pickles and murabbas in the market.

Successful Women Entrepreneurs in India

1. Indra Krishnamurthy Nooyi:

Chairman and executive officer of PepsiCo, was according to Forbes magazine’s 2006 poll, the fourth most powerful woman in the world. She was also named the Most Powerful Woman in Business in 2006 by Fortune magazine.


After getting her bachelor’s degree from Madras Christian College in 1974, she entered the Business Diploma programme at the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, and later moved to the U.S to attend the Yale School of Management. Nooyi serves on the board of directors of several organizations, including Motorola, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the International Rescue Committee, and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

2. Ekta Kapoor:

The Creative head of Balajji Telefilms, is the daughter of actor Jeetendra, and sister of actor Tushar Kapoor. She has been synonymous with the range of soap operas on Indian TV, after her most famous venture ‘Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi’, which started airing on STAR Plus in 2000.

Ekta dominates Indian television, producing more than eight television soaps. At the 6th Indian Telly Awards 2006, she bagged the Hall of Fame award for her contributions. Most of her creations begin with the letter ‘K’ due to her superstition that it brings her good luck.

3. Sunita Narain:

An environmentalist and political activist as well as a major proponent of the Green concept of sustainable development, Sunita Narain was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 2005. Narain, who has been with the India- based Centre for Science and Environment since 1982, is currently the director of the Centre, and the director of the Society for Environmental Communications, and publisher of the fortnightly magazine, ‘Down to Earth’.


4. Neelam Dhawan:

Neelam Dhawan, the Microsoft India managing director, leads Microsoft’s sales and marketing operations in the country. A Stephenian (graduated in 1980), she obtained her Diploma in management from Delhi’s Faculty of Management Studies in 1982.

Back then, while she was keen to join FMCG majors like Hindustan Lever and Asian Paints, both companies rejected Dhawan as they did not want to appoint women for marketing. But that rejection did not stop her strong grit and passion and finally she marked her presence in the corporate sector.

5. Naina Lal Kidwai:

She was the first Indian woman to graduate from the Harvard Business School. Fortune magazine listed Kidwai among the World’s Top 50 Corporate Women from 2000 to 2003. According to the Economic Times, she is the first woman to head the operations of a foreign bank in India (HSBC). Kidwai was awarded the Padma Shri in the year 2008, for her immense contribution in industry.

6. Sulajja Firodia Motwani:

Joint Managing Director of Kinetic Engineering Ltd., is in-charge of the company’s overall business developmental activities. She is also the Director of Kinetic Motor Company Limited and Kinetic Marketing Services Limited. A fitness freak and avid sports enthusiast, she even played badminton at the national level. The magazine ‘India Today’ has honoured her with the title of business ‘Face of the Millennium’.

She was ranked among the top 25 business entrepreneurs of the country, and was also presented with the Society Young Achiever’s Award for Business in 2002. The same year, she was chosen as the ‘Global Leader of Tomorrow’ by the World Economic Forum.

7. Dr. Jatinder Kaur Arora:

An outstanding scientist from Punjab, was conferred a national award for her work on women’s development through science and technology. Dr. Arora, perhaps the first scientist to get such an award, is a doctorate in microbiology and has a brilliant academic record. An unlikely and fairly new contender on this list, she is serving as a joint director in the Punjab State Council for Science and Technology at present.

Successful Women Entrepreneurs in India

Today we find women in different types of industries, traditional as well as non-traditional, such as electronics, engineering, jewellery, stitching and tailoring, fashion designing, agarbatti, candles and soaps manufacturing, rexin bags manufacturing, soft toys manufacturing, various masala making, cooking and catering, computer education, beauticians’ course, boys fiber molding, decorative wax art, creative painting, embroidery, knitting, crochet etc.

Although the list of successful women entrepreneurs is quite long, selected representatives of women entrepreneurs are mentioned below:

1. Sarada Ramani:

At an age when women are supposed to be fighting middle-age crisis, Sarada Ramani began her career. After 14 years of marriage and a 12-year-old daughter, Sarada returned to books when she was 35 years old. Having acquired a post-graduate degree in computer applications, she went in search of a job as an IT programmer, only to be told that she was too old! Undaunted, she thought of her own enterprise and launched ‘Computer International’, a small computer education unit, in 1996. Beginning with just six employees, today her firm has transformed into an outsourced product development company that employs 150 people.

Along with success came awards that were constant morale boosters. She won the ‘National Award for Small-scale Entrepreneur-2003’ and ‘Best Women Entrepreneur of the Country-2004’— certainly a huge leap from ‘rejected’ status.

Apart from her love for programming, Sarada believes relationship building is her strength, which has contributed immensely in making her company grow. “My company is my third child and I have nourished it in a befitting manner,” she says.

Her quest for achievement seems insatiable as she now aspires for a Ph.D. in entrepreneurship after having acquired an MBA degree recently.

At the same time, she says she feels no different than the housewife next door. “Entrepreneurship requires no great degrees, no solid financial back-up, but just determination to face all the challenges,” she says. A simple truth!

2. Ishita Klianna:

We start in a mountain desert where people were sent to evile in early times because of its harsh living conditions. That’s where Ishita Khanna decided to start her company.

Ecosphere, a not-for-profit organization, is located in the trans-Himalayan valley of Spits, which translates as – “the middle land” in Tibetan. It has swiftly grown into a social enterprise working on issues ranging from climate change and women’s empowerment to responsible travel and energy efficiency. Khanna’s objective is to hand over the running of the organization entirely to the locals in the coming five years.

Earlier this year, Ecosphere received India’s first Green Energy and Green Livelihoods Achievement Award from The Sierra Club, the oldest and largest grass roots environmental organization in the U.S. “Spits’ extreme winter and dusty environs of a rugged back country make for a beautiful setting but a hard working environment,” says Khanna, whose vision is redefining the way environmental conservation is practiced in India. “Spits’ geographical isolation and poor communication infrastructure has been one of the major hurdles. What would otherwise be achieved in a day or two in the city would take weeks and sometimes even months in Spits.”

3. Shahnaz Husain:

Shahnaz Husain, who started India’s first professional herbal salon in the balcony of her house in Delhi in 1971, now reigns over an Ayurvedic beauty care empire. Husain, who has worked with eminent names such as – Helena Rubinstein, Christine Valmy, Swarzkopf and Lancome, realized early on how much damage chemical cosmetics can cause. Her customized beauty care based on the concept of “herbal care and cure” found instant appreciation, and the enterprise grew.

She spares nothing—fruits, vegetables, gold and even diamond dust all have found a place in her organic concoctions. “The ancient Indian system of Ayurveda is the oldest and most organized system of herbal healing in the world. I was convinced that it could offer ideal answers to modern cosmetic care,” she says. “Armed only with complete faith in my concept, I entered highly competitive international markets, without commercial advertising or fancy packaging.” The brand—which has hundreds of franchises throughout the country—supplies to Harrods in London, Galleries Lafayette in Paris, the Seibu chain in Japan, La Renascent in Milan and El Crete Ingles in Spain, and the list continues to grow.

4. Vandana Shiva:

Among the most enterprising women putting India on the world map is Vandana Shiva, Ph.D. The globally known scientist and environmentalist described the idea behind her organization – “I started Navdanya because of two reasons. In 1984 the violence in Punjab and the Bhopal tragedy compelled me to study why agriculture had become like war.” She wrote the book “The Violence of Green Revolution” for the United Nations as part of that investigation.

In 1987, because of her work on Green Revolution, she was invited to a meeting on biotechnology in Geneva. There, she says, “the big chemical industries laid out their plans on how they wanted to patent every seed and genetically modify our food and how they are going to use the Uruguay Round of GATT to impose this dictatorship over life and food on the world.” Says Shiva, “I felt compelled to defend freedom and took inspiration from Gandhi’s spinning wheel to start saving patent-free, GMO- free seed. That is how Navdanya was born in 1987.”

Over the course of this journey, Shiva has faced corporate policies and governmental laws supporting farming and agricultural models that are unsustainable. Now, two decades later, Navdanya has 46 organic seed banks across the country. Navdanya’s efforts are spreading not only awareness about the importance of organically grown food but also supplying organic food grown at its farms in the Uttaranchal region of the Himalayas. She adds, “The message I would give to women entrepreneurs is that they must change the model of business from one based on greed and exploitation to one based on sharing and conservation.”

5. Jyoti Jeevan Naik:

“Nothing is impossible. Women, especially who hail from rural areas, should aspire to join together to imitate a small-scale business of their own. They can generate fantastic results if they pool their resources and strengthen their bonds with one another”. These are the golden words quoted by Late Jyoti Naik, the former President of Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad, an Indian women’s co-operative based in Mumbai. Lijjat Papad is a household name today and leading an organisation comprising of 42,000 members in no mean task. In this context, Jyoti Naik is an epitome of what a hard-working self-made lady can achieve in the male-dominated social milieu.

Shri Mahila Griha Udyog Lijjat Papad, popularly known as Lijjat, is an Indian women’s co-operative involved in manufacturing of various fast moving consumer goods. The organization’s main objective is empowerment of women by providing them employment opportunities. Started in the year 1959 with a seed capital of 180, Lijjat has an annual turnover of around Rs. 650 crore, with Rs. 29 crore in exports. Lijjat is headquartered in Mumbai and has 67 branches and 35 divisions all over India. It is one of the last repositories of Sarvodaya Model of collective ownership.

Jyoti Naik was associated with the brand for over four decades. She joined Lijjat at the age of 12 to assist her mother in rolling papads. In 1973, she started the work of packing at Sahakar Bazaar branch, Bandra and later on, became the Sanchalika of the Wadala Branch. She became the president of the organization in 1999 and continued till her death in 2009. From 1999 to 2009, the sales figures have doubled and exports have trebled. Lijjat has also ventured successfully into khakhra, masala, wadi, detergent powder and cakes and bakery products.

Business volumes notwithstanding, the barometer for measuring the real strength of this community enterprise is its social capital. How many organizations can boast of a Rs. 650 crore top line with 42,000 semi-literate women at the helm of the affairs?

Jyoti Naik was the face of these women for years and she has been awarded by numerous agencies/organizations for her leadership. Lijjat received the ‘Best Village Industries Institution’ award from KVIC for the period 1998-99 to 2000-01 In 2002, the ‘Businesswoman of the Year’ award was given to the “The Women behind Lijjat Papad” at the Economic Times Awards for Corporate Excellence. Her economic background and lack of educational qualifications couldn’t deter her from being at the fore-front of an empowering movement, she continues to serve as an inspiration for thousands of women.

6. Pia Singh:

Steering from the bounty of nature to the luxury of lifestyle, DLF India is the country’s largest real estate company in terms of revenue, earnings, market capitalization and developable area. Spearheaded by its director, Pia Singh, the company is becoming synonymous with luxurious entertainment around the country. Avant-garde shopping malls, modern residential and commercial spaces, and the introduction of international luxury brands such as – Gucci, Bulgaria and Louis Vuitton under one roof are just a few of the projects the graduate from Wharton Business School has executed.

Apart from the revenue DLF generates from these properties, it holds regular exhibitions and significant events on its properties, such as – India Fashion Week. A low-key visionary who also studied film-making at New York University, Singh is always behind the scenes and always directing the company forward.

It’s interesting to note that none of these ladies discussed the hurdles that crossed their paths while they were realizing their dreams. It seemed as though they didn’t want to waste time dwelling on what’s done. As Khanna says, “There are numerous doubts that plague one before one takes the plunge. However, the more one thinks about it, the plunge seems more difficult. Hence, while I strongly believe that one must plan an initiative thoroughly, if you are passionate about what you want to do, that is half the battle won already.”

Successful Women Entrepreneurs in India

1. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw:

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is an Indian entrepreneur. She is the Chairman & Managing Director of Biocon Limited a biotechnology company based in Bangalore (Bengaluru), India. Kiran Mazumdar- Shaw was born on March 23, 1953 in Bangalore, India.

Mazumdar-Shaw completed her schooling from the city’s Bishop Cotton Girl’s High School (1968). She wanted to join medical school but instead took up biology and completed her BSc Zoology Honors coarse from Mount Carmel College, Bangalore University (1973). She later did her post-graduation in Malting and Brewing from Ballarat College, Melbourne University (1975).

She worked as a trainee brewer in Carlton and United Breweries, Melbourne and as a trainee maltster at Barrett Brothers and Burston, Australia. She also worked for some time as a technical consultant at Jupiter Breweries Limited, Calcutta and as a technical manager at Standard Maltings Corporation, Baroda between 1975 and 1977.

She started Biocon in 1978 and spearheaded its evolution from an industrial enzyme manufacturing company to a fully integrated bio-pharmaceutical company with a well-balanced business portfolio of products and a research focus on diabetes, oncology and auto-immune diseases. She also established two subsidiaries – Syngene (1994) to provide development support services for discovery research and Clinigene (2000) to cater to clinical development services.

Her pioneering work in the sector has earned her several awards, including the prestigious Padma Shri (1989) and the Padma Bhushan (2005) from the government of India. She was recently named among TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world. She is on the Forbes list of the world’s 100 most powerful women and the Financial Times’ top 50 women in business list. She is also a member of the board of governors of the prestigious Indian School of Business and Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad.

2. Ekta Kapoor:

Ekta Jeetendra Kapoor (b. 7 June 1975) is an Indian TV and film producer. She is the Joint Managing Director and Creative Director of Balaji Telefilms, her production company. Ekta Kapoor is the daughter of Jeetendra and Shobha Kapoor and the sister of Tushar Kapoor who is also a Bollywood actor. She did her schooling at Bombay Scottish School, Mahim and attended college at Mithibai College.

She has produced numerous soap opera, television series and movies. Her most popular television series include Hum Paanch, Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii, Kasautii Zindagii Kay, Kahin to Hoga, Kahin Kisi Roz, Kusum, Kaisa Ye Pyar Hai, Kasam Se and Bandini. She is currently producing Pavitra Rishta, Bade Achhe Lagte Hain, Parichay, and Kya Huaa Tera Vaada & Gumrah End of Innocence.

She branched out into Bollywood movie production in 2001 beginning with Kyo Kii… Main Jhuth Nahin Bolta. Kucch to Hai and Krishna Cottage based on supernatural themes followed in 2003 and 2004. Kyaa Kool Hai Hum starring her brother Tushar Kapoor proved to be her breakout hit and went on to become one of the highest earners of 2005.

She then went on to co-produce Shootout at Lokhandwala with Sanjay Gupta which became her a profitable venture at the box office. Mission Istanbul and EMI – Liya Hai Toh Chukana Parega in collaboration with Sunil Shetty followed. The years 2010 and 2011 proved to be important for her with critical and commercial success such as – Love Sex aur Dhokha, Once Upon a Time in Mumbai, Shor in the City, Ragini MMS and The Dirty Picture. Her upcoming productions include Kyaa Super Kool Hai Hum, Lootera, Shootout at Wadala, Once Upon a Time Again, Ek Thi Daayan, Gippie, Milan Talkies & Ragini MMS 2.

3. Swati Piramal:

Swati A. Piramal is the Vice Chairperson of Piramal Life Sciences Limited and Director of Piramal Healthcare Limited.

Dr. Piramal received one of India’s highest civilian honour, the Padmashri award, by the President of India, Ms. Pratibha Patil on 4th April, 2012 She has been nominated as one of the 25 Most Powerful Business Women in India eight times and is now a member of the Hall of Fame of the Most Powerful Women.

She was the first woman in 90 years to head the Apex Chamber of Commerce ASSOCHAM in 2009 – 10. She has contributed towards innovations in Public Health Services and other projects. She has been a part of public policy related to health care which led to major policy changes that help reduce the spread of life-threatening diseases.

Dr. Swati Piramal also serves on Indian government public policy expert committees for trade, planning, environment, arts, women’s entrepreneurship, national integration and regional development. Holding the board positions in several healthcare, financial, manufacturing and service companies she also serves on the boards of Indian and international academic institutions. Dr. Piramal is a member of many Indian and foreign business councils, and has received numerous Indian and international awards.

Dr. Swati Piramal has been elected as a member of the most prestigious and the oldest boards in the world – The Harvard Board of Overseers. She is one of the five new Overseers elected to the board for a six-year term. The Harvard Board of Overseers is more than 350 years old. President John F. Kennedy served on the board in 1957.

4. Rajshree Pathy:

Rajshree Pathy, is an eminent entrepreneur from Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India. She is the Chairperson and Managing Director of the Rajshree Group of Companies and Founder of India Design Forum. The Rajshree group has varied interests – Food and Agro business, Energy, Real Estate, Travel, Health and Hospitality and Arts. She also promotes performing arts and contempo­rary art movement in Coimbatore through the Contemplate Art Gallery and COCCA.

Rajshree Pathy is the daughter of famous industrialist Shri G Varadaraj, of PSG Families engaged in Charities and Educational Institutions for more than a century. Her father was also a former Rajya Sabha MP. She is married to S.Pathy, Chairman & Managing director of Lakshmi Mills. Rajshree Sugars and Chemicals Ltd. is a company with interests across integrated fields such as – Sugar, Distillery, Power Co-Generation and Biotechnology.

The range of products includes White Crystal Sugar, Alcohol, Organic Manure, Bio-products and Power. A specialty Demerara Sugar is marketed under the brand name RSCL Sugar Brown. RSCL with its Corporate office in Coimbatore, has three modern sugar- manufacturing units located in Tamil Nadu one at Varadaraj Nagar, Theni District, the second at Mundiampakkam, Villupuram District and the third at Gingee, Villupuram District. RSCL also has a Sugar factory located at Zaheerabad, Medak District in Andhra Pradesh.

5. Radhika Roy:

Radhika Roy is an Indian media baron and co-Chairperson and Managing Director, NDTV. Radhika Roy has over ten years of experience in print journalism, with leading publications such as – “Indian Express” and “India Today”. In the mid-80s, she co-founded NDTV. Radhika has won the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award for Information, Communication and Entertainment in the year 2003.

Radhika Roy married Prannoy Roy in 1972 and they have a daughter Tara Roy. Radhika is the sister of a Rajya Sabha member and CPI (M) politician, Brinda Karat. Radhika Roy is a former speech pathologist who pursued her dream of becoming a journalist and transformed a garage-startup production company into an internationally renowned news operation comprising three channels and over 1,000 employees.

Widely recognized for her uncompromising devotion to journalistic and business ethics, Roy cofounder, co-owner, and man­aging director of New Delhi Television (NDTV) has consistently demonstrated that empires can be built without sacrificing principles. Together with her husband, Prannoy, she has galvanized Indian television, with such accomplishments as breaking the government’s hold on television news by founding the country’s first privately owned news channel.

After persistent lobbying for airtime on the state’s public television broadcaster, Doordarshan, NDTV busted through with The World This Week, a weekly international news program produced by Radhika Roy.

A combination of hard work, a strong product, and fortuitous timing helped the Roys build brand awareness, as the program covered such seminal international events as the fall of the Berlin Wall and the conflict in China’s Tiananmen Square.

NDTV’s success attracted the attention of the Tata Group, one of India’s oldest and largest business conglomerates, which signed on to sponsor a daily news bulletin called News Tonight, making Roy the producer of India’s first privately produced nightly news show.

In 2003, Roy launched NDTV 24 x 7 (English language) and NDTV India (Hindi channel) to retain editorial control over the news they were producing. She espouses a bold business philosophy based on being unafraid to take chances, and has backed that up by repeatedly tackling the establishment – “We’ve taken risks, gone against the norm, and broken new ground.”

6. Farah Khan:

Farah Khan, born on 9 January (1965), is an Indian film director and choreographer. She is best known for her choreographic work in numerous Bollywood films. Khan has choreographed dance routines for more than a hundred songs in over 80 Hindi films. Khan has since become a noted Hindi film director as well. In addition Khan has worked on international projects such as Marigold – An Adventure in India, Monsoon Wedding and the Chinese film Perhaps Love.

Khan was studying sociology at SL Xavier’s College, Mumbai when Michael Jackson’s Thriller was telecast. She was so inspired, that although she hadn’t danced before that, it soon became her vocation. She learned to dance basically on her own, and set up a dance group.

When the top choreographer of the time, Saroj Khan walked out of the film Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, Farah got her break, and this was her first film to choreograph. This was followed by many more songs which became national hits. She met actor Shahrukh Khan on the set of Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa and the two have since become good friends and started working together.

Khan’s father Kamran was a successful stunt filmmaker. Her mother Menaka is of Zoroastrian origin and is the sister of screenwriter Honey Irani and former child actor Daisy Irani. Farah’s brother is comedian, actor and film director Sajid Khan. When their parents’ marriage broke up, Farah and Sajid were shuttled between different homes. In May 2012 Farah Khan admitted to having had a tummy tuck. Film personalities Farhan Akhtar and Zoya Akhtar are Farah’s cousins.

Farah married Shirish Kunder, the editor of her film Main Hoon Na, on 9 December 2004. They have since worked together on each other’s films, such as  Jaan-E-Mann, Om Shanti Om, and Tees Maar Khan. Farah gave birth to triplets on 11 February 2008; one son, Czar, and two daughters, Diva and Anya.

7. Vandana Luthra:

Not too many entrepreneurs can be said to be embodiments of their enterprise. But Vandana Luthra of New Delhi is certainly one. She is slim and svelte. She is, of course, beautiful in the classical Indian mold, and she carries herself with the grace that only comes with enormous self-confidence.

It’s the sort of self-confidence that is engendered, quite possibly, from the knowledge that one is entirely self-made. And that Ms. Luthra certainly is. She’s the founder and mentor of the VLCC, India’s leading slimming, beauty and fitness brand, and one with seven outlets in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Shaijah, and an eighth center scheduled to open in A1 Ain in May. There are VLCC slimming, beauty and fitness centers in Muscat and Bahrain, and by next year there will be a total of some 28 across the Middle East.

The largest number of VLCC centers, of course, is in Ms. Luthra’s native India – 150 of them in 75 cities. She facilitates professional development through her vocational training school, the VLCC Institute of Beauty, Health & Management, which currently has 43 campuses in 35 cities.

“The entrepreneur as an educator – that would be a fair way to characterize me,” Ms. Luthra said. “Fitness and well-being are a matter of education, and for that you need skilled trainers.”

Her own training after graduating from Delhi University was in nutrition and cosmetology in Germany. Then Ms. Luthra took a series of specialized courses and modules in beauty care, fitness, food and nutrition and skin care in London, Munich and Paris.

And then she returned to her middle-class home in New Delhi, India’s capital, and started a neighborhood beauty parlor. It was an instant success, and it emboldened her – with the canny assistance of her swarthy but handsome husband Mukesh – to start VLCC.

8. Suchi Mukherjee:

Suchi Mukherjee is the founder and CEO of the online social discovery platform for women, Lime Road. She is extremely passionate about building consumer technology products. With Lime Road, she has an aim of revolutionizing the way lifestyle products are discovered and bought by people online in India. Before founding LimeRoad.com, Suchi have worked with companies like Skype, Gumtree, eBay and Virgin Media.

Suchi post graduated from London School of Economics and graduated from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi. In his life Suchi received many awards and recognition like K.C. Nag Economics Prize for best student in Economics, George K. George Memorial Scholarship for overall contribu­tion, all at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University, Cambridge Commonwealth Trust, Scholarship & Fellowship, and Chadburn Scholarship for merit, both at Cambridge University and British Chevening Scholarship, at the London School of Economics.

Suchi came from a family with no business background and after spending 18 years of study­ing, living and working in the UK, 39 year old Mukherjee decided to come to India start an online business especially for women and this is when LimeRoad came into existence. Suchi was selected as 1 of 15 women worldwide ‘Rising Talents, high potential leaders under 40 Suchi is an ex-ebay, Skype and Gumtree.

9. Anu-Sridharan:

Anu-Sridharan Anu is the founder of Next Drop, a company which allows Indian residents in the urban areas to track the availability of piped water through SMS. The company already serves around 18,000 people in Karnataka. Anu has Bachelors in Civil Engineering and a Masters in Civil Systems Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley to her credit. She is determined to change the way in which technology allows us to interact with our urban systems.

Next Drop began by tackling the problem of erratic water supply – in most of urban India, water is available only a few hours at a time or a few times a week, but residents have no way of knowing when. Working with operators in the field, Next Drop sends text messages 60 minutes before water arrives in your tap, while also offering utility boards the tools to better manage and track leakages in water supply.

Anu holds her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the Civil and Environmental Engineering program at the University of California, Berkeley, where her Master’s research focused on the optimization of piped networked systems in developing economies. Anu also served as the Educa­tion and Health director for a water/sanitation project in the slums of Mumbai, India called “Haath Mein Sehat”, where she piloted a successful volunteer recruitment and community-training model.

Anu Sridharan was 23 years old when she became CEO of social startup Next Drop in Hubli- a town some 500 kilometers from Bangalore in Karnataka. Anu has also been selected to the Forbes “30 Social Entrepreneurs Under 30 list.”

10. Aditi Gupta:

Aditi Gupta is the founder of menstrupedia.com. She co-founded the site with Tuhin Paul, who is also her husband, in November 2012. Menstrupedia is a friendly guide to healthy periods. It aims at educating girls and women about periods and breaking the various myths attached to this taboo subject. It is unique as it is India’s first such site which talks so openly about women’s monthly cycles.

Aditi is a post-graduate in New Media Design from National Institute of Design, and graduated in Electronics and Instrumentation Engineering. Aditi first got the idea for Menstrupedia while doing her thesis on the very subject for her post-graduation at NID (National Institute of Design).

Aditi was born and brought up in Garhwa, a small town in Jharkhand, where she had to deal with the shame associated with the act of buying sanitary napkins and had to resort to using rags.

Later in her college she realized that there is very little information available in India for so called monthly curse of women, she then along with Tuhin Paul developed a comic book in Hindi to educate girls and women about menstruation and she even won a Ford Foundation scholarship for same.

In past Aditi has worked in Ford foundation as research associate and user experience de­signer in other two companies. She was also recently listed in Forbes India ’30 under 30′ list for her efforts in making the masses aware about the myths attached to menstruation.

11. Priya Naik:

Priya is a promising social entrepreneur in India and founder of Samhita Social Ventures, which is an organization that helps corporations, donor agencies, NGOs, individuals and philanthropists collaborate with each other for social impact on a huge scale. Samhita was founded in 2009 and means “collective good” in Sanskrit language. She has 3 master degrees to her credit. She has one in Economics from Yak University, one in Public Policy from University of Michigan and one in commerce from University of Mumbai.

Prior to Samhita, Priya co-founded The Spark Group, an education company that delivered affordable education to low income communities. Priya’s interest in social entrepreneurship began when she worked as a Researcher at the Poverty Action Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, USA.

At MIT, Priya was part of two student-led start-ups – Aerovax and Kalpataru. Aerovax is a company that created safe, inhalable aerosol vaccines that could be delivered without the use of needles while Kalpataru dealt in delivering innovative, low-cost technology to increase the efficiency of micro finance institutions. Both these social startups won several awards at MIT.

When Priya was 23 she spent time for her summer working in four countries in West Africa and poverty she saw there shocked her. Thereafter she thought to dedicate her skills and knowledge to provide opportunities to everyone that they deserve irrespective of gender, income, nationality or caste and especially underprivileged people.

12. Ajaita Shah:

Ajaita is the founder and CEO of Frontier Markets started in 2009 by focusing on energy products and connecting with a microfinance partner in Karnataka. She has a goal of making high quality, affordable products and goods available to rural India. She has an experience of over 5 years in Microfinance with esteemed organizations like Ujjivan Financial Services and SKS Microfinance behind her back.

Ajaita was also awarded with the tide of being the most influential leader under 30 in microfinance by Business Week, and Business Week’s 30 under 30 award, and most recently, Forbes Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30’s Social Entrepreneur of the Year.

Her company Frontier Markets has an aim to be the scale solution for manufacturers creating goods for the rural markets of India. Ajaita trains locals to educate and sell to rural households. The company has sold 10,000 solar solutions to date. Ajaita has worked on numerous development projects in 7 states in India. She has consulted with the World Bank about microfinance in South Asia and Latin America. She served on the Committee of the Social Performance Task Force as well.

13. Sheetal Mehta Walsh:

Sheetal is the founder of Shanti Life, which is a very unique microfinance platform aiming at serving the poor in Gujarat slums and villages so that they can create sustainable businesses. Along with her husband Paul Walsh, Sheetal is also co-founder of MetaCert -a for-profit company that provides products and services for family safety online. Sheetal is currently focused on developing MetaCert on a global level and ensuring it is available across all devices in all schools.

Sheetal is also a yoga teacher and loves playing dhol, which is a special Indian drum. All the beneficiaries at Shanti Life get mentoring, financial literacy training, easy access to eco-sanitation facilities and a very low interest rate of 12%. Sheetal is also thinking of creating an online market­place for the recipients of microfinance where they can easily sell their goods globally.

Sheetal with her social venture Shanti Life has done tremendous job for rural population in India, especially in Gujarat. Sheetal funded an Ahmedabad Sewing School in Vatva, Gujarat, which is poorest of the poor community who lost everything in fires during the 2002 riots. Another example is rickshaw project in the slums in Ahmedabad and Baroda.

Sheetal help in granting microfinance loans to the rickshaw drivers so that they can afford a down-payment and eventually own their own rickshaw. £250 will give a rickshaw driver freedom to work for himself, access all necessary and legal paperwork and provide for his family.

14. Leila Janah:

Leila is the founder and CEO of Samasource, a company which makes use of a very unique micro work model to bring dignified employment to the world’s poor in the digital economy by breaking down small computer based tasks from larger projects. Samasource provides free, specialized technology training via 16 centers in nine countries, including India, Pakistan, Kenya, Had and Uganda.

Leila has graduated from Harvard University with a degree in Development Studies and worked as a management consultant with Katzenbach Partners but left the job in 2007 to become a visiting scholar at Stanford University and eventually in 2008 she founded Samasource (then called Market for Change).

She has also researched with the World Bank and Ashoka and directed many non-profits efforts in U.K AND U.S. Samasource provides employment within country partners in India, Uganda, Pakistan, Haiti, Kenya and South Africa. According to her, the greatest challenge of the next 50 years for her would be in creating dignified employment for everyone and not through handouts and charity but through market forces.

Leila was born in New York and grew up in Los Angeles, California. She was named one of the Most Influential Women in Technology by Fast Company in 2009. In 2010, Janah received the Prix Net Explorateur from the French Senate and a World Technology Award for Social Entrepreneurship for her work with Samasource. She is a recipient of the Rainer Arnhold and TED India Fellowships as well.

15. Gloria Benny:

Gloria is the co-founder of Make a Difference, which is considered one of India’s largest volunteer networks. India is a country with most difficult and complex socioeconomic inequalities in the whole world. Gloria is determined to take this problem head on. She has an aim of inspiring about 360 million people in giving at least 1 hour per week in helping underprivileged children across India. In 2013, the organization had around 1,300 volunteers teaching and mentoring about 5,400 orphaned and underprivileged kids in across 20 cities of India.

Gloria was born in Kochi, Kerala a southernmost state in India and lived for a few years in the Gulf as well, where she completed her High School education. After graduation she even worked with Google for 5 years. She then in 2006 started her social venture MAD with help of 20 second year college students in Kochi to teach communicative English to 100 poor students. Currently, around 2100 make a Difference (MAD) volunteers teach close to 5200 children in more than 20 cities of India.

Her social venture MAD has won millions of hearts and honors like the Ashoka Global Youth Social Entrepreneur Award, India Shines award, Karmaveer Puraskar and a Global award from Nobel Peace laureate, Martti Ahtisaari.

16. Saloni Malhotra:

Saloni is the founder of DesiCrew, which is an organization with over 300 employees who are focused and determined to create knowledge based livelihood or employment opportunities in rural areas and small towns.

Saloni did her engineering from University of Pune in state of Maharashtra. She started her career in an interactive media start up, Web Chutney based in Delhi. She somehow came into con­tact of Professor Jhunjhunwala of TeNet group, IIT Madras and came up with this idea of founding DesiCrew.

She stepped down as the CEO of DesiCrew in March 2012 and handed over her duties to a professional management team but she continues to be a part of the board. Saloni also co-founded Safecity in 2012 which is a citizen’s initiative to make Indian Cities safer again. Desicrew now has now four rural offices – Udupi, Apakoodal and Kollumangudi and employs 300-odd people from these villages.

She has been nominated for Business Week Asia’s Best Youngest Entrepreneurs, MTV Youth Icon 2008, and E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year 2008 and also facilitated in the presence of the President of India by the CII. She is the recipient of FICCI’s Best Women Social Entrepreneur Award (2009) and TIE Stree Shakthi Award (2011).

17. Pooja Warier:

She is the co-founder of UnLtd. India and Bombay Connect. UnLtd. India is a premier incuba­tor for social entrepreneurs in the country while Bombay Connect is India’s only co-working space dedicated to social change. She even has Journeys for Change, which is a travel company aimed at inspiring leaders into social enterprise through journeys. She can be considered as a centre of inspiration, motivation and support for upcoming social entrepreneurs in India.

Pooja is passionate about discovering the latent entrepreneurial will in people and directing it to solve social problems. Before co-founding UnLtd India, Pooja worked with a range of organisations and initiatives like the World Social Forum & M.V. Foundation. She has a MA in social work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai.