indian startups: ‘Only 1.5% of total funding goes to Indian startups with women founders’

Chennai: Indian startups with women founders manage to get only 1.5% of the total funding, a senior Google executive told ET.

Google is, however, looking to plug this gap with the inaugural batch of Google for Startups Accelerator – India Women Founders program, said Aditya Swamy, Director of Google Play Partnerships.

The three-month programme will accept up to 20 women-founded or co-founded startups in India.

Swamy said that the startup ecosystem was booming but there was a stark contrast in the amount of funding that startups led by women received.

“Out of all the funding that happens in India, only 6% of funding goes to companies that have women as a founder or co-founder,” he said. “And if we slice that further and think about companies where only women are founders – where they have no male founder – that number is close to 1.5%.”

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India is the world’s third largest startup capital, trailing only the United States and China.

“Today, from a GDP point of view, the digital economy is about 10% of India’s GDP,” Swamy said. “And as we think about the $1 trillion digital economy goal, the digital economy is going to be 25% of the GDP. So, India’s economic growth is going to be powered by digital businesses, and startups will form a big part of that,” he added.

India boasts of over 100 unicorns, with 22 added to the list this year alone. They span verticals such as e-commerce, health-tech, fintech and many others. However, only 15% of these unicorns – or those with valuations of $1 billion or more – have one or more women founders.

Google’s programme will focus on areas like access to networks, access to capital, hiring challenges, mentorship and others which, for social reasons and low representation, prove challenging for female founders.

“If we think about digital solutions, truly solving for society, today’s society is 50% women,” Swamy said. “And I think if we have businesses that are founded by women, and product folks who are thinking about solving truly for all parts of society, then having a vibrant women startup ecosystem is a great way to think about how we can truly solve problems at scale.”

This programme is part of a larger effort by Google towards improving the representation of women across different sections of India’s digitally-trained workforce – be it entrepreneurship, professionals looking to upskill or young graduates seeking a head start in their careers.

In the early years of the startup accelerator programme, around 2016-17, of the total applicant pool there would be only about 8-10% who would be women founders, but that number has now risen to 34-36% in the last three cohorts that Google has organised, said Paul Ravindranath G, programme manager, developer relations and head of Google Accelerator at Google India.

This has been powered by some specific initiatives to discover women founders.

“We are a sector-agnostic programme, we accept startups applying across sectors,” he said. “However, because of the (Covid-19) pandemic, we do see a huge chunk falling across about six sectors – edtech, fintech, healthcare, media and entertainment, SaaS companies and gaming is also an area where we see a lot of new applicants.”

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