Indian Today Conclave 2016: The pitch is perfect when women are the unicorns

Mail Today Bureau   New Delhi     Last Updated: March 19, 2016  | 15:07 IST

The young women unicorns (founders of start-ups valued at $1 billion or more) at the Indian Today Conclave 2016 on Thursday made it very clear that the fact that they were women was only incidental and they would like to be seen as entrepreneurs in their own right and their skill sets be taken seriously.

Asked about the most difficult phase of their career, Ashwini Asokan, co-founder and CEO, Mad Street Den, shot back, "This question would not have come up if all of us sitting here were men. You must treat women as experts in their field."

Aardra Chandra Mouli, co-founder of Trivandrum-based startup Aeka Biochemicals, which is less than two years old, strongly backed the view that being a woman has nothing to do with a particular skill. The fact that we are women is just incidental and nothing to do with our entrepreneurial ability, she said.

Elaborating the point further, she quipped "it is like a person having curly hair or straight hair" which has no bearing on his or her ability. Radhika Aggarwal, co-founder of e-tailer, said it is time we send the message that we hate questions being asked of us about work-life balance and how we manage home with our work.

The session on "The Pitch is Perfect When Women are the Unicorns" took off on a humourous note with Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant saying the young unicorns had 90 seconds to convince an investor to pump $350,000 into their business. The participants did not disappoint as each one of them rattled off a brief account of their respective start-ups and the bright future ahead.

Ashwini Asokan whose Mad Street Den produces machines with artificial intelligence to power e-commerce companies said the products were being made with more human-like characterstics to identify colour, style and pattern of clothes.

Mouli, a bio-technologist, said her start-up was "the first fully-woman-owned biotech company in Kerala and perhaps India as well". The company provides products for organic farming so that people get chemical-free food.

Suchi Mukherjee's helps market fashion and lifestyle products of micro sellers. Her company has emerged as one of the largest exporters in Southeast Asia and brought on board artisans from remote villages. "It is the only start-up business that made money from day one," Suchi said. "Of course, there will be some failures but if the business strategy is right, the accumulated learning experience shows that profits will come in," Mukherjee said.

Radhika Aggarwal is gung ho over e-commerce venture and says it is the market leader in Tier I and II cities.

The young unicorns are of the view that start-ups have a bright future and this is also the lesson from the western countries which adopted the model ahead of India.

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