India is the fastest growing start-up ecosystem in the world, yet the presence of women within this space is very limited. A study by Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE) has ranked India 52nd out of 57 countries judged on the basis of parity for women entrepreneurs. According to the Sixth Economic Census by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), only 14% of businesses in India are run by women domiciled in the country. Further, of the 58.5 million businesses in India, only 8.05 million are managed by women entrepreneurs. Similarly, women are often underrepresented in successful entrepreneurial ecosystems even though networks are an essential element of success for entrepreneurs.

India has been a traditional collectivist society organised around joint family systems. Despite large number of women joining the workforce in India, many do not have continuous careers, as they take often take breaks from full-time work after childbirth, or to undertake family responsibilities. In Indian society, a woman moves into her husband’s family after marriage, and she is expected to care for her parents-in-law when needed. Women continue to  battle male chauvinism and patriarchal power structures that are evident within Indian society. While many women are now joining the workforce, there is an inherent expectation from them to look after the home front and family responsibilities.

This juggle often leads to perceptions of inefficiency in the workplace among co-workers.

India is recognised as a difficult market to do business in because there are many complex procedural barriers to overcome. It is often more challenging for female entrepreneurs, due to gender-based societal expectations a home and in the workplace.

Women entrepreneurs often  experience difficulties sourcing funding and mentors, so they need to be highly motivated and resilient in what can be a lonely endeavour. Access to capital is still largely all-male; moreover, mentor networks are also mainly male dominated, which has made it harder for women entrepreneurs to obtain the guidance and mentorship they require to grow internationally and take that next step as entrepreneurs. So, while women entrepreneurs may have defied the odds to start a successful start-up within India, they may still require additional support with understanding how to succeed in an international environment.

While several agencies and higher-education institutions have well-developed Entrepreneurship courses, what is missing are individually-tailored and context-specific programs that suit the needs of women entrepreneurs to work effectively in culturally, linguistically and socially different environments, and to overcome personal and professional challenges.

The Indian Innovators project at Griffith University aims to address some of these needs. The project is co-funded with the support of the Queensland Government’s International Education and Training Partnership Fund, managed by Study Queensland within Trade and Investment Queensland.

The critical objective of the project is to work with Indian women entrepreneurs to build cross-cultural and international employability capabilities and develop a global entrepreneurial mindset, as well as to showcase opportunities for innovators in Queensland. At the same time, the project will offer Queensland entrepreneurs and young Queensland innovators in particular, a unique opportunity to interact with and learn from Indian women entrepreneurs about doing business in India.

The emphasis is on enhancing participants’ capacity for employability, particularly through developing a more global perspective on taking their business international. The project enhances the Queensland Government’s Queensland-India Strategy which was released in Bangalore in November 2018 by Hon. Minister Kate Jones, Minister for Innovation and Tourism Industry Development, and Minister for the Commonwealth Games. The Indian Innovators project aims to develop interpersonal and inter-organisational relationships that can lead to enhancing business and employment opportunities for Indian women entrepreneurs and young Queensland entrepreneurs as they go global.


Professor Michelle Barker and Dr Dhara ShahDepartment of Business Strategy and Innovation and Griffith Asia Institute, Griffith University.