Are you a woman aspiring to enter the business?
Understandably, there would be several people including family and friends that may discourage you.
In India, women traditionally assume roles as housewives, mothers and homemakers. In a country where culture runs deep, entrepreneurship by women could be frowned upon.
However, there are several women in India that have broken traditional shackles to become leading entrepreneurs.
Not only in modern times but for several decades. In this article, we pay tribute to the most successful women entrepreneurs of India.
Top 35 Most Successful Women Entrepreneurs in India
There are countless female entrepreneurs in India. First, we list some of the well-known female entrepreneurs.
1. Meenakshi Dadhe
Few people may have heard in India about Meenakshi Dadhe. She is the pioneer of all-women banks in India. Her efforts were the first in India aimed at financial independence and income gender equality for women.
Meenakshi Dadhe and her husband, Vivek Dadhe established India’s first all-women’s financial institution, Bhagini Nivedita Bank.
Bhagini Nivedita Sahakari Bank Ltd is a cooperative bank that was established by the Dadhes in 1974 in Pune. The bank draws its name from Bhagini Nivedita aka Margaret Noble, an Irishwoman who was a follower of Swami Vivekananda.
Meenakshi Dadhe and her husband realized that women are cautious while handling personal and family finances.
A lot of women also seek elusive financial independence. These factors led Meenakshi Dadhe and her husband to launch a banking institution that would be run by all-women staff.
Currently, Bhagini Nivedita Bank has 20 branches, all of them operated by female staff.
Their branches are primarily located in and around Pune, Maharashtra. The bank has very sound financials that would make their nationalized counterparts turn green with envy.
Bhagini Nivedita Bank offers the full range of banking services, with focus on women.
2. Shahnaz Husain
Shahnaz Husain can rightly be called India’s first female entrepreneur that made a major splash worldwide.
She is the Founder and Managing Director of the Shahnaz Husain Group.
The Indian government has given her one of the highest civilian honours of the country, Padma Shri, for her contributions in putting India on the global map for herbal skincare, hair care and beauty products. Now she runs an eponymous brand of herbal beauty products.
The story of Shahnaz Husain group dates back to 1971 when she opened a small beauty parlour in her native city, Lucknow.
She pioneered the use of various herbs and other natural products for beauty treatments. As the popularity of Shahnaz Husain’s herbal beauty therapies spread far and wide, she expanded operations gradually to cover all major locations in India.
Shahnaz Husain was invited by Harvard Business School to speak about her success story. She has lectured students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the London School of Business.
Shahnaz Husain has spoken at the House of Lords and House of Commons of the British Parliament. Further, she represented India at the World Summit for Entrepreneurs hosted by President Barak Obama.
Today, Shahnaz Husain’s herbal beauty products are popular worldwide. She has won several prestigious international awards for her achievements.
The ‘World’s Greatest Entrepreneur’ award was conferred on her by Success magazine, making her the first woman in 105 years and first Indian to win this prestigious accolade.
Shahnaz Husain is the author of two books, ‘Flame Book’ and ‘Shahnaz Husain Beauty Book’. She is also a noted philanthropist.
3. Vandana Luthra
Vandana Luthra is Founder of VLCC Health Care Ltd, a prominent group of health and wellness clinics and products popular in India and other parts of the world.
The Indian government has honoured Vandana Luthra with one of its highest civilian awards, Padma Shri.
An engineer by qualifications, beauty and healthcare are Vandana Luthtra’s main passions.
Thus she began a small clinic for weight control and beauty in New Delhi in 1989. After painstaking efforts and several innovations, VLCC found acceptance across India.
Currently, VLCC runs over 400 beauty clinics across India and some 15 clinics in various countries across the globe.
Vandana Luthra is also the chairwoman of Beauty and Wellness Sector Skills Council, an initiative under the Indian Government’s Skill India program.
Her company also operates training institutes where students learn about the essentials of weight control and beauty treatment.
She is one of the topmost female entrepreneurs in India. Vandana Luthra has won several national and international awards.
Her company’s VLCC Health Care Ltd manufactures some of the best skin and beauty treatment products that have a huge market in India and abroad.
A noted philanthropist, Vandana Luthra is also an author of two books on fitness and beauty.
4. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw deserves the unique accolade as a pioneer of India’s biotech industry.
She is the founder, chairwoman and managing director of Biocon Ltd, a biotechnology company with headquarters in Bangalore. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw is a Billionaire Female entrepreneur of India.
In fact, she was listed as 85th most powerful women in the world by Forbes in 2015. Forbes upgraded her ranking as the world’s most powerful women to 77th and later 71st in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
Kiram Mazumdar Shaw studies enzymes and their effects on health at Biocon Biochemicals of Ireland.
She decided to open a similar venture in India and established Biocon Ltd. Later, she also incorporated Biocon Pharmaceuticals Ltd.
The company makes affordable biochemical based medicines for reducing cholesterol. Biocon Ltd is now listed on the stock exchanges of India.
The Indian government has honoured Kiram Mazumdar Shaw with one of its highest civilian awards, Padma Bhushan.
Kiram Mazumdar Shaw is also a noted philanthropist and contributes to cause such as Healthcare and Cancer treatment.
5. Suchi Mukherjee
Suchi Mukherjee is the founder and CEO of LimeRoad, an online lifestyle and accessories store.
She founded LimeRoad in 2012. Today, LimeRoad ranks among the topmost online stores in India. They stock fashion ware, watches, cosmetics, lingerie, readymade garments and accessories, among other stuff.
As a successful female entrepreneur of India, Suchi Mukherjee has won several awards.
These include ‘Woman of the Year- Digital Business’ award in 2015 from Infocom and ‘NDTV Unicorn Woman Entrepreneur of the Year’ from NDTV in 2016.
6. Richa Kar
Richa Kar is the founder and CEO of online Indian lingerie store Zivame. She launched Zivame in 2011.
Today, Zivame is the largest Indian website that sells high quality lingerie of Indian and foreign brands in the local market.
Richa Kar’s inspiration to open Zivame came when she was an employee of Limited, which owns the world’s most popular lingerie company Victoria’s Secret.
She noticed that Indian women are generally uncomfortable when it comes to buying lingerie due to traditional taboo and limited choices.
Hence, she decided to open a website that would enable Indian women to shop for lingerie with discretion and make the best choices available.
Thus Zivame online store, which means ‘radiance’ in Hebrew language, was born.
Over the years, Zivame has graduated from a small online retailer of lingerie to India’s favourite shopping place for women.
Zivame now ranks as India’s topmost online lingerie store, offering more than 5,000 styles, 50 brands and 100 sizes.
7. Anisha Singh
Mydala.com is one of the topmost couponing websites in India. On Mydala.com, you can find discount coupons and codes for almost everything that is sold online in India.
It is the brainchild of a very successful Indian female entrepreneur, Anisha Singh.
On Mydala.com, you can also book appointments at beauty salons and spas. They have an excellent selection of coupons that are updated daily.
You can get discount coupons and codes for anything from expensive mobiles to mundane groceries from this website.
Anisha Singh got the idea of launching a couponing website when she found most Indians struggle with the prices they pay for online shopping.
Additionally, Mydala.com also has a feature that allows you to book and watch topmost Bollywood movies at discount prices on tickets.
8. Romila Shyam
India’s topmost beauty and women’s wellness clinic chains, Schnell Hans was founded by successful female entrepreneur, Romila Shyam.
The company started as a small beauty parlour offering skin and beauty therapy in Mumbai in 1966. Today, Schnell Hans is a large chain of beauty clinics in Mumbai and other metro cities.
Romila Shyam’s idea behind launching Schnell Hans was not merely to open a beauty parlour or make money.
She wanted to try Ayurveda and other traditional recipes for skin and body care.
Consequently, she studied herbal cosmetology and developed her own range of Ayurvedic treatments for acne, hair loss, dandruff and other common problems faced by Indian women of all ages.
Not satisfied with merely providing beauty treatments and therapies, Romila Shyam decided to go a step further: she launched Schnell Hans Training Division, where aspiring beauticians undergo training for advanced beauty treatments and therapies.
The institute ranks among topmost in India and has branches in Mumbai.
Incidentally, Schnell Hans Beauty Institute was the first of its kind in India and founded due to Romila Shyam’s vision. Graduates from Schnell Hans work in Bollywood and other prestigious positions in India and abroad.
9. Abhijita Kulshreshta
Abhijita Kulshrestha is no ordinary female entrepreneur in India. She is a mass communications graduate and has worked as journalist and writer for some of the leading media houses of India.
However, Abhijita Kulshretha turned her passion- Indian astrology and the rampant use of gemstones to ward off evil or bring good luck into a great online business.
She is the founder of India’s largest online astrology and gem store, Gemstoneuniverse.com
To open Gemstoneuniverse.com, Abhjita Kulshreshta had to blend her skills in mass communications, Indian astrology and its planetary movements and gems into one endeavour.
Her website now provides advice and authentic gemstones for Indians that believe their fate is decided by cosmic bodies located hundreds of light years away from our Planet Earth.
It is one of the most trusted websites to buy gemstones online.
10. Aditi Gupta
Aditi Gupta is a top female entrepreneur of India who helps millions of Indian women shed taboos about menstruation. She is the founder of Menstrupedia.com.
Aditi Gupta faced severe flak from various sections of the Indian society when she embarked on a project to counter and remove various stigmas related to menstruation, a natural anatomical cycle for women.
The website presents informative material in various Indian languages in form of comics. They are simple to understand by any woman.
They also have tutorials and interactive links that enable women to ask questions related to menstruation discreetly to medical experts.
Menstrupedia.com is also planning a venture to provide free of cost highly subsidized sanitary pads for women in rural India.
11. Upasana Taku
Heard of MobiKwik, the mobile wallet and payment system? It was co-founded by a woman, Upasana Taku.
She is a former employee of PayPal, the US-based global payments gateway. It was here that Upasana Taku got the idea of launching a similar system for India.
Hence, she and her husband conceptualized MobiKwik. Work on MobiKwik began in earnest in 2009, after Upasana Taku returned to India.
The company began with a small team. Over the years, MobiKwik has become one of the topmost payment wallets and apps in India.
12. Lisa Srao
Lisa Srao is a successful women entrepreneur with a difference. She has entered a sphere of business that women would usually balk at or shy away from.
Lisa Srao is the founder of I Brands Beverages, a manufacturer of upmarket liquor in India.
Launched in 2010, I Brands is an award winning company and one of the fastest growing liquor start-ups in India.
The company is based in Bangalore. I Brands products include whisky brands Three Royals and Granton, Rum 99, Granton XO and Nicholas brandies, Double Dutch beers, Casa de Marcus red wine, Zabava vodka, Australian brand beer and a range of wines.
13. Sneh Sharma
Founded in June 2014, Ittisa is a one of its kind, girls-first digital media agency, says its website. It was launched by Sneh Sharma, a female entrepreneur of India.
The name Ittisa in Sanskrit means ‘The Ruler.’ Ittisa plans to blend creativity and technology. The company is innovating digital media in India.
Sneh Sharma has won the ‘Fearless 50 – top 50 Indian entrepreneurs' by Cosmopolitan magazine and top digital entrepreneur by iiGlobal.
She and her Ittisa team has created numerous successful campaigns and helped devise strategies for clients worldwide.
14. Caroline Fernandes
Caroline Fernandes is an Indian female entrepreneur who started Vibha for Inclusion, an online resource that provides mentoring and helps budding women entrepreneurs to develop confidence.
She is also the founder of The Indian Renaissance, an organization that helps develop international leadership skills. The company is registered in USA and India.
15. Aditi Chaurasia
Aditi Chaurasia is co-founder of EngineerBabu, a company that helps businesses expand with mobile solutions such as apps.
The company provides support to startups in India, especially those working in the IT and mobile solutions sectors.
EngineerBabu is helping Indian youngsters to stay off fake recruitment agents because they cannot find jobs. The company helps them find entrepreneurship solutions.
16. Deena Venugopal
Deena Venugopal is the founder of Anabytes, a digital marketing, branding, social media optimization and related digital services company.
Deena Venugopal’s LinkedIn profile describes her as an expert in total facilities management, contract monitoring, quality assurance and regulatory compliance.
She has spearheaded implementation of best practice standards across core business functions.
Deena Venugopal is a proponent of information sharing and knowledge management.
She has drafted comprehensive policies and procedures manuals to ensure consistency and compliance, implemented through CAFM, SIGMA and intranet, it says.
17. Sairee Chahal
Sairee Chahal is the brain behind the unique concept, Sheroes. The name is derived from two English words ‘She’ and ‘Heroes.’
Sheroes is a women's community platform, offering support, resources, opportunities and interactions via Sheroes.com and the Sheroes app.
Sheroes – Communities for Women, is a safe and trusted space, where members discuss health, careers, relationships and share their life stories, achievements and moments.
The app also offers a dedicated ask SHEROES helpline where community members can talk to counsellors on all aspects of their growth journeys.
In the next five years, the SHEROES stack aims to put 100 million women on the growth roadmap.
In 2018, Sheroes was awarded by the IAMAI Digital Awards in the “Social & Economic Empowerment” category, says the company website.
18. Karnika Mishra
Gesture Graphics is an animation, movies, videos, e-learning, illustrations and web design company founded by female entrepreneur Karnika Mishra.
She has made a cartoon of her own name called ‘Karnika Kahen’ which means ‘Karnika Says.’ These cartoons revolve around the ‘aam aadmi’ or common man of India.
However, Gesture Graphics is a start-up venture that makes animations for various purposes including movies, advertisements and educational videos.
Karnika Mishra was inspired by the role of the common man, who is usually a silent bystander whenever something major occurs in the country.
19. Surya Velamuri
Surya Velamuri is a co-founder of a very unique concept and enterprise called Safecity.
It is a platform that crowdsources personal stories of sexual harassment and abuse in public spaces from women in India and elsewhere.
Safecity aggregates the data and creates hot spots on a map indicating trends at a local level. By seeing these hotspots, women can shun areas where women can face sexual harassment.
Safecity plans to make this data available for individuals, local communities and local administration for law enforcement.
The data is also expected to identify factors that cause behaviour that leads to violence and work on strategies for solutions.
Since launch in 2012, Safecity has collected over 10,000 stories from over 50 cities in India, Kenya, Cameroon and Nepal.
Safecity aims at making cities and public spaces safer for women by using crowdsourced real-life stories and technology.
More Famous Female Entrepreneurs
If you thought these are the only Women entrepreneurs in India, think again. Below is a list of some more that deserve mention.
- Swati Bhargava: Founder of India’s largest cashback and online shopping coupons website, CashKaro.
- Radhika Ghai: She is the co-founder of ShopClues, one of the top home-grown online retailers of India.
- Sabina Chopra: Cofounder of India’s leading online travel and tourism agency, Yatra.com
- Rashmi Sinha: One of the co-founders of SlideShare, an online platform that allows people to share slides and presentations.
- Ekta Kapoor: Founder of Balaji Telefilms, which makes some of the best-known TV serials and documentaries in India.
Unsung Women Entrepreneurs of India
Unfortunately, not every female entrepreneur shoots into the limelight. There are several women in India whose entrepreneurial skills barely find mention anywhere. Here we pay tribute to these women unsung Women Entrepreneurs too.
25. Lakshmi Menon
Lakshmi Menon is founder of Pure Living, a small enterprise in Ernakulam.
Her company makes pens of natural products like bamboo and wood that reduces use and need for plastic.
Pure Living sources its products from rural women in Kerala and helps them achieve financial freedom.
26. Sumita Ghose
Sumita Ghose has brought together groups of artisans from states as diverse as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Assam to form Rangsutra.
These artisans make natural products that are sold by leading stores including Fabindia and IKEA. Rangsutra provides income to over 3,500 artisans.
27. Chhaya Nanjappa
Chhaya Nanjappa is the winner of the 2014 National Best Entrepreneur Award given by Confederation of Women Entrepreneurs of India.
Her Mysore based company, Nectar Fresh is the largest single flower honey manufacturer in India. Nectar Fresh products are also popular in foreign countries.
28. Pabiben Rabari
Rabari arts of India were not known outside the region of Kutch in Gujarat.
However, female entrepreneur Pabiben Rabari launched a website, Rabari.com where you can buy exclusive handicrafts made by the Rabari community.
The enterprise provides employment to 60 women from the tribe.
29. Tamanna Sharma
With a small team of environment safety minded people, Tamanna Sharma founded Earthling First Pvt Ltd.
The enterprise aims at providing waste management processes using innovative techniques. The company operates from New Delhi.
30. Hemalatha Annamalai
This Coimbatore-based woman entrepreneur is the founder of Ampere Electric.
The company manufactures electric vehicles such as e-trolleys, e-scooters and e-bikes that are environment-friendly and can be used by anyone.
Ampere Electric is the first automobile company in India to be founded by a woman.
31. Thinlas Chorol
Thinlas Chorol is a female entrepreneur from Ladakh.
She is the founder of Ladakh Women’s Travel Co, which encourages women to undertake mountaineering and trekking expeditions in the Himalayas and Ladakh region.
The company hires about 30 local tourist guides, trekking guides and Sherpa for mountaineering.
Ladakh Women’s Travel Co also conducts training for women from across India and the world in mountaineering.
32. Neha Arora
Neha Arora is an unsung and pioneering female entrepreneur of India.
She is the founder of a travel company called Planet Abled. This company arranges travel packages for differently abled people.
The company now conducts tours for differently abled people within and outside India. Neha Arora established the company after finding how difficult it is for people with special needs to enjoy travel and holidays.
33. Mehvish Mushtaq
The start-up bug has also spread to women in India’s northernmost state, Jammu & Kashmir.
Here, a female entrepreneur Mehvish Mushtaq is operating a successful venture called ‘Dial Kashmir.’
It is said to be the equivalent of Yellow Pages, Blue Pages and Pink Pages types of telephone directories.
The only difference is that ‘Dial Kashmir’ operates as an app and provides telephone numbers and addresses of most businesses in Kashmir.
34. Sobita Tamuli
Sobita Tamuli is a rural woman residing in Telana, a little-known village in Assam.
Her enterprise, Seuji, helps rural farmers, especially women to get organic manure at very highly subsidized rates.
The enterprise Seuji manufactures organic manure for farmers and sells directly, thus eliminating commissions and other charges levied by middlemen and retailers.
35. Kashaf Sheikh
Kashaf Sheikh is a 25-year old successful female entrepreneur of India who launched Dealivore, an online discount couponing website.
Launched in 2012, Dealivore ranks as the topmost website in India where shoppers can get discount coupons and codes for online stores including Amazon, Flipkart, SnapDeal, Jabong and many others. These coupons help people save a lot of money while shopping online.
As founder of Dealivore at young age, Kashaf Sheikh has won several accolades in India and abroad. She has proven to Indian women, especially younger ones that age and education, finances and location need not be a hurdle for entrepreneurship.
Kashaf Sheikh is an inspiration for women of her age group that are trying to launch own businesses. Known for her simple and humble demeanour, Kashaf Sheikh also gives talks and lectures to encourage entrepreneurship among Indian women.
These examples of well-known and unsung female entrepreneurs of India should encourage every woman to explore possibilities of starting their own business.
In fact, gender divide by income and financial standing is very wide in India according to reports by various organizations such as UNESCO, World Bank, International Monetary Fund and others.
Hence, it is imperative that women launch own enterprises to gain financial parity and shed dependence upon family members.
In fact, several successful businesses abroad were launched by female entrepreneurs. The same can be done in India.
The above examples rightly prove that Indian women- both urban and rural- also possess great entrepreneurial skills.