8 most successful women entrepreneurs from India

most successful women entrepreneurs from India
Indra Nooyi has consistently ranked among the world's 100 most powerful women. Source: AFP

Indian women often make news as victims of one of the world’s most sexist countries. We don’t hear about them as professionals, leaders and entrepreneurs.

However, in recent years, things have been shifting, with an increasing number of women breaking barriers and making their mark as successful entrepreneurs.

In the startup world, women-led startups have increased from 10% in 2017 to 18% in recent years.

There are now over eight million successful women entrepreneurs from India, with around 15.7 million women-run enterprises in the country.

This makes up 22% of the country’s entrepreneurial landscape.

While these figures are hailed as a mark of progress, we can’t escape what these figures tell us — that men make up around four out of five entrepreneurs in India.

It’s already 2024 — what’s still holding back women entrepreneurs from India?

most successful women entrepreneurs from India

Without childcare support, women often struggle to balance work and family obligations. Source: AFP

Women entrepreneurs from India face multiple challenges

As it turns out, women entrepreneurs from India are saddled with many challenges that can affect their growth and success.

Getting funds to start a business is tough for women in India. About 90% struggle to secure financing from institutions because they often lack collateral.

This is because of traditional practices where property and financial rights were usually passed to male heirs, leaving women without assets.

Starting a business requires experience, which is usually gained from management roles. Few women rise to the highest levels of management as many face stereotypes that challenge their authority.

Traits seen as confident in men might be viewed as bossiness in women, making it harder for them to assert themselves.

Balancing work and personal life is also a challenge for women entrepreneurs in India. Women are traditionally expected to care for the home and family — those without childcare often drop out of the workforce altogether.

Taken together, these factors explain why there are so few women entrepreneurs from India and only 14% of businesses in India are led by women.

This makes it even more important to understand how others overcame this stifling environment to become successful. How did they do it?

8 most successful women entrepreneurs from India

most successful women entrepreneurs from India

Roshni Nadar Malhotra is an Indian billionaire businesswoman, philanthropist and chairperson of HCL Technologies. Source: AFP

1. Roshni Nadar Malhotra 

“To make a difference, you have to have large aspirations.” – Roshni Nadar Malhotra

Roshni Nadar Malhotra is one of the most successful women entrepreneurs from India. HCLTech is one of India’s largest IT and consulting services firms worth an estimated US$12 billion.

In 2020, she followed in her father’s footsteps and took on the role of chairperson of HCLTech. By doing so, she became the first woman entrepreneur to lead a listed IT company in India. 

She is also a trustee of the Shiv Nadar Foundation, an education NGO that helps establish programmes and institutions related to rural education. 

Her dedication and hard work helped her climb to the top. She has an MBA from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

When she returned to India, she wasted no time in making her mark within her father’s company. Within a year, she was made executive director and CEO of HCL Corporation before becoming the chairperson. 

Her accomplishments have not gone unnoticed. In 2022, she was recognised by Forbes, securing the 53rd spot on the World’s Most Powerful Women list. 

2. Indra Nooyi 

“The more we can break the rules, the better off we’re going to be.” – Indra Nooyi

Indra Nooyi has made many lists of successful women in India and all over the world. Her journey to the top of PepsiCo is the stuff business schools put in their curriculum.

In 2006, she made history by becoming one of the few female CEOs in the US. Under her management, the company thrived with a rise in its share price. Nooyi also introduced sustainability initiatives within the company during her time there. 

Her journey to success began in her home country, where she pursued her MBA at the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta before later earning a master’s degree in Public and Private Management from Yale School of Management.

Before PepsiCo, she held various senior roles at companies such as Boston Consulting Group, Motorola and ABB.

Her achievements have been recognised on a global scale. She made it to Forbes’ list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women, with a reported net worth of approximately US$320 million. 

most successful women entrepreneurs from india

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, one of India’s richest self-made women, founded the biopharmaceutical firm Biocon. Source: AFP

3. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw

“I believe that entrepreneurship is about being able to face failure, manage failure and succeed after failing.” – Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw

As the founder of biopharmaceutical firm Biocon Limited, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw is one of the most successful women entrepreneurs from India

Coming from a background in brewing and fermentation technology, she ventured into uncharted territory when biotechnology was still unheard of in India. 

Despite facing setbacks along the way, she persevered. Her leadership helped the company succeed by establishing itself as a global leader in biopharmaceuticals, specialising in areas such as cancer, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases.

Her accolades include multiple appearances on Forbes’ prestigious “World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” list.

4. Sneha Choudhry 

“By encouraging other women to speak up and express themselves, we inspire confidence and a belief in one’s own abilities.” – Sneha Choudhry

Sneha Choudhry is one of the most successful women entrepreneurs from India. She leads the accommodation sector with her company Zolo.

Even before launching Zolo in 2015, Choudhry had already experienced entrepreneurship, having founded two companies prior. However, it was with Zolo that she truly made her mark.

Recognising the need for affordable, high-quality accommodation options for students and professionals in India, she got to work. 

With her partners, Dr. Nikhil Sikri and Akhil Sikri, Choudhry created Zolo — a platform offering fully managed, long-term stay options that are hassle-free and easy to book. 

In 2019, the company secured US$30 million in Series B funding, catapulting Zolo’s net worth to over US$100 million. Today, the platform operates in over 10 cities across India and is used by over 50,000 customers.

most successful women entrepreneurs from india

Falguni Nayar is an Indian billionaire businesswoman who is the founder and CEO of the beauty and lifestyle retail company Nykaa. Source: AFP

5. Falguni Nayar

“Don’t be afraid to take risks along the way. You are blessed to be entering a world that is now increasingly risk-friendly.” – Falguni Nayar

Born and raised in a Gujarati household in Mumbai, Falguni Nayar would later earn a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics before furthering her education at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad. 

Her career began in the finance industry, where she worked in equity brokerage at Kotak Securities.

She eventually landed the role of Managing Director of the investment banking division of Kotak Mahindra Capital and director of Kotak Securities in 2005.

However, despite her successful career in finance, she decided to follow her passion and launch Nykaa, India’s premier beauty e-commerce website. 

Not long after, the site would be offering over 850 brands and its value skyrocketed to US$2.3 billion, making Nayar’s net worth an estimated $1.1 billion.

In 2020, Nykaa became the first Indian unicorn startup managed by a woman. 

6. Naiyya Saggi

“Entrepreneurship will take you to the darkest depths of despair. Its gut-wrenching, but remember that you signed up for it, so go ahead and enjoy it. Stop being serious, enjoy the moments and highs and lows. When dark days come, smile through those as well.” – Naiyya Saggi

Naiyya Saggi is one of the most successful women entrepreneurs from India.

Previously a business analyst at McKinsey, she left consulting to pursue an MBA at Harvard Business School in 2012 under a Fulbright Scholarship.

Saggi would later launch BabyChakra, an online community platform tailored to the needs of mothers, offering a supportive space for parenting advice and guidance.

In 2021, she co-founded The Good Glamm Group, which aimed to revolutionise India’s beauty commerce industry by offering solutions and products tailored to the needs of Indian consumers.

women entrepreneurs from india

Anisha Singh founded Mydala, India’s largest deals platform. Source: AFP

7. Anisha Singh 

“I want to be recognized as a successful entrepreneur, not just as a successful woman entrepreneur.” – Anisha Singh

As the co-founder of Mydala, one of India’s largest marketing platforms for local services with around 200,000 transactions a day, Anisha Singh is known as one of the most successful women entrepreneurs from India.

Hailing from New Delhi, Singh would leave the country to pursue an MBA in Information Systems from American University, Washington DC. 

She then worked with the Clinton administration on Capitol Hill, where she helped women entrepreneurs raise funding for innovative women-led businesses.

After a stint at Centra Software in Boston where she facilitated the setting up of e-learning ecosystems for Fortune 500 companies, she returned to India to launch real estate digital solutions firm Kinis Software Solutions before founding mydala.com.

8. Richa Kar

“If you are strong, focussed and passionate about what you want to do, everything falls into place” – Richa Kar

Richa Kar’s claim to this list of most successful women entrepreneurs from India? Lingerie.

Previously an engineer at BITS Pilani, she left the industry to earn an MBA at Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies. 

After graduating, she saw a gap in the market for an e-commerce lingerie brand and used all her savings to launch Zivame in 2011.

Kar remained strong despite initial challenges and societal taboos surrounding lingerie shopping in India. Her perseverance paid off when Zivame received its first investment of US$3 million in May 2012.