Durga Raghunath

Anahita Speaker Series


The Entrepreneurship Ecosystem in India

Entrepreneurship is crucial to driving economic growth. Being a successful entrepreneur involves navigating a myriad of financial and professional risks. Many of these risks are often emphasized for women executives who are often at the periphery of the profession. In recent times, however, there are a growing number of women at the helm of various enterprises.

In any dynamic economy, start-ups are critical to accelerating a nation's economic growth. Running a successful start-up requires possessing dynamic entrepreneurial skills to develop a unique product, secure funding, compete in a free market, and undertake financial and professional risks.

In the second edition of the Anahita Speaker Series, Durga Raghunath, senior vice president of growth at Zomato, examined the dynamic start-up space in India, drawing on her extensive experience as a successful entrepreneur. The discussion was moderated by Niharika Bhatia, a Vedica scholar.

About the Speaker

Durga Raghunath is Senior Vice President Growth at Zomato, a global food-tech company that operates in 24 countries. She co-founded Juggernaut Books, that enables e-books for the smartphone user. She was also Founder Firstpost and CEO Network Digital where she oversaw finance, news and entertainment brands.

About the Moderator

Niharika Bhatia has hands on experience in general  ,project and client management roles spread across 3 different industries. Her experience with coveted organizations like Enactus, ITC Limited and the Ministry of Jammu and Kashmir has helped her realize her interest in the development sector. Additionally, academics and studying multi-disciplinary subjects has always excited her. She has completed PG Diplomas in international Law, Data Analytics and is all geared up for her third masters. She believes in creating an impact wherever she goes and aspires to be an entrepreneur. Niharika is currently working on a book on implicit biases and is the founder of an initiative ByetoBias.

Discussion Summary

  • The Start-up Space in India: Participants stated that India currently provides an environment conducive to establishing various start-ups. They also noted that recently, the adoption rate of start-ups in the market is much faster, and product market cycles have become tighter. The participants further discussed the lucrative space occupied by the B2B (business-to-business) sector, which not only generates larger profits and minimizes equity, but also demands product diversity and specialized skill-sets. Participants also discussed the key markers of success on e-platforms—for example, for a food delivery app, hygiene and quality play a crucial role. The participants noted, however, that India has inherited a homogenous system of marketing from the West, and should invest in more heterogeneous marketing strategies across its different tiers and cities.
  • Securing Funding: Participants stated that securing seed money for entrepreneurial projects is crucial to developing a start-up. They considered the varying levels of success local businesses in India have had in securing capital. Further, they advised budding entrepreneurs to utilize incubators, such as those within business schools, and to access the vast network of angel investors in the business industry as well as apply for venture capital-related early stage funds. Participants emphasized that all aspiring entrepreneurs should actively work toward securing seed funding and validation for their start-up idea. They also highlighted the importance of experimenting, especially so that young entrepreneurs can create unique and productive businesses of their own.
  • Makings of a Successful Entrepreneur: Participants emphasized the importance of translating passion into professional motivation to ensure the successful trajectory of an enterprise in the start-up world. They discussed the value of entrepreneurs developing a unique skill and the ability to solve complex problems, thereby setting them apart from the crowd. Further, the participants noted that demonstrable hard work, such as presenting an early prototype and budgetary estimates, is key to securing investors for a start-up. They emphasized the need for entrepreneurs to not be risk-averse and to be open to acquiring new skills. Participants stated that constantly evolving with the needs of a dynamic market, and developing the language and skill to negotiate within entrepreneurial digital spaces, is key to becoming a successful entrepreneur.
  • Women in Start-Ups: Participants acknowledged that there are not enough women working in the start-up world, especially in leadership roles. They noted that better policies need to be designed in order to recruit more women in business—for example, encouraging a larger number of women applicants by altering job descriptions to appeal to and target women. Participants also stated that women need to hone their skills early on and immerse themselves in India's business environment. They noted the presence of a growing market that targets female consumers and the vital role that women entrepreneurs can play in expanding the market. The participants agreed that approving and promoting women-led enterprises also requires a greater number of women to be in leadership positions, as both entrepreneurs and investors.

This event summary was prepared by Upasana Sharma and Nikhila Eda, research interns at Carnegie India, with inputs from Disha Sukhija and Shnekha G. Priya, Vedica Scholars.