Named after a famous warrior woman in Indian history, CEO Strategic’s The Virangana Project is designed to support female entrepreneurs in India as they launch their start-up businesses.

It’s open to Indian women from any industry, but especially those with a high-tech, fintech or social enterprise focus.

The overarching aim is that it will shine a light on some of the best female innovators and entrepreneurs in India – a country where gender parity in female entrepreneurship is still among the lowest in the world ¬– by helping them to raise investment capital directly from international investors.

The idea for The Virangana Project came from human rights lawyer and women’s advocate, Shalini Chauhan, who was frustrated with the challenges women in India were facing when trying to raise capital for their start-up enterprise.

“In addition to historical cultural issues in India’s still mainly male-dominated start-up scene, women entrepreneurs remain underrepresented in the economy and still face certain biases from potential investors when all that should matter is the idea,” Shalini, who is the Co-founder and CEO of The Virangana Project, says.

The selected women in The Virangana Project will have the opportunity to pitch their business ideas in Australia and secure capital.
The selected women in The Virangana Project will have the opportunity to pitch their business ideas in Australia and secure capital.

“Material issues – such as, is it solid, innovative, scalable, will it make revenue or change lives? – can often fall by the wayside when they see a woman is involved.”

The project aims to find 12 innovative women from India, pair them with high-profile Australian female entrepreneurs for mentorship, and fly them to Australia in October 2018 for a series of India-themed ‘Pitch-Fests’. These ‘Pitch-Fests’ are an opportunity to pitch their business with the aim of securing capital investment, partnerships and other assistance from a group of entrepreneurs, bankers, angel investors and venture capital firms.

The project aims to find 12 innovative women from India, pair them with high-profile Australian female entrepreneurs for mentorship, and fly them to Australia in October 2018 for a series of India-themed ‘Pitch-Fests’.

It will culminate in an appearance at Sydney’s Spark Festival, one of Australia’s largest start-up festivals, where the project plans to hold the city’s first ever Bollywood-themed pitch event.

“This collaboration with Australian business will equip these innovative women with new skills and direction and give them the exposure they need,” Shalini says. “They play a central role in helping drive the Indian economy forward.”

Shalini adds that it’s all about allowing women to be truly independent.

“We see the start-up economy as one of the most dynamic ways to foster female independence,” she says.

“In recent times, some of India’s most successful businesses have been founded by women, and now, through this project, Australian investors are being given a clear path to participate in India’s massive consumer market.”

Communications Director for The Virangana Project, Tony McAuslan, says that by opening access to Indian start-ups Australia benefits as it’s laying the foundations for a stronger investment environment.

“A A$100,000 investment in an Indian start-up goes a lot further than the same amount in an Australian one,” he says. “It gives you access to an incredible pool of well-educated talent, and if your start-up kicks a goal in India, you have a consumer base greater than 1.2 billion and a well-off middle class ten times the size of the entire Australian population.”