An Entrepreneurial Kitty Party – Sharmila Bhowmick


Man is defined as a human being and a woman as a female – whenever she behaves as a human being she is said to imitate the male: Simone De Bouvoir

I’m thinking of gender and I’m thinking of entrepreneurship. I’m also thinking of what they have to do with each other. I’m also wondering how ‘woman’ defines ‘entrepreneur’. What role play does gender have in entrepreneurship? If entrepreneurship or being entrepreneurial is about the way of doing something or being a certain way, why does it need the added appendage of gender. Does adding ‘woman’ to an entrepreneur colour her plans and capability in a certain way? Does money or making of it have a gender?

Seems like, it does. The ‘woman’ before the ‘entrepreneur’ is the lakshmanrekha, in other words, an extended comfort zone. A limit which she may have wanted to escape by becoming an entrepreneur, and then slipped straight back into. It is like a post-it note on the kitchen wall: thus far and no further. Explore beyond this, at your own risk. And who knows you many even need a monkey army to rescue you from the pitfalls. Nothing entrepreneurial about it.Really.

A week ago, I sat with a friend discussing a list of start-up ideas that could not beat the race to a funding pitch. Excited as I was about scores of fresh ideas emerging from the melting pot of ‘woman’ entrepreneurs in the country, my enthusiasm died before I could work through the froth of my cappuccino at a Khan Market café.


From a list of about 100 ideas that arrived for the pitch, only 10 were to be shortlisted for a funding pitch. So we sat down, this friend of mine, discussing the rest of ideas which didn’t quite make it. Why most ideas seem like each other. Why women fail to create sparkly, winner ideas that has real impact if not on the planet, then at least on womenfolk.

The ‘woman’ entrepreneur in most cases it seems to have cast themselves into a fantastic stereotype itself. From a clutch of ten, five or more ideas were related to designer tailoring, hand stitched shoes, bags, doorstep salons et al.

Epiphany. Well then, the entrepreneur in the garb of a woman is a woman, still working on a romantic idea of a glorified boutique. She will make clothes, shoes and accessories for other women to look and feel good. Nothing macho.Safely female. No harm in this hobby treatment of an enterprise really, until the ‘woman’ entrepreneur starts cribbing about how and why investors do not take them seriously. Why they are asked pointed personal questions like ‘who will look after your baby when you travel,’ sort of thing.

What beats me is if a successful business is about spotting a burning problem and providing a solution which is profitable; why women up until now, have failed to recognise their own real problems beyond the crisis of affordable designer clothes, plus sized wardrobes, custom made t-shirts and salons at door step. Not much has moved since the boutique shifted from the local market to a website or an app. In all it seems like one large entrepreneurial kitty party.

Why don’t women entrepreneurs find solutions for creating a doorstep baby-sitting service? Nannies on call?Or a network of homework helpers? Why can’t they find women driving teachers for other women? Can women make it a business to empower other women? Are these not the sore points which prevent women from applying their energy productively at work and business?

How many more boutiques, salons, bags and shoes businesses do women need? Why are women wasting this exciting entrepreneurial opportunity to solve their own problems?

It is all about the lakhshmanrekha. Boot it. Entrepreneurship, lies beyond it.

(The writer is a journalist, who has worked for various media houses for over 16 years.  [Courtesy; ToI])