For ages, several Indian entrepreneurs have dreamt about making their presence felt in Silicon Valley. The goal was to leave the country armed with an engineering degree from an IIT, enrol at an Ivy League school, and then move to San Francisco to start up. But the brain drain took a U-turn recently, when many Indian entrepreneurs left Silicon Valley to come back to their homeland and start up here. With rise in internet penetration and disposable income among the masses, many sectors opened up to innovative business models, and women entrepreneurship also started growing in the country.
More recently, India has also witnessed foreign entrepreneurs visiting and even settling here to make big bucks. After all, the country is home to the third-largest startup ecosystem in the world.
MAKERS India lists a few of these expat women who came to India in quest of entrepreneurship, and succeeded in establishing their startups here.
Society will tell you that women and finance don’t go well together. Lizzie Chapman, Co-Founder and CEO of ZestMoney, moved from London to Bengaluru to challenge and change this notion.
A Medical Microbiology graduate from the University of Edinburgh, Lizzie had worked with Goldman Sachs for almost five years in London. She was also an Investment Manager with Wellcome Trust before she moved to India in 2011 as the Country Head of Wonga, also a fintech company. It was here that Lizzie was first introduced to the fintech scene in India. In 2015, Lizzie co-founded ZestMoney with Priya Sharma and Ashish Anantharaman.
Now settled in Bengaluru, she is also a founding member of the Executive Committee of the Digital Lending Association of India. She is also a Board Member of IndiaMart and early-stage investment fund IndiaQuotient. Recipient of Female Fintech Leader Award and Women in Fintech Award by Fintegrate, Lizzie was also named among India’s top 100 Women in Finance by AIWMI.
India’s non-precious jewellery segment was underserved and unexploited until Jacqueline Kapur introduced fashion jewellery brand Ayesha Accessories in 2008.
Born and brought up in Germany, Jacqueline moved to Puducherry, India in 1989 with her then-boyfriend Dilip Kapur (Founder of lifestyle brand Hidesign). She designed the garment line at Hidesign and was its Vice President for 25 years. In 1999, Jacqueline founded Casablanca, a multi-branded department store in Puducherry. At one counter in Casablanca’s store, she showcased Ayesha’s fashion designer jewellery.
Today, Ayesha has expanded its line of products to bags, sunglasses, scarves, and accessories and is available across 100 outlets in the country as well as online.
Jacqueline also owns PY café in Puducherry. She established Red Earth Riding School with a few friends in Puducherry in 2010, where she teaches children to ride horses.
The entrepreneur is the two-time winner of the Most Admired Fashion Accessories Retailer of the Year by Image Retailer Awards.
In 2013, Julie Rousselet, of French and German origin- founded My Envy Box with her Indian origin boyfriend Rishi Seth. It is a luxury startup that provides beauty and designer jewellery boxes to its subscribers every month. My Envy Box curates products not just from India, but abroad too. Once customers are satisfied with the product samples, they get to buy the full-size products from the website itself.
Born and brought up in Paris, Julie has a master’s in Political Science from The Paris Institute of Political Studies. She has previously worked as a journalist and a production assistant for French-German television channel Arte. She has also worked as a Communication Consultant with the United Nations Environment Programme, and has served editorial roles at a couple of French magazines. Julie also runs a startup Flouzen, which is based in France.
Katherine Taylor, or Katie, is the Founder and CEO of Khethworks, a Pune-headquartered agri-tech startup which builds affordable and reliable solar-powered irrigation systems for farmers.
A mechanical engineer from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Katie co-founded Khethworks along with Victor Lesniewski at MIT itself. It has been recognised by Startup India.
Originally from the US, Katie and Victor moved to India in 2016 when she realised that during the non-cultivating seasons, Indian farmers often resorted to dangerous migratory labour work in the diamond mines of clothing factories.
Khethworks’ is on a mission to provide a level of control over the lives and livelihoods of small-plot farmers. It builds affordable and high-quality technology to farmers, enabling them to cultivate crops all-round the year.
Katie was recognised as one of the 35 Innovators Under 35 by MIT Technology Review in 2017.
Ute Pauline Wiemer
Despite being the land of Kamasutra, sex and sexuality continue to be a taboo topic in India. The idea of ‘sex toys’ has always been related to the Western world and frowned upon here. Ute Pauline Wiemer, a student of Business and Economics from Uppsala University, decided to enter this untapped market in India with her startup Lovetreats.
Along with her partner Balaji, she founded the intimate sexual and wellness startup in Bengaluru in 2015. Besides showcasing all kinds of sex toys for sale, Lovetreats also provides a safe platform to exchange ideas and learn about topics around sexuality and intimacy.
Born and brought up in Berlin, Germany, Ute has previously worked with UNESCO and Fairtrade. Besides starting and managing India’s first online store for women’s sexual health and wellness that turned profitable within 18 months of launch, she is also an Implementation Consultant for CRM, Sales and Marketing Automation Software at HubSpot.
Serial entrepreneur Marissa Bronfman has donned several hats. The Canadian digital media entrepreneur moved to India from Toronto in 2011. Marissa is the founder of Bowl Bar, a vegan healthy food and beverage company. She is also the Founder and CEO of boutique digital agency Moxie Media and Communications, and Shot of Gold.
Marissa’s recent venture includes Producing SUPERfood the Series, a food show created, produced, directed, and shot by an all-women team – featuring women.
An earth and animal lover, Marissa believes that the future is green. She is a former journalist and her work has been published in The Huffington Post, Harper’s Bazaar, Conde Nast Traveller, and Vogue India, among others.