Leenesh Singh and Honey Kithani founded 10000 Startups India (10KSI) with an aim to build strong community support for women entrepreneurs in India. The duo talks to Education Post’s Tanay Kumar about the motivation behind this venture.
Please tell us about your academic journey and how the two of you met and started 10KSI?
Honey Kithani: I had done my primary education at Mumbai’s St. Thomas School and later, I opted for B. Com at Mumbai University. I have done my master’s in Human Resources from Vivekanand Education Society’s Institute of Management Studies and Research (VESIM) in Mumbai. I then began looking for resources to start my own business. My two-year experience in the corporate sector encouraged me to start my entrepreneurship journey at 10KSI.
Leenesh Singh: I completed my graduation in Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science. After my graduation, I pursued Advanced Human Resource Management from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in Ahmedabad. I joined as a class II non-gazetted officer in the Ministry of Human Resource Development to serve students, teachers, and non-teaching staff by implementing Microsoft Literacy Programmes in Navodaya Vidyalayas and Zilla Parishad schools. The use of technology and traveling became and integral part of my life. While traveling, I met loads of people with diverse languages and cultures. That made me realize that the ability to communicate effectively is key to closing investment deals. And that’s when I thought of starting and growing 10KSI.
I met Honey at my last organization, Smart Connect Technologies, where I was about to start 10KSI in 2019. Honey agreed to come on board when I discussed the concept of 10KSI and building a community of women entrepreneurs.
Will you explain that how 10000 Startups India is helping the start-up culture in the country?
10KSI is a community platform that serves many entrepreneurs globally. It provides massive support to passionate entrepreneurs in the form of help and action plans. For instance, aspiring entrepreneurs can get idea validation, mentorship support, and incubation support offerings through our community of IITs, IIMs, AICs & Private Incubation Centres. We handpick online and offline events and ensure active participation and networking of aspiring entrepreneurs and investors
10KSI helps MSMEs with working capital and credit line loans by carefully evaluating their businesses and taking it forward from there. Additionally, 10KSI assists in raising private equity rounds and supports women entrepreneurs looking to showcase their ventures. Our professionals work in detail on IPO plans and provide all the details of the last two years before the launch. Altogether, 10KSI tries to answer for the needs of new business owners and entrepreneurs to scale up with infinite possibilities through robust community support.
Several female entrepreneurs have emerged in the recent past. How do you view this trend?
Female entrepreneurs have exclusive qualities which speed up the growth of the economy. Their solutions are innovative. Besides, a diverse workforce with the contribution of both male and female entrepreneurs results in different perspectives and ideas and eventually growth outburst.
A woman’s abilities to multitask and deliver things on time allow her to have a firm role in whatever work she does. Women, these days, do not want to sit at home. They have other aspirations and have a wonderful blend of persistence and perseverance. It not only makes them a stable workforce but also allows them to become leaders in the long run. Hence, I strongly believe every nation needs more women in the workforce to honor their society and contribute to the local economy.
As per data from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, in 2021, the percentage of female and male population in early-stage entrepreneurial activity in India stood at 12.3 and 16.3 respectively
How do you see the education in tier-2 and tier-3 cities in India and how can women in such cities play an important role?
Education is essential for all genders, no matter the location. However, with the push for gender equality, it has become more crucial for women to be educated in tier-2 and tier-3 cities. With the emergence of technology and the internet, various doors of opportunities for women’s education have opened in these cities. Education not only provides the knowledge and skills to secure a job, but it also gives females access to financial independence and social mobility. When you start earning money, people start respecting you.
Education empowers women to become more active in social and political activities and to voice their opinions. Education leads them to become leaders who can bring about positive change. Besides compensation and respect, women live with better health because of their accessibility to medical facilities.
Education leads to bridging the gender gap, allowing women to gain entry into professions that have historically been dominated by men. In brief, education enables women to challenge gender stereotypes and break gender barriers. Therefore, education is essential for empowering females to create a more equitable society, for family welfare and overall growth.
What are the advantages of entrepreneurs and start-ups in India?
India is in dire need of entrepreneurs and start-ups to drive economic growth, create jobs, and stimulate innovation. It is estimated that over the next decade, India will need to create over 500 million new jobs to meet the demands of its growing population.
Furthermore, start-ups and entrepreneurs can contribute to India’s development by providing access to capital, mentorship, and resources to other budding entrepreneurs.
With the Indian government’s encouragement of entrepreneurship, there are now more opportunities for start-ups to thrive. Start-ups can also benefit from the government’s initiatives like Make in India and Stand-up India and the government’s tax incentives. These initiatives make India an attractive destination for entrepreneurs and start-ups to improve the long-established problems of the country.
What challenges lie ahead for start-ups in India in the context of the new National Education Policy (NEP)?
According to the 2020 India Start-up Ecosystem Report, India is now the third-largest start-up ecosystem in the world. In 2022, DPIIT had officially recognized a total of 80,152 start-ups. The COVID-19 pandemic has, however, introduced various challenges for start-ups. The major setbacks are funding, cash flow problems, and uncertainty in the market.
Other severe challenges faced by start-ups are lack of access to capital, inadequate infrastructure, increasing competition, and a lack of talent. Attracting and retaining talent due to low salaries and limited benefits are other difficulties. Additionally, the Indian legal system is not always conducive to start-ups.
Education and training institutions must meet some challenges to infuse entrepreneurship and start-up knowledge among young students. Some challenges are: the availability of courses on start-ups and lack of knowledge about tools and techniques for start-ups, fewer workshops and refresher courses on start-up framework and major concepts, requirement for re-orientation of education and an academic campus to drive students towards start-ups, transforming teaching curriculum and education pattern. Thanks to the NEP 2020, we have at least started talking about the solutions to these challenges.
Do you have any messages or recommendations for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Honey Kithani: Your key to success is realizing your strengths and what you are through self-reflection. Then, it won’t be long before you achieve your target. You need to find the right road, car, and driver and add fuel to it to reach your destination. If you are an entrepreneur, join 10KSI. We have solutions for all your problems.
Leenesh Singh: Overthinking is a problem. Stop doing that. Working on other people’s dreams makes you forget your own dreams. You have to start with what you have. Build on what you can do. Grow to become the best version of yourself, to rest with peace and glory that stays with the generations to come. Let’s make it big. The world is looking at India.