Entrepreneurial ecosystem needs to adopt gender parity and inclusivity aggressively: Archana Khosla Burman, FICCI FLO Mumbai

Archana Khosla Burman, Chairperson, FICCI FLO Mumbai talks about her latest stint and goals with the apex body


Archana Khosla Burman, Founder Partner of Vertices Partners, recently ascended as the Chairperson of FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO), the Mumbai Chapter.

Passionate about women empowerment, she recently launched key programmes on entrepreneurship, upskilling and youth development under the banner of FICCI FLO. Under the aegis of Chairperson, she aims to engage with more women and youth in the urban, rural, and underprivileged sections of society through deeper experiential initiatives. While also facilitating a level-playing field for women and girls with barriers and making entrepreneurship a reality for women.

In an exclusive interaction with SME Futures, Burman discusses her association with FICCI FLO and the targets and initiatives she wants to achieve with her newly acquired position.

Edited excerpts:

Tell us about the FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO’s) presence in India. What are the qualifications that the women entrepreneurs who want to join this organisation need to have? 

FICCI FLO is an all-India forum for women with its headquarters in New Delhi and 19 chapters across India, representing 9000 + women entrepreneurs and professionals. With over 40 years of experience, the national organisation has been instrumental in working towards the socio-economic empowerment of women. FLO aims to serve as a platform to advance the women empowerment narrative across India, envisioning the greater participation of women in the socioeconomic development of the nation. It works towards influencing government policies, laws and incentives with an aim to facilitate a supportive environment for women in business and women professionals from various walks of life. FLO plays the role of a facilitator of women empowerment through its myriad impact programmes. Given its history of impactful work, in 2023, FICCI FLO was appointed as the official secretariat of G20 Empower and is working very closely with W20 as well as Start-up 20.

As a part of its larger vision, the organisation has been promoting entrepreneurship and professional excellence in women through various workshops, seminars, conferences, talks, training, and capacity building programmes, etc. to encourage and facilitate the inclusion of women’s talents, skills, experiences and synergies across all sectors and levels of economic activity.

We strongly believe that women from diverse backgrounds are seeking to affect change in their immediate circumstances, the environment and the nation. Our membership embodies this spirit and includes entrepreneurs, professionals, and corporate as well as social enterprise executives. New memberships are granted on the basis of recommendations from existing members of FLO in good standing. The final decision regarding the acceptance of the membership is taken by the governing body of FLO.

Your thoughts on the state of women entrepreneurship in 2023.  

In India, more and more women are demonstrating their entrepreneurial capabilities. Women entrepreneurs, not just in India, but globally, face challenges posed by the deep-seated stereotypes and preconceived notions around gender roles and unconscious biases.

These challenges may manifest in various ways, be it via the attitudes of team members or in the guise of the questions that are asked of women in board rooms across the globe. Having said that, the business-scape is changing due to the bigger realisation that’s dawning as regards the socio-economic potential of the other 50 per cent. With this changing reality, the Indian Government has also implemented various initiatives and policies to support women entrepreneurship. In line with the government’s mission, FICCI FLO provides a platform for women entrepreneurs to connect, network, and access resources and funding.  

To accelerate the growth of women entrepreneurship in India, the start-up and entrepreneurial ecosystems in India need to adopt gender parity and inclusivity more aggressively. Policymakers, investors, and entrepreneurs are working together to address the issues that women entrepreneurs face on a regular basis.

What sectors, in your opinion, still have low female participation but should increase it?

While women’s participation is encouraged across the board, countries and governments, I do realise that typically the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields are gender skewed and are now taking important steps to increase female participation in this arena.

Do you believe that the start-up ecosystem has a long way to go in achieving gender equity? What are the primary challenges impeding its progress in this regard? 

The work towards gender equity will only be complete the day both men and women have equal choice, options and say without any fear of judgement in how they want to engage themselves professionally, if at all. Both genders continue to face the challenge of preconceived gender roles and norms.

Given this scenario, there is definitely scope for improvement in the mission to enhance female representation at all levels. Hence, we have policymakers, the private sector and platforms like FICCI FLO collaborating with each other to address these challenges. A supportive and inclusive ecosystem with ample opportunities to learn, to avail of mentorship and to access growth capital will help women entrepreneurs and our country’s economy to realise their full growth potential.

With the assumption of the Chairmanship of FICCI FLO Mumbai, what is your strategy and area of focus this year? 

We aim to engage with more women and youth in the urban, rural and underprivileged sections of society through deeper experiential initiatives. We are bringing special focus on democratizing access to opportunities for women and girls with barriers; making entrepreneurship a reality for women at all levels of society, starting right from the youth. We are also focussing on rural holistic development to encourage socio-economic participation at each level of society. For instance, one of our goals is to equip urban women with the skills and the tools to become directors on boards of directors of corporates and enterprises.

What will be the main issues that you will be attempting to resolve? 

FICCI FLO Mumbai believes in creating impact programmes that can improve the lives of women and substantially strengthen their contribution to the socio-economic advancement not only of themselves but of the country as well so that our economy can finally begin to realise its full potential. We are starting this term with initiatives for Dalit women entrepreneurs, for the re-skilling of mothers and for girls and women with barriers so we can make a difference where it matters the most.

Our major focus will be to transform the lives of women and facilitate socio-economic empowerment at the grass-roots level to make a difference in regional as well as national development. To kick start the process, we have launched key programmes on entrepreneurship, upskilling and youth development at Pahaunch, the flagship event for 2023-24. Through this initiative, we will be providing learning programmes to facilitate hands-on, practical learning for all aspiring women and girls at various levels of their journeys.