Entrepreneurs

This 27-year-old's start-up success could mark a major step for women entrepreneurs

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She's set to become India's first female unicorn founder - and she's only...

Among women entrepreneurs, Ankiti Bose is something of an icon.

With her rapidly growing fashion platform, Zilingo, she's on track to become the first Indian woman to co-found a $1 billion start-up.

But rather than revel in the "glamorous labels," the 27-year-old founder says she wants to use that newfound status as an opportunity to drive progress for other would-be women leaders.

Bose, who started her career as an investment analyst before launching Zilingo in 2014, said she was fortunate to find a male co-founder and team of backers who thought of her quite "genderlessly" and supported her business ambitions.

However, she acknowledged that even today that support can be hard to come by for many women, and she wants to use her leadership position to bridge that gap — particularly in the tech industry and within Asia.

That includes ensuring Zilingo is a 50% female company with 50% female leadership, she said.

"I was phenomenally blessed to have a team of mentors, team of guides that would think of me quite genderlessly," Bose told CNBC Make It.

"I really want to see that happen with a lot of women, and I know that it doesn't," she continued.

It's important to ask for help ... and it's also important to ask for what you think you deserve.
Ankiti Bose
founder and CEO, Zilingo

But to support that goal, Bose urged other women to continue demanding more of their employers and colleagues — whether that's in terms of guidance or recognition.

Too often, as CEO of Singapore-headquartered Zilingo, Bose said she has seen female colleagues shy away from opportunities, while their male counterparts typically "negotiate hard" for their salaries, positions, and even resignation packages.

"I think it's important to ask for help," said Bose, "and it's also important to ask for what you think you deserve."

"I've had situations where I've gone into negotiations with women saying 'you're asking for too little, don't you know what you're worth?'" Bose said of her experience managing other women.

She also said men should do more to support their female colleagues, "especially if their industry is such that it does not already have a lot of women leaders."

"In the end, I think it can only shift if there are enough women in leadership and decision-making positions. But to get there, we all have to work very hard," said Bose.

Power of possibility

Bose is far from being alone in her mission. Countless studies, including a 2018 report from Harvard Business Review, tell of how women continue to face significant impediments in the workplace, compared to their male colleagues.

However, Leanne Robers, founder of She Loves Tech, a global platform for women tech entrepreneurs, said she believes Bose's achievement could mark a significant milestone for female founders and demonstrate to them "the power of the possibility."

"It's really important to have female role models like Ankiti, because you can't be what you can't see," she said.

Leanne Robers, founder of She Loves Tech
CNBC

Robers likened the phenomenon to the running of a mile in four minutes, which was deemed impossible until British athlete Roger Bannister accomplished it in 1954.

"Back in the day, people thought that it was physically impossible for a human to break the barrier of running a mile in less than four minutes. Until Roger Bannister did it," said Robers.

"After he did it, he broke this perceived barrier and the floodgates just opened up," she continued.

"In the same way that Bannister broke barriers for runners, I hope Ankiti will do the same for women and encourage more women to enter into entrepreneurship — especially in Asia."

Don't miss: Why this 27-year-old is happy she worked a corporate job before starting her $1 billion business

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