All-rounder Jhulan Goswami struck a half-century before the bowlers defended a low score to help India beat New Zealand by 17 runs in the first of the five-match ODI series in Bengaluru on Sunday.
The win means India gain two crucial points in their bid to qualify for the 2017 Women's World Cup.
Electing to bat at M Chinnaswamy Stadium, the Mithali Raj-led side lost wickets at regular intervals, but Jhulan struck a defiant 57 off 67 deliveries to help the hosts to 142 all out in 44.3 overs.
Even though Jhulan has struck two half-centuries in Test cricket, this was the former captain's maiden ODI fifty, which was laced by six fours and a six.
Kiwi medium pacer Lea Tahuhu, left-armer Morna Nielsen and debutant off-spinner Leigh Kasperek bagged three wickets apiece to give the visitors hope.
But the New Zealand players also faltered against a disciplined Indian attack led by off-spinner Sneh Rana, who picked up three wickets, as the visitors crashed to 125 all out in 45.3 overs.
Left-arm orthodox Ekta Rana and medium-pacer Harmanpreet Kaur picked up two wickets each as left-arm orthodox Rajeshwari Gayakwad also chipped in with a scalp.
Kiwi opener and skipper Suzie Bates top-scored with a fighting 28 but lack of partnerships led to their downfall.
The two teams will next meet on July 1 for the second match.
India Women 142 in 44.3 overs (Jhulan Goswami 57; Lea Tahuhu 3/25, Morna Nielsen 3/24, Leigh Kasperek 3/39).
New Zealand Women 125 in 45.3 overs (Suzie Bates 28, Sophie Devine 24; Sneh Rana 3/26).