Aug 23, 2018 Elsa Snellman
Female Entrepreneurship – Rule, Not an Exception
Before Anisha Singh became a company founder three times over, she worked for the Clinton administration, helping to raise funding for women-led businesses. When she’s not busy running Mydala, she’s known as an active business mentor and angel investor, taking her time to ensure that female entrepreneurs are increasingly treated as a norm, not an exception.
Entrepreneurs like Anisha are surely the ones making many of us wonder: how, just how do they manage to do all of this while the rest of us are having a tough time deciding where to go for lunch? Too often, we only hear the triumphant narrative: the stories of laser-sharp focus, determination and ambition. Amongst this crowd, Anisha’s take on her success is refreshing. “It’s okay not to have a plan! I joke about this often – it’s okay to be average! I went to an average school, and life still turned out to be fine. As long as your ambition isn’t to be average, you’re fine”, she laughs. Anisha describes herself having been a “non-ambitious” person growing up. “Indian kids are deeply motivated, with goals to become engineers or doctors, you know – to my parents disappointment I had zero goals, zero ambition, I just wanted to go to college!”
If She Can See It, She Can Be It: Importance of Female Mentors
So, off to college she went. While attending American University in Washington, D.C., Anisha met a professor who ended up turning the course of her adolescent life around. “I always talk about the importance of one’s mentors, and how it can change the direction where you’re headed. There are statistics that women credit their mentors much more than men do. This professor helped me to stand up and find my voice, and this is where it all began”, she describes.
After college – freshly motivated – she ended up working for Clinton administration, taking care of the initiative helping women entrepreneurs raise funding for inventive ventures. At the back of her head she already knew that she was eventually going to become a founder herself – and a lot of this is because of the incredible women who have sparred with her and mentored her along the way. These days, being a three-time company founder herself, she is a vocal spokesperson for the importance of female professional networks. “For years, I didn’t want to be in female panels. I just wanted to concentrate on being a successful entrepreneur – not a female entrepreneur!” But as we all too often realize: if not me, who? If not now, when? “These days, I work actively with governments, setting up female and gender-focused funds, and I actively mentor female entrepreneurs. You have to keep the circle moving. You get, hence, you have to give back, no matter what happens. It’s a duty towards women”, Anisha states.
Going Mobile: The Story of Mydala
Mydala, which is India’s largest local services marketing plaftorm, is Anisha’s second company, but her first in India. The first spark behind Mydala was the realization she had had while still living in the US. Groupon was taking over the country, and Anisha knew from her own experience that the concept of mobile vouchers could be ideal for the Indian markets: she had a hunch that mobile was going to change India as she knew it.
Anisha moved back home to India in 2009. “Mobile opened the Holy Grail in India”, she reminisces. “Mydala’s growth is owed to mobile – it has been one hell of a ride. The first four years were really tough – not quitting was my superpower.” After the initial struggle, Anisha managed to raise an investment from a group of angel investors, and the rest is history: Mydala currently has 38 million subscribers and deals in 600 different cities, 200 out of those they do business in a regular basis. Last year they expanded to their first international market in Dubai. This year, they continue the successful expansion to Thailand and Sri Lanka.
Anisha was right: in the end, introducing mobile vouchers in India turned out to be a roaring success. The journey back to the India may not have been easy (where and when is it ever, though?) but the tech environment in India has added a particular local twist to founding and leading a startup. “India is big on makeshift innovation,” Anisha explains. “If you look at the US, everything is already incredibly developed and organised, whereas entrepreneurs in India are still figuring it all out. But what’s interesting about India is that we skipped desktop [platforms] and went straight to mobile.” Anisha demonstrates that this is not the only example of skipping happening. Indian employees getting into the tech and startup community are skipping generations of progress at once. While naturally occasionally missing her life back in the States, as an entrepreneur, she hasn’t looked back. “It’s the best time to be here! There’s so much going on. Things move with the speed of light here,” she concludes.
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