Though her surname could get her anywhere, Ananya Birla doesn’t wish to fall back on it and instead is building her own legacy. At 22, Ananya is many things; intelligent, passionate, with a sharp entrepreneurial mind, and forging her way into a music career, a dream she nursed while studying at college. Daughter of business tycoon Kumar Mangalam Birla and Neerja Birla, Ananya is determined to rise above the pack, follow her heart and make a difference. VERUS FERREIRA met up with Ananya who shared her life story and dreams.
You have a rather hefty lineage to live up to with your family name. Branching out into music you seem to have done what rules your heart leaving tradition behind.
Following one’s dream has always been part of my family’s lineage, so I would be taking it forward not only with music but with my businesses as well. I hope I can make my parents proud and eventually the entire country proud of me.
What were your teen days like? Did you have the freedom to do what you wanted?
I remember when I was about 13-16 years I had a deadline to come home by 10 pm, which I followed very diligently, I must say. At present too, my parents have given me all the freedom in the world, which I truly respect and try to use in the best way possible. Other than that, my childhood was filled with many different things. My mother made me do many different activities all the time. My days were very packed and therefore, even now I am used to keeping my schedules very tight and busy. As a teenager at Oxford (University) studying Economics, I learned a lot about life, had a lot of fun and met some really good people. I have made many friends from all around the world. Overall, it has been a great journey so far.
Why did you opt for home-schooling over regular school?
There were a couple of reasons, one being that I did not understand the schooling systems at all. I felt like there was a lot of wastage of time during the class, so I dropped out. With home schooling, I was actually completing one whole school day in about less than 4 hours; which normally would take around 7-8 hours at school. Also, I wanted to invest some more time in my entrepreneurial journey which started with Svatantra.
What is Svatantra all about? What was the purpose and the goal you were looking for in this?
The basic purpose was to reach out to as many people as possible. I am a woman entrepreneur and I wanted to address two situations; one of financial inclusion and the other was to support other women entrepreneurs in rural India, which fits in my mission of financial inclusion. My actual goal is for Svatantra to become a universal bank. And currently where we stand, the next step from being a microfinance company is to become a small financial bank.
You also started another venture MPower. Tell us something about it.
MPower is a venture which aims at creating awareness about mental health and alleviating the stigma around it. Basically, it educates everyone about what mental health means, and why it is so important. It emphasizes the importance of taking care of your mind as much as your body. The idea behind it sprang with certain experiences in my life at Oxford. There was a helpline which I was a part of; I saw people suffering, I saw the stigma around it, which got to me. I felt I had to do something for this cause. The best way to start is in your home country. India has the highest rate of suicides in the world, which hit me hard as well.
How did the decision to take up music come about?
I have always been very passionate about music, and I think eventually I reached a stage where I thought, if something makes me so happy I should make a career out of it. Because what’s better than waking up in the morning and actually following your passion like it is your career?