Ananya Birla, Founder & CEO, CuroCarte, talks to Neeta Nair about her new venture, business, life and challenges
She is 22, ambitious, composed and has the word ‘Conquer’ tattooed across her arm. Ananya Birla, the daughter of industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla, carries a heavy surname but isn’t bogged down by its weight. In fact, she juggles two business ventures of her own. She started Svatantra, a microfinance institution to help rural entrepreneurs, in 2013, and recently set foot into the world of e-commerce, connecting high profile customers with premium home accessories and décor items curated from across the world through CuroCarte. Here are excerpts from the conversation with IMPACT:
Q] Your ventures, Svatantra and CuroCarte, target people from two extreme ends of society. Did you plan it that way, to be able to touch both ends of the spectrum?
I honestly didn’t plan that out, it just happened to be that way. I feel very strongly about both the ventures, because each idea is capable of having an impact in its own way. I genuinely focus on the vision that each company has; in fact, I am very passionate about start-ups. Also, as a human being, I feel I have a larger purpose which I want to take forward and these two business ideas fit very well with that.
Q] What is CuroCarte and how differently are you going to market it?
CuroCarte is an e-commerce platform which will bring inaccessible aesthetically appealing products from all around the world to the people in India and to a global audience. It’s a B2C primarily, but has a B2B line as well. We have got a huge digital marketing plan in place in addition to outdoor marketing and are also focusing on adverts. Eventually, we would like to tap Television too.
Q] You have a board in your office which says ‘e’ in e-commerce doesn’t stand for ‘easy’, yet you added to the challenge by entering the market at a time when it is witnessing stagnation. Why?
Yes, it is true, but we are doing things very differently by following an inventory-based model and having a B2B line. Also, our platform is not restricted to India; it is global. We are not typically following the marketplace model, we are not just aggregators but have our own label. We are different. All that and many more things that we plan to do, will hopefully set us apart and change the dynamics as well.
Q] Tell us about your very first business venture…
Few people know about this… I was 16 when I started my first venture. It was called ‘Piper’, where we were using Raspberry Pi, a micro computer invented in Cambridge, to put together a laptop for young children. It’s not like it didn’t work out, the team was trying to move to Silicon Valley and I took a conscious decision to stay back in India because I wanted to do various other things. Later, when I turned 17, I started Svatantra.
Q] Does coming from a powerful family make it easier for you to deal with setbacks?
The way I think of it is that I am a daughter, a sister and a friend like any other individual who has started a business. Obviously, I feel very blessed to have such genuine people around me who understand and support me in everything I do and give me so much love. I do have a legacy which makes me feel blessed, privileged and proud in a good way. Hopefully, I will be able to do justice to my parents, my family, my team and my best friends.
Q] Your father is a very successful businessman who took over the reins of the Birla conglomerate at a very young age. Is there family pressure on you to succeed?
No, I don’t think so. Everyone goes through pressure of different sorts, like getting a student loan for doing an MBA. You have to accept it and move forward. My parents have brought me up in a way that I follow my dream, my passion and with the philosophy ‘Try your best and leave the rest to God’. When you have that attitude, to let go after a point and detach yourself, things get much easier.