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Verve People
July 07, 2016

Power Inheritor: Ananya Birla

Text by Huzan Tata. Photograph by Prateek Patel

For spearheading India’s youngest microfinance firm since the tender age of 17

This University of Oxford alumnus has a whole dynasty behind her, but she decided to leverage her business genes, by starting her own firm instead. Neerja and Kumar Mangalam Birla’s daughter Ananya Birla founded her company in her late teens, and today it’s gaining traction as one of India’s best start-up ventures to look out for. The young adult, who recently initiated the Mpower Movement with her mother — that brings to light mental health issues — is using her legacy to drive change.

I was being homeschooled for my A Levels when I decided to embark on a passionate journey. For me, the most exhilarating part of a start-up is to see an idea take life. Business acumen, the ability to overcome difficulties and achieve success in a business set-up is exciting, no more so than when you start something new.”

I think there is a huge opportunity to create new services for people who do not have access to them, in a country where close to three quarters of the people live in villages. I love challenges and strongly believe that the key is to change people’s perspectives on relevant matters. We want to have pre-eminent microfinance offers, and are working on technology and innovation. We want to broaden our base from financing entrepreneurs in villages to people who need working capital across the country.”

I’m really happy I made the decision to set up a company at 17 — I can look back now and say that I have a successful business in an industry that has the maximum risk potential. When I started, microfinance was blacklisted. Right now, it’s trending. We are all focussed on trying to touch the lives of other people and make them feel valued.”

I’m truly inspired by my family and it’s sometimes tough to think I come from this great line. My dad and I will always be there for each other. We walk hand in hand, but in our unique ways. My family has raised me keeping in mind the most important value in life — selfless love — and I will put in my greatest efforts to keep this growing.”

I hope to be fearless in the pursuit of happiness — I want a future in which I can rewind and know that I have made the most of each day. The only way to achieve success, in any measure, is by working for all the right reasons. Being genuine and imbibing all the right values is imperative. My youth has both helped and hindered me. Being young makes me restless, but it’s also enabled me to think with a clean slate, develop new ideas, be fearless, and channel my creative energy and innovate.”

Someone who really inspires me is Oprah Winfrey. But my granddad is definitely on top of my influencers list — the fact that he was the first Indian entrepreneur to go global; he started breaking barriers a long time ago. People who were close to my granddad didn’t associate him only with being one of the brightest entrepreneurs, but also appreciated his pure heart. He genuinely touched people’s lives, and for me that is real achievement.”

I like to travel whenever I can — especially when it gets you out of your comfort zone. I also love to play the guitar and santoor, compose music and write lyrics. I like listening to music that resonates with the soul. It’s important to keep questioning yourself. Stay in tune with your purpose, show gratitude and be your biggest critic. I really believe in the power of love — it’s the only thing that can break down a man’s ego. To be able to do that can really take you places. I believe love can create magic.”

Read about our next power women, Divya Suri and Deeksha Suri.

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