Moving From Microfinance To Music - Ananya Birla

Entrepreneurship runs in her blood, owing to this, Ananya couldn't resist and started out at the age of 17.

learn more about Punita Sabharwal

By Punita Sabharwal • Feb 9, 2017

Entrepreneur India

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They are the 35 boldest entrepreneurs of India who are changing the game in various industries and together they represent the optimism, inventiveness, and boldness of India's millennial entrepreneurs. They have not just questioned the conventional wisdom but answered it with their fiery and risky business undertakings. They have inspired every young Indian to not shy away from breaking the status quo, rewriting the rules and transforming the world.

Entrepreneur Magazine is glad to present Ananya Birla, Founder, Svatantra Microfin who made it to our 35 under 35 special.

For Ananya, setting up things on her own has been the call. Putting behind her surname, she is the daughter of India's leading industrialist, Kumar Mangalam Birla, she set out on her own.

Entrepreneurship runs in her blood, owing to this, Ananya couldn't resist and started out at the age of 17. Even while studying at Oxford, she dabbled in a venture to teach kids how to code. From coding, Anaya went on to start Svatantra in 2012. Svatantra is a new age microfinance, which leverages technology to make 100 per cent cashless disbursements, enabling rural women to join the financial mainstream.

In the last three years, Svatantra has grown from six branches to 82 branches, from 8,000 clients to 1.60 lakh clients, from Rs 8 crore to Rs 230 crore of a loan portfolio. In human capital, it grew from 30 employees in 2012 to 700+ employees at present.

Talking about the culture at Svatantra, Ananya shares, "Although, we are officially a medium sized MFI; we will always be a startup, at heart." Svatantra leveraged the business adequately to an extent of close to Rs. 200 crore through a mix of public and private sector banks, NBFCs etc. It is currently evaluating on bringing social impact investors on board.

Delving on the difficult times she faced as a start-up, Ananya says, "I would have to say that my belief and call to go cashless and provide one of the lowest interest rates in the network at a time when everyone else was charging a drastically higher one, was a hard decision to convince the naysayers and decision makers at the start." The company has achieved break-even in its operations on monthly basis; however, on annual basis the company will achieve the PBT positive in FY18.

Eventually the aim is to transform into a small financial bank. One might not confine the young girl's achievement with just Svatantra. As the business progressed, and functioned autonomously, Ananya moved ahead from overseeing the day-to-day management and delegation to concentrate on her new ventures that now needed her complete attention like music and CuroCarte.

With CuroCarte, Ananya ventured into luxury e-commerce providing rare, handmade, high quality, high end,luxury products, curated currently from nine countries. On music front, Anaya recently went on to launch her own album with Universal.

(This article was first published in the February issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)

Punita Sabharwal

Deputy Editor, Entrepreneur India Magazine

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