One of our most anticipated shoots, we knew instinctively, was going to be replete with a lot of youthful vibe despite the location (which is popularly said to be one of the most haunted places of Mumbai) and we couldn’t have been more right. Ananya Birla and her youthful entourage totally justified the theme of our issue. The banter, Ananya’s quirky yet honest responses to our questions and her being a total pro at striking just the right poses all made for a great shoot.
And finally, Ananya was everything she stands for – humble, charming, gentle and genuine, and we were in awe. As we caught her in between shots, she bared her thoughts showing us why she is not just her father’s daughter but her own unique identity that’s ready to propel the Birla legacy to greater heights.
Ex: “What’s in a surname?” Tell us about the stress that comes with being a Birla.
Ananya Birla: I see myself as a girl following her passions and pursuing her vision. I feel very blessed for the emotional strength parents, siblings, grandparents lend. My biggest challenge is to live up to my own expectations which, at times, can be stressful.
Ex: You can’t take the Birla out of Ananya – is it so? Or the other way?
AB: I would like to believe that both complement each other to distinctly make me who I am today.
Ex: From Businesswoman to Popstar – what’s the transition about and why?
AB: I don’t see it as a transition. It is just a parallel career path that I have taken up. I have always been composing my own music and at one point decided that I wanted to share it with the world. Soon after, I started to pitch my work to music labels and in due time, eventually after the struggle, saw acceptance at Universal Music Group – India.
Ex: Does your childhood dream and present reality match when career is concerned?
AB: Yes absolutely! I always wanted to be a singer-songwriter, but always doubted myself. As soon as I was able to break out of those shackles and become more self-aware, it all started to fall into place.
Ex: Tell us something about Svatantra and MPower.
AB: Svatantra is a Microfinance company, a mini lending-bank of sorts. I started Svatantra when I was 17, so I am very emotionally attached to it. We lend loans to women in rural and semi-urban areas in India to financially support their businesses. In a sense, being an entrepreneur myself, I wanted to fund rural entrepreneurs given the vast potential and confidence these women have.
Svatantra means ‘freedom’ in Hindi and the organization is one of the fastest-growing microfinance organizations today in India. The key aim is to encourage entrepreneurship, self-sufficiency, and financial literacy and inclusion.
While studying at university in England, I interacted with people about my own age who were suffering from anxiety and depression. The experience stirred something familiar in me. In fact, when someone breaks a leg or has a surgery, they get flowers and get well soon cards. But to someone who suffers from mental health related illness, the empathy is sporadic just because they don’t see an actual wound!
I co-founded MpowerMinds as it is a cause very close to my heart, to increase public awareness about mental health and diffuse the social stigma associated with those suffering quietly. At the Mpower center, we let people know that they are not alone and offer a range of confidential services including therapy and psychiatric help.
Ex: What are the other business ideas that Ananya is brewing up in the days ahead?
AB: At present, creating music is my main aim and personal focus. However, we have many leaders in our team and together, we are working on a few other ventures as well. You will hear about this soon enough. They all have a larger vision of creating a positive impact and I hope that as a community, it enables conversations and sees participation on various levels.
AB: This is a very tough question as I fancy both the facets in different ways. The business woman keeps my mind going. However, I think being able to create music for myself and the world is probably closer to my soul. I see them both cross pollinating eventually and thus the time I invest would be prioritized as such. Having said that, presently I am investing more of my time in music.
AB: I had a phase in my life while studying at Oxford where at times I wasn’t able to get out of my cottage. There was a lot brewing inside me then, which at times saw an outlet in composing and writing my music. That time, feeling stifled was probably one of the lowest I have been. Even though there have been speed bumps after the launch of my music career, I have had my highest highs during this journey. I would say peaking on #11 on Shaazam was one of them. Being the first Indian to have DJ Afrojack’s remix of Livin’ the Life being backed by PM:AM – one of the largest dance labels in the world – was another one. I find making history, however small or large that maybe, quite contagious.
AB: A larger vision; a wish to impact people’s lives through my work is what keeps me inspired. If you ask of a person, it will have to be my grandfather.
AB: Only in a positive way. Retrospectively, if I wasn’t 17 when I had started my first company, I would not have made certain decisions that have led up to it being successful today. Having more experience under my belt now, I have learnt a lot from my mistakes and my achievements. I am now in a position where I stand strong and plough my knowledge to excel further in all my other ventures.
AB: Spreading love and seeing people smile. I question whether true altruism exists, however having pure intentions is all that matters. Enjoying everything I do, making the best of every moment that we have been offered, is also what Livin’ the Life means to me.Ex: Ananya Birla – give us the unknown story.
AB: I am an explorer, a writer, a singer and just a girl who believes in following her dreams and wishing to make a change in this world. At the end of our time here, we are all just stories and I would like mine to make an interesting read. I love the energy each new day brings.
Some days are spent in board rooms leading strategy, other days are more creative and spent ideating on music. Mostly all my hours are hi-performance driven and crazy but it is that energy that I enjoy. With all that goes on through the week, I try and take a break and choose to be lazy on Sundays. These are spent in bed with my comfortable blanky, reading a book and fighting for space with Skai, my Yorkshire Terrier.Ex: How do you keep a balance between business, music and personal life?
AB: I don’t. I am learning to. I don’t truly see it as ‘work’, reason being both the businesses and my music have become a part of my lifestyle. Where my personal life is concerned, I am lucky to have found friendships within my core team itself. Outside of this, my circle is very close knit, very supportive, always there for me and very understanding.Ex: What is the impact of social media?
AB: I think anything powerful has both boons and banes. Where social media is concerned, I think one must be absolutely honest and authentic to themselves. That is how I choose to run my social media handles as well. I think it is a great platform, and if used correctly to voice our thoughts and opinions, we can bring about a collective positive change to make the world a better place.Ex: Your take on relationships.
AB: Always be yourself. Don’t compromise on who you are.
Ex: What kind of boys would you like to go out with?
AB: Blonde hair, blue eyes…haha! On a serious note, someone who I connect with on a spiritual level is important to me.
Ex: Quote that gets you motivated.
AB: ‘Fall down for 7, Stand Up 8’ and ‘Try your best and leave the rest to God.’
Ex: Any closing thoughts or positive vibes for our readers?
AB: Wake up in the morning and seize each day. Believe in yourself no matter what anyone says because they don’t know the entirety of your life and story – let’s not judge. If you have the right values, work hard, be self-reliant and self-aware, you can do and achieve anything you set out to do no matter what the circumstance.
ANANYA BIRLA – UP AND CLOSE
Boring answer but it has to be my iPod
Torn Boyfriend jeans, White shirt and Havaianas. I need to be comfortable when not at events or the red carpet.
Rap and mainstream pop. Acoustic renditions always touch my soul.
2) Music idols:
Eminem and Kurt Cobain
3) You would tag him on a #ManCrushMonday:
Zac Efron. Honestly though, I think I have a new man crush everyday.
4) Your guilty pleasure:
I chew way too much gum to the point that my jaws start hurting.
5) Food item you hate the most:
6) One gadget you have your eyes on:
7) New Year resolution for 2017:
To be less critical of myself.
8) One thing on your Bucket list:
I want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for Mpower.