Priyanka & Anshulika - Diligent Determined & Driven Women Share Their Stories #RealWomenRealStories
Priyanka Agarwal and Anshulika Dubey, the founders of Wishberry - a crowdfunding start up, share their stories. Read on to know more. How did the idea of Wishberry strike you? Wishberry was originally founded by Priyanka Agarwal in 2009 as a bridal registry website, but became an online charity fundraising platform by 2011. The idea of crowdfunding came about when her ex-McKinsey colleague Anshulika Dubey discussed with Agarwal the prospect of running a crowdfunding platform for the creative sector. At that time, Dubey was working on a McKinsey report on social media and crowdfunding, where she learnt about the concept and successes it had in the West. Agarwal then convinced Anshulika to leave her job and join her to lead creative crowdfunding within Wishberry, while she decided to continue focusing on charity fundraising. The two founders spent 2012 researching whether to focus on the creative or social sector or both. They tested these two models on their beta product. During mid-2013, they decided to only focus on the creative sector & modied their technology and branding accordingly. What, if any, were the obstacles that you faced? The main challenge faced was during the seed round. It was difficult to sell the idea to investors because it's a new industry globally (crowdfunding is barely a decade old industry across the globe). The concept that Wishberry worked on was unproven, and the scale of crowdfunding for creative projects is not the same as conventional ecommerce startups. However, there's more impact and profitability in crowdfunding. Wishberry isn't the run of the mill unicorn company. So a major task was to find people who were as excited about the project. Another challenge the co-founders faced was the bias against female entrepreneurs. There's this common notion across the industry that women don't make great entrepreneurs due to juggling too many priorities such as marriage, kids, household chores etc. They may not be able to focus on their career as much, let alone lead it. Shattering this glass ceiling has been one hell of a task. Was there any point where you questioned yourself in this venture? In our early days, Vasuda Sharma was crowdfunding for her album with us and was raising Rs. 5 lakhs. She was the perfect campaigner great personality, great idea and really talented! But halfway through her campaign, she managed to raise only 50% of her campaign and by this time she had exhausted her personal networks completely. It was this moment that made us question ourselves - if a campaigner like Vasuda could be facing such a problem, is India even ready to move away from philanthropy and towards funding the arts sector. As a solution, Anshulika suggested Vasuda to tweet to celebrity musicians about her project. She tweeted to Shankar Mahadevan, who retweeted her. This was seen by Vishal Dadlani, who took an interest in her project and funded half a lakh! From there one, it just snowballed. She managed to surpass her target thanks to a bunch of complete strangers who just loved her work! Can you share a moment when you thought all this was worth it? Just seeing that more than half of Vasudas backers didnt even know her personally, reinforced our faith in the idea! Indians are known for their philanthropy and immediate inclination towards charity causes. But to see them fund the arts was an absolutely new discovery. This added with how many people it proved wrong, was overwhelming and made the whole thing completely worth it. From your personal learning what would be the one advice you would give to aspiring women/young entrepreneurs? According to Priyanka, the key is to start early. Entrepreneurship in India is not easy, neither is it quick like it is in the US. The eco-system here is tricky you have to understand the consumers and the product market fit. Starting early gives you enough of a window to try, try and finally succeed, without risking your biological clock ticking away. If women entrepreneurs want to also get married on time, then starting early gives them the chance to succeed at their venture completely and step into marriage with the complete clarity for all involved, that your business is important to you too. This is needed, so that people respect the fact that you are highly committed to your business. Adding to this, Anshulika advises to, Prioritize your goals and be very clear about what you want. Be prepared to work hard non-stop. A lot of people want to have it all at the same time, but that's never possible. Also remember, work life balance is not possible on a daily basis, but maybe on a lifelong basis, where you focus on work for 10 years straight and then focus on yourself and your family in the next 10 years. Both of you left the comfort of a corporate job to enter a venture full of the unknown and risk, what gave you the courage to make the move? When Priyanka was at the University of Pennsylvania, she started her own nanotech company, but couldn't work for it because it was a startup and startups in the US can't sponsor immigrants. As a result, she joined corporate giant, McKinsey. Two years later, the company she started raised its Series A funding. It was in this moment that she realized she was completely capable of making a successful venture. Realizing her entrepreneurial abilities, she simply said Screw it, let's do it!, quit her job and started her own venture. Anshulika, on the other hand, was extremely passionate about the idea of crowdfunding for the creative sector. This, in itself, gave her the courage to pursue it further and see if it worked in India. Add to that the fact that Priyanka was a fellow McKinsey alum who was already doing something similar in India, it was easier to trust and partner up with her. Also, by this time Wishberry had already raised a small amount of funding from the founder of Carat Lane. So, all of this just came together for Anshulika and gave her the confidence to drop everything and make Wishberry happen. For years, women have been expected to match everyone's idea of perfection, any flaws or failures aren't accepted, we at BBLUNT believe in imperfection and being who you are, what are your views on it? Priyanka has always believed that you can't be a successful entrepreneur if you're not comfortable in your own skin and don't love what you do. It's all about being who you truly are. According to Anshulika, imperfection is okay. Women should stop trying to have it all, and try to fit into society's absolute ideas of female perfection. There's no need for women to feel guilty about what they can't have or for not having it all. Name one of the most fun/different projects on Wishberry? Being a crowdfunding platform solely and exclusively for creative projects has given us the good fortune of coming across some unbelievably wonderful projects! Some of them are: Loveability (now called Inclov) the world's first matchmaking app for the differently abled also started by a 23-year old woman! Gaysi Queer Graphic Anthology a first of its kind stunning graphic anthology celebrating queer art and culture in India. Puppy Love a Tinder for puppies! Punyakoti India's first ever Sanskrit animated film based on a South Indian folksong. If you could have a do-over what would you do differently? As an entrepreneur, Priyanka believes that if she could go back and do something differently, she would iterate quicker. In four years, Wishberry has gone from a wedding registry website to a charity fundraising platform to an open for all platform to Wishberry in its present. In hindsight, she'd learn from insights of consumer behaviour sooner so it would have taken her lesser time to get where she is now.