We interview Anisha Singh, one of India’s most successful female entrepreneurs

We caught up with the truly inspiring entrepreneur, Anisha Singh, Founder and CEO at mydala.com, to find out her views on the current entrepreneurial ecosystem of India, her experience working as a female entrepreneur in a predominantly male dominated industry and being based in one of the largest and fastest growing economies in the world.

Anisha was due to take part in a Fireside Chat during 4YFN at Mobile World Congress Shanghai in June this year, however, due to unforeseen circumstances, Anisha had to return to India at short notice. We were extremely sad to hear the news as we were really looking forward to hearing her story on stage, however she kindly agreed to take part in an interview after the event, which we are most thankful for. What an amazing woman she is! This is her story….

 

MYDALA.COM: Tell us a bit about you and Mydala.com. How and why did you decide to create it? How does it sit within the entrepreneurial ecosystem of India today?

We started Mydala in 2009 when the internet space had yet to really take off in India. Plugging in our savings along with my co-founders, we built a small popular internet company based out of Delhi, which received angel funding in December 2009.

By 2010, Mydala had 3 term sheets and so we decided to go with the investor that we thought was right. After 3 months of diligence, the investor rescinded the term sheet a week before it was meant to be signed off. To say we were devastated would be an understatement. Mydala was left with more people than it could afford on its payroll, along with 52 competitors, 7 of which were heavily funded, including the global heavy weight Groupon and Snapdeal.

Everyone assumed that Mydala’s obituary was written and that by 2011, we would be a ‘has been,’ but fortunately we had enough grit to persevere and refused to call it a day unlike most of the internet companies. With limited funding money, we knew we would be baked if we didn’t find a way to run Mydala sustainably, making money and actually working towards building a profit as opposed to always being on the lookout for funding.

We looked at ways to grow organically and with alliances, rather than spending marketing dollars which would not justify the return. One of our big wins was tying up with a telecoms company to offer a payment channel to launch mobile coupons across 96 cities. Being mobile made it easier and the payment methods took Mydala to a different growth trajectory. It enabled us to leverage mobile heavily with 85% of transactions coming from a mobile, of which 45% came from tier 2 and tier 3 cities.

In 2015, Mydala emerged as the largest local services marketing platform because of its consistent data analytics matching the right users to the right merchants. In 2016, we launched in Dubai and we are now in the process of launching in Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

Today Mydala has scaled to 38 million registered users, 50 million monthly visitors across 209 cities in India. It has helped over 150,000 small and medium sized businesses market themselves on mobile and internet and connect with relevant targeted users. We have been profitable for the last 3 years. We see ourselves growing in the next 3 years across Asia and globally.

 

INDIAN/ASIAN ECOSYSTEM: Tell us a bit about the entrepreneurial ecosystem in India and its position within the Asian entrepreneurship ecosystem. Are there particular sectors booming in India? And what areas are currently emerging?

The entrepreneurial ecosystem in India is very similar to what China was about 5 years ago. There has been a sudden boom in entrepreneurship. It’s evolved from being very “uncool” to the only thing that most of the youth wants to do these days. If we go by statistics, India is the third largest startup base in the world. However, it’s not all La La Land. In the last couple of years we’ve seen a lot of startups failing as well. There has been a market correction on valuations and VCs are being cautious about investing in what was once the Holy Grail, also known as e-commerce. All this is good because it means that the money now flows to other ground breaking technologies and models that are more cutting-edge. The government is also encouraging startups and entrepreneurship through several initiatives.

 

FIRESITE CHAT: Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, you were not able to join the fireside chat during 4YFN Mobile World Congress Shanghai, can you give us a bit of info on what you would have discussed, had you been part of the chat.

I agreed to be a part of the 4YFN session because it was the perfect opportunity to discuss two things that really matter to me and this was the perfect interactive environment for me to do so.

I am passionate about – the startup ecosystem in India and globally, especially women entrepreneurship. We hear of all the noise in the market and have been asked several times if we are worried that the internet funding space is having a shake out. To us, who have always been looking from the outside in, it just feels like the party has finally moved outside. Investors are now asking questions about sustainable business models, something we have been harping on about for a while.

As one of the very few women entrepreneurs in the dotcom space in India, I’m also working on a programme that encourages women entrepreneurs to expand and grow their businesses. It’s my vision to make women entrepreneurs the “norm” rather than the exception. It would be really interesting to discuss this with new-age entrepreneurs and investors with a global perspective. It’s very important to get women entrepreneurs who are role models and have made it, to become active and who want to give something back.

The second thing I wanted to share was the success of a startup is not a trend, but grit and perseverance. These days AR/VR and AI seem to be in the spot light. Five years ago, e-commerce was the cool kid in town – trends come and go. It’s about solving a big problem and it could be just simplifying how something is done and that’s what you need to work on.

I wanted to be a part of 4YFN because honestly, this is where the excitement is. I was very curious to know what are the new ideas and themes that people are working on. The global character of 4YFN is also something that got me interested. An event like this – which creates inroads and new channels for fostering innovation even across international borders, will strengthen the startup ecosystem and I’m happy to be a part of it.

 

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