The mydala journey
Focus on challenging yourself and racing against yourself
I grew up in a joint family in Delhi with a slew of cousins, so it was kind of like growing up in a boarding house. I was the only girl in the family who went to the US to study alongside all the guys in the family. I wasn’t particularly ambitious or focused, unlike people who know exactly what they want to be. I was still figuring out what I was good at or what I enjoyed. I think studying there and the mentors I had during that time helped in shaping what I do today.
One of my internships was at a company in Washington DC that was run by a woman named Julie Holdren. Looking at her lead this amazing start-up of about 400 people— I knew that I wanted to be like her someday. I also worked with the Clinton Administration helping women entrepreneurs raise funding. Hearing some of them talk and how they succeeded against the odds hooked me! I wanted to be one of those women.
When I came back to India to set up my own business in 2009, I was also expecting at that time and people used to joke that I was having two babies around the same time! Contrary to what it looks like now, the beginning years at mydala were definitely not a cake walk. Raising money while being pregnant also received interesting reactions—for lack of a better word. For the longest time mydala shared its office space with a dental clinic and because we had a shortage of space we would often hold our meetings in the clinic.
It’s amusing now to think about it but it definitely wasn’t fun explaining to prospective candidates (who we desperately needed) why we were interviewing them in a clinic or why they should believe that we would be a ‘real’ company someday. This was a fairly new space in the Indian scenario and getting people and convincing them to use a new service also had its own set of challenges, but it’s been fun. Because of these hard times, I ended up with the core team of mydala, which is together till date and which is the driving force at this company. Overall, we are a bunch of optimists or crazy, driven people (depends on how you look at it) who believed that mydala would be big someday and that is what made us innovate constantly and not give up, especially when times were rough. It’s been a fantastic journey and I’m glad that my founding team is still intact.
We’ve been really lucky to have a team that shares our vision and passion for mydala. We have a very open work culture, my door is always open and anybody can walk in and share their ideas with me. We regularly have one-on-one team huddles to figure out and address any confusions, questions or concerns. At one point in time, in our vertical, there were over 48 players and we were not even in the top five funded players, but we kept doing what we did and found ways to do them better than the rest. We built our user base with alliances since we didn’t have the money to advertise heavily. Fast forward to now where we’re the largest couponing player and most of the players that did exist, including the well-funded ones, have either closed or pivoted.
I’m often asked what it’s like to be a woman entrepreneur. I think there has been no better time to be one. There is a buzz around entrepreneurship today, especially anything related to technology. And our gender in general, particularly in India, needs more role models in every field. I believe most great leaders have to possess the trait of individuality to become a leader. You have to have some vision and determination to go against all the doubt and critics.
For women, it usually tends to be self-doubt and hesitation that turn out to be our biggest pitfalls. Everyone has the occasional not-sopleasant experience with a subordinate or a colleague that might turn out to be gender-related, but it’s really mind over matter. As long as you stand your ground and are strong, you’ll be fine. The world, and most certainly India, need more women role models for future generations. It’s only when our daughters hear of more women entrepreneurs will they think it’s the norm rather than the exception.
Overcoming the odds
As an entrepreneur, you tend to get knocked down often and it’s the ability to get up and keep going that makes it fun, and really matters. It’s very important to have a vision, but it’s great if it comes with some perseverance to back it up. The sun has not always been shining on our backs. That made it even better. Being an entrepreneur the second time around, I’ve understood that every business has its ups and downs, and we just have to keep going with the flow.
My tips for aspiring entrepreneurs — don’t try to do everything that others are doing, simply because it’s the flavour of the month. Find your niche and keep at it. Focus on challenging yourself and racing against yourself. It’s the only thing that matters in the long run. I love my work, this company, and can’t imagine myself doing anything else.