From creating a library for pocket money at 7, to founding three flourishing businesses starting at 21: Meet hustler Monisha Advani

As a seven-year-old, she was inspired by Enid Blyton’s characters who did odd jobs to earn their pocket money, and decided to start her own library business too – one that even made her a profit of Rs.2.25 over a month in those days. And she was quick to get her hands dirty in the big bad world of business once again – this time, as a young 21-year-old. She dropped out of her college in the US when she was 19, because she “was insolent enough to think there was nothing in the classroom that cannot be learnt by oneself.”

In 1989, she set up her first business in the student-counseling segment, called Emmay Consultants, which focused on helping students find universities to study abroad. Her work put her on the Persons to Watch For, Asiaweek, in 1993 and got her featured as Savvy Magazine’s Woman of the Month in 1992. Though the business got off to a good start, she had been on a relentless pursuit for new and different avenues. “I was looking for something that had more longevity, and so along with my childhood friend Madhu Bhojwani, I decided to move into the human resources space in 1996,” Advani says.

After going through their fair share of difficulties, the duo was able to procure a loan of Rs.300,000 from the Union Bank of India to set up their first company. They like to call themselves ‘dormant feminists’ who know when to channel their energy and use it correctly.

Being an entrepreneur is no mean feat, but Advani enjoys every bit of it. In April 2009, she took a much-deserved break and began groundwork on her next venture — MyFirstCheque, which they began as an experiment in 2010 with the hope of mentoring and investing in startups. The Bhojwani-Advani partnership has been going quite strong. Today they continue to rule the film industry with Emmay Entertainment, a production company they founded along with her brother, filmmaker Nikkhil Advani in May 2011. Some of their work includes Lucknow Central, Airlift and D-Day. The transition from HR to entertainment was not easy. She believes that when the product you’re doing business in changes, you have to start afresh.

“The glory is short-lived, while failure is permanently etched. You have to be tough, learn to take failure in your stride and move on. Tougher than that, however, is pushing your team to get back on their feet,” she says. While her passion is still the same, ten years down the line, she hopes to own only 10% of Emmay and wishes for the rest of it to be nurtured by the people handling the business currently.

For someone like Advani, who got into business at a very young age, there is no let up in pressure or stress, yet she is far from giving up. The born entrepreneur is an early riser and races the sun, no less. “I try to beat the sun. The day I wake up before the sun rises, I know it’s going to be a great day.”

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