Young and Feisty


Being born into an illustrious business family — her father Kumar Mangalam Birla runs the $41 billion Aditya Birla Group and mother Neerja Birla is a scion of the Kasliwal family — did not decide Ananya Birla’s career. She was always granted the room to find her own calling.

“I realised I had a lot more than many others. I consider myself quite fortunate to be in this position,” she says. So, at 17, she went up to her mother saying she wanted to start Svatantra Microfinance. “It was then that the microfinance crisis was at its peak in Andhra Pradesh,” says Ananya, now 24. She was at the University of Oxford studying economics and management, so she would wake up at 6 am and spend about half an hour jogging or at the gym before getting on a Skype call with the team in India. “It was not easy, but I think I was quite determined and that helped,” she says.

Svatantra, with a seed funding of 5 crore, has so far disbursed Rs.500 crore across one lakh borrowers in five states — Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. In all, there are 90 branches. Svatantra offers financial assistance to women entrepreneurs in areas with limited access to finance. Her initial success with Svatantra gave her the confidence to sink her teeth into the e-commerce business, one she had been tracking for a while. With initial funding of Rs.6 crore, Ananya sourced handmade products from nine countries.

According to her, it is the potential of a small idea that can be transformational. “The fact is every large business, that one sees today, was once a start-up,” she says

Svatantra, with seed funding of 5 crore, has so far disbursed Rs.500 crore across one lakh borrowers in five states — Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. In all, there are 90 branches. Svatantra offers financial assistance to women entrepreneurs in areas with limited access to finance.

Her initial success with Svatantra gave her the confidence to sink her teeth into the e-commerce business, one she had been tracking for a while. With initial funding of Rs.6 crore, Ananya sourced handmade products from nine countries.

According to her, it is the potential of a small idea that can be transformational. “The fact is every large business, that one sees today, was once a start-up,” she says

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