I’m Anshulika Dubey, Co-Founder of Wishberry, and this is how I Lead from Within
Anshulika Dubey is the co-founder of the crowd funding platform, Wishberry. An ex-McKinsey analyst, she discovered crowd funding while working on a project at McKinsey. It fascinated her so much, she decided to say no to a U.S. job opportunity and flew back to India to pioneer this concept. She believes that crowd funding is a lifeline for all budding creative artists in India. To date, Wishberry has funded over 200 projects and raised over Rs. 4 crores from close to 10,000 funders around the world, 80% of whom have come from India.
My Professional Journey
I’ve always been a very average student. I used to abhor Science and Math because I just couldn’t understand a word of it. I always chose those subjects where I could just kind of do well and didn’t really worry too much about what subject would get me which job. I ended up in Miranda House in English Honors and I absolutely loved that course. In the first year, I thought that I would probably be a journalist, but then eventually I saw the lives of a lot of my seniors who were journalists and realized it was quite a hectic life not to mention a thankless job. At the end of my third year, I was like okay, now what to do because now I have an English Honors degree and I will only get jobs in literary sectors. But, thankfully it was quite a coincidence that McKinsey, who would only hire Science and Commerce students opened itself to Arts students in the year in which I graduated. So, I got an interview with them, and I was among the two people chosen out of the 50 people that went for an interview.
I learned a lot from my McKinsey stint. I was in the research unit of McKinsey for four and a half years. During my third year there, I finally realized that I’m very interested in the social sector – not the social sector that has to do with pure charity and donations but one that creates a tangible social impact.
I joined the social sector practice in McKinsey, and I was asked to work on a study to better understand the social sector and social media, and how the two are interacting with one another. It was at this time that we studied a lot about Kick Starter and IndieGoGo and what struck me was something that I now call philanthropy 2.0, which is that philanthropy need not just be about bleeding causes; it can also be about funding somebody’s dreams, from making a movie to making a music album. Crowd funding kind of struck me and the moment I saw it, I wanted to do it in India.
All this came at a weird juncture in my life. I was supposed to be transferred to the Boston McKinsey office and it was a really tough choice to decide whether to give up on the Indian dream of moving to the U.S. or just remain in India and do what I wanted to. The final push came from my co founder, whom I had discussed this idea with at the time and she said that it’s now or never and I thought let me just take the plunge. I immediately put down my papers after my project with them got over and started Wishberry in April 2012.
On Starting Up
I’ve always believed that the reason why you’re probably not getting into entrepreneurship or doing something on your own is because your idea is not convincing you enough. Once you have an idea that you’re completely convinced of it doesn’t let you sleep, it doesn’t let you focus on your everyday job. It will push you out of the job. That’s what happened with me and I ended up starting Wishberry. April 2012 is when we started and it’s been a very encouraging journey of almost three years now.
We had the usual apprehensions about this business not doing well in India because as a country we always hear Indians are not sensitive towards their fellow Indians, they don’t believe in doing good, that philanthropy is only an American thing. But with crowd funding, all those beliefs have totally been put to rest. We’ve raised more than Rs. 4 Crores for 200 projects from 10,000 funders across the world, and 80 percent of the money has come from India. Even we were quite surprised, and the greatest realization has been that people are, in fact, nicer than you think they are.
On Fear of Failure
I actually don’t understand the word failure. I don’t understand how and what is failing. I always say, relative to what, as compared to what? What is failure? If I don’t succeed with this business, I would have learnt so much that I’m going to get the best job after this anyway. So, I don’t understand why people fear failure. If you start a company and it doesn’t work you would have learned more than a typical MBA today and people will be out there to give you a fantastic job. I don’t know what is there to be worried about.
What I see from my fellow friends is that we calendar our life too much. We give ourselves these goals that I want to do this by 25, I want to have two kids by 35, and I want to retire probably by 45-50. When you start calendaring like that you’re putting unnecessary pressure on yourself. You will not be able to meet all those goals because external circumstances are not in your hands. What if you die tomorrow? You just need to go with the flow and not worry about what will happen because you cannot be certain about everything anyway.
My biggest superpower is that I take full responsibility for my self and my life. I don’t believe in God. I see people pinning all their hopes on God, so if something goes wrong, then it was God’s will, or if something goes right, then you thank God. I like to give credit to myself, my upbringing and my life experiences and whatever I’ve learnt so far. It’s because of me. I have that responsibility to take everything on myself and not just put it on somebody else.
What happens when you know that you control your destiny is you just become fearless because you know you are responsible for the results in your life. You don’t victimize yourself. At the same time, if everything goes right, you cheer yourself up knowing that it’s because of you that this happened, because of your thinking, because of your logical decisions, because of the patterns that you saw. When you start appreciating yourself, you feel a great sense of power and I think I have that.
My Female Heroes
My parents have been extremely supportive. I’ve seen all kinds of gender stereotypes being broken in my house. My mom got married when she was 23. She had me at the age of 25 and then she got divorced. And the reason why she got divorced was because she wasn’t being allowed by my biological father to take up a lot of career choices that she had in front of her and she’s an extremely smart lady, an engineer, and someone who can crack a CAT paper in minutes. She had ambitions of becoming an IAS officer among other things but was not allowed to do any of them by the person she married, so she left him. Right there was one example being set in front of me that you need to stand up for your beliefs and you should not bend to the pressures of family because you are first and foremost a human being. All the responsibility you owe is to yourself first.
My Style of Leadership
Very early on, I realized that the biggest challenge in setting up a business is none of those technical issues but a healthy team. For me, if you get the right people on board it’s a job half done. Then it will work like an automated machine and everything will get done. This is the toughest part because it’s not just about hiring the right people, it’s also about retaining them. I don’t want anyone to do a job just for the sake of it. If I see someone whose productivity is going down at work, I will question the job first, as in is the job getting boring for this person. I really believe that people thrive on challenges and those are the kind of people I want on my team who would push me to give them some challenging work. I don’t want people on board who are just doing a job; they need to love and breath this concept of crowd funding and if they can’t, that’s okay, then basically they haven’t found their calling yet, and I would rather let them go.
The second thing is I’m a very honest and just person. I don’t like lying, and I don’t like people not being honest. We have a lot of flexible policies in terms of taking leaves or just doing what you want to do even if it means not coming to work. You can do whatever you want along with your everyday work. This builds an atmosphere of trust and honesty where people feel like they can really share their issues with you. You’re not like a boss who is cooped up in a room where no one can enter. I like to break those barriers and that is something that I learnt at McKinsey, where there was a very transparent culture and you could just go up to your boss and share your problems. McKinsey also used to spend a lot of time nurturing their talent. That is something that I feel a good leader has to do – not just get the right talent but nurture them because if you can’t grow your own people, your company will definitely not grow.
And the other thing that I am which I get a slight bit of flak for is that I’m extremely logical and I’m not emotional at all. I don’t understand anything that is told to you in a winding manner. If there is something you have to say, just say it as it is, and then I will consider it. I don’t give too much importance to emotions, which works a lot better for us, because there are two women running the company and when two women get together, you know the kinds of stereotypes they can put you in. Both my cofounder and I are very logical people. If I say I did something wrong, we have an honest conversation about it. We do not get into a blame game but will actually say okay, this was the issue, let’s think about how we don’t do this again in the future. We are very solution oriented.
These are some of the things that are helping me live and lead my life the way I want to.
On Fighting Gender Stereotypes
It’s sad but true, we are stereotyped a lot of times. I’ve had some really top venture capitalists telling us that we would trust this business more if there were a man handling it to our faces, and these are people who are graduates from the Harvards and Whartons of the world. So, education really doesn’t play any role in making a person more evolved. It’s just a degree that gets you a job. What’s interesting is that we even once had a woman say this to us. My partner is much more docile than I am so she would sort of tell them off in a nice and sweet way. I would just walk out of the room. I don’t want you on my Board if you think like this.
When you’re raising money you have an image of your perfect investor and the qualities you want in this person. What we need to do is just stand up for those qualities and not compromise on them just because someone’s giving you a hefty sum to run the business. At the end of the day, if he or she doesn’t have those qualities you will make your life hell. All we need to do is just keep looking for those people and not give up because they’re there, they do exist. We were clear on what kind of investors we wanted, and in the end, we found them.
On Leading As A Woman
The difference that I see between men and women entrepreneurs is that women are very nurturing. We have a very balanced approach with colleagues, employees and with people in the business in general in that we want to nurture talent rather than just have them work for us, which is typically the attitude of men. We want people on our team to grow professionally and give the learnings back to the company as opposed to just finishing a job. That is one thing that as women we are good at, and it works.
A Life Well Lived
My business card says, “It’s not about the money, honey.” When I started crowd funding, my goal was to make sure that every artist in this country has a platform where they could raise money for their projects and actually do what they want to do. That was the goal and now if I succeed in my goal, I will make a lot of money and people will know that I did this, but money and fame cannot be my goals.
One thing that defines a life well lived for me is social impact, and the kind of social impact I’m talking about is not feeding a hundred hungry kids in Africa or donating to a charity but what you do to create jobs, what you do to change the game, and what you do to completely disrupt a system. For example, Whatsapp totally disrupted SMS. Like Facebook has become an integral part of our lives today. How did Mark Zuckerberg do this? To make millions of people happy, that’s social impact. A life well lived is where you completely disrupt a system, a status quo.I don’t want to just live and die in anonymity not having made any dent in the world.
My Best Advice to Other Women
I feel women should really just be listening to themselves. That should be rule number one. I think the most basic issue right now is they need to not listen to anybody – not their husbands, not their kids, not their parents, not their in-laws. One thing that a typical Indian household does is confuse the hell out of the woman in the house – just stop listening to these people, and start exerting your own individuality!