“I’m not Anu Acharya, a well known female entrepreneur. I’m Anu Acharya, a well known entrepreneur.” One of the many quips by the lady herself. Anu Acharya, the CEO of Mapmygenome, is cool, composed, and articulate, with a side of quirky. Born in Bikaner, Rajasthan, Anu grew up on the campus of IIT Kharagpur. A lot of who she is today she attributes to her being raised on that campus by her academic family.
So, how was Anu, the little girl?
I grew up on a campus; reading and playing. The beauty of that era was that we did not need anything. We had no TV and never thought about gadgets. We had access to the biggest library in town and an open campus. It was this upbringing that taught me to be independent and ask questions. More importantly never to shy away from a learning opportunity.
How did Ocimum Biosolutions happen?
Together with my husband and a friend, we founded Ocimum Biosolutions, an integrated global genomics partner, in 2000. I found the science intellectually stimulating and there was very little information available about genomics back then, a search would yield all of three results. Also, for me starting a business was never about doing something for the sake of it, or for making a livelihood. It was, and still is, about pushing boundaries. Ocimum went on to achieve some success, and we realised technology was becoming more customer centric. This is when we branched out to start Mapmygenome.
Along the way have you seen and experienced any form of gender bias. What about other battles?
Today, it is much more acceptable to have women bosses and I feel India does not have such a strong gender bias when it comes to the educated and the business ecosystem. (Here I ask her if she had to behave a certain way) I will always be myself, no matter the situation. If I pretend to be something I’m not, it’ll show in some way or the other. Business relationships like personal ones can be life long, or long enough for to want to start on the right note. Always be yourself. But let’s also be clear, that just because it was easy for me, does not mean it’ll be easier for you. I don’t believe in complaining. The best thing you can do for yourself is to accept the fact that certain conditions exist, understand why they exist and then see how you can convert them into opportunities. Work within the system to improve it. Remember, you can’t solve everything so find what you fight for and fight; make things easier for the next generation.
A word of advice for Hyderabad and its entrepreneurs?
The last few years have been very exciting for Hyderabad, with a number of startups and companies coming up. Personally, I would like to see more innovative startups and not just clones of existing products and companies. Also, FinTech I think is the happening vertical right now.
Deeply love what you do, that is the only thing that’ll sustain you.
How about some advice for women?
Be aware and make sure you’ve been given all your choices before you exercise one. It’s easy to get carried away with what other people expects you to do, or how society expects to you live. And if this is truly how you want to, then go ahead. But being aware of your choices is very important. Try asking yourself a couple of questions: If I had all the money in the world what would I do? If I have had all the freedom in the world, what would I do? And the biggest one: Are you happy? People usually answer that last one correct.
Do you still read? If yes, what are you currently reading?
I will always find the time to read. The day you stop reading, you will stagnate. These days my favorite is Yuval Harari and his books: Sapiens and Homo Deus. I would really recommend reading them.
Here is a tidbit: Anu writes quirky short poems that rhyme! And, she’s published a bunch of them in a book! Atomic Pohe is the name. And, no it’s not the breakfast item ‘Pohe’ although that’s what I thought it was. Pohe – Poems and Dohe. She’s also writing another one, a more serious one about predictive sciences called ‘Actng God’; waiting for that one, Anu!