DesiHits! Co-Founder Anjula Acharia-Bath
|This is one of the coolest people you will ever meet. Anj is down to earth, connected and above all - has a vision that cuts through walls.
|by Khalid Ilahi
We were really excited about this interview because its with someone who shares our passion and sincerity for the South Asian scene in North America and beyond. Anjula Acharia-Bath is the CEO and Co-Founder of DesiHits.com, a website that showcases the latest and greatest music and content for the "Urban" Desis across the globe. The website is full of great content and is a testament to the vision of Anjula and her team.
Read on, become inspired and let's support the movement!
Khalid Ilahi: Thanks for doing this interview with us Anjula, tell us more about yourself. How did a pretty lady like yourself end up in the business world? Give us some background on your personal and professional life. Where you grew up, what are your professional credentials, etc.
Anjula Acharia-Bath: Hahaha! Thank you for the compliment DesiClub! I was born and raised in the UK, and I have a degree in Communications and Theatre, I was the only brown person who did Shakespeare in those days! Prior to Desi Hits!, I was in Media/Adverting and Executive Search. I began in creative advertising and moved into working for companies like Universal and Walt Disney Internet group, finding senior folks for their New Media divisions, which is what got me working with ventures in this space and Venture Capitalists.
KI: How do you like life in California as opposed to the UK? What are some of the things you miss or don't miss? What's so great about California?
AAB: I miss the U.K. because the Desi scene there is so integrated into mainstream and taken very seriously, but then that was also the impetus for Desihits.com as there just wasn't a media platform here in the U.S. that artists could leverage to promote their music through radio shows. There is definitely a bigger audience here than in the UK, and I don't miss the UK weather. California is full of opportunity!
"...We set up the iTunes store because we got so much mail from people asking where to buy music..."
KI: You sound like Gov. Schwarzenegger. You've accomplished more so far than most people do in their lifetimes. What do you attritube your success to most? Family? friends? The love of your life? What motivates you to succeed?
AAB: That's very sweet of you to say, thank you! I am not sure if it's entirely true as I think there is so much more from a philanthropic perspective I need to do, all of us actually, bearing in mind where we come from, and the needs of our Desh (land). In terms of what I have accomplished to date... yes, the love of my life who is also my co-founder Ranj and all our family and friends who supported and believed in us have a big role to play in our success. Its just way too many people to mention. I also think that initiative and attitude make a huge difference - if you take initiative to open doors with the right attitude you will often win - that's my story and I'm sticking to it!
KI: So you're not single?!?
AAB: Nahhhhhhhhhh! I've been married for a long time, what can I tell ya', all the best ones are taken!
KI: Now, tell us more about DesiHits! How did you start it? What is the main reason you felt the need to start it?
AAB: Desi Hits! was founded by accident actually, it was really because when we moved to the US we met so many young people that didn't have access to all the Urban Desi music that we took for granted in the UK. There seemed to be a real split - those who were into mainstream hip hop and those into Bollywood - we wanted to spread the word about the fusion music out there. Desihits.com is about "cool Desis" that are into everything, not just Desi music, hence we cover world/trance, hip hop and everything else you would expect to find. We set up an audio podcast which went from 20 downloads to ¼ million in a few months and we are now over a million. We are at the top in popularity on iTunes and the take up has been global with fans from 67 countries. We knew we had something and that we had to get this music out to everyone, not just South Asians. The fusion of Desi and hip hop was explosive and we convinced DJ Arun (Channel V) to join us and host a show (he then became the third co-founder of the company). Before we knew it, Arun had an internet full of screaming girls sending him interesting packages!!! Who said Desi girls are shy?!!! We set up the iTunes store because we got so much mail from people asking where to buy music, especially all the fusion stuff on our podcast shows. It was important for people to legitimately buy and support the artists somewhere consumers could trust. Arun came up with the idea for iTunes, he said it was important to create a place where we could collate real data for artists so they could present it to labels when looking for representation. The problem with the Desi scene is that sales are untracked and unregistered so the mainstream pays little attention to it. Wanna see more in the mainstream? Better than Sanjaya? Go buy it! If we as Desis demonstrate our collective buying power, the mainstream will notice us.
KI: So you obviously established the need for such a website, but how did you go about getting funding for it? Getting a $1 million investment so quickly is a huge achievement. How much did having good relationships in the investment community help you or hurt you?
AAB: Never hurt us at all. Actually, I was working with the VC community and explained the viral traction we were getting to one of our current investors. He continued to follow our progress and then asked me if we wanted money. They wanted to put more in, but we wanted to take only what we needed and then raise the valuation and then take more. Also my mentor who is a valley veteran took us to see some of the biggest players in the music/entertainment world in Hollywood and NYC and all of them validated the need for what we were doing and offered us money. Taking Desi mainstream is our next goal, and the contacts we have through our board of directors are amazing, check them out on our site at desihits.com.
KI: You've definitely started a process here that has been needed for some time. Take us through the process of having this brilliant idea, and then getting the big funding to support it. What happens from start to finish?
AAB: As I mentioned it was kind of an unusual process because I knew everyone and they knew me so they were open to my ideas and it was really a case of them convincing me at that point. One of our investors convinced me that what we had was worth pursuing. In the beginning he saw it before I did!!! But in normal circumstances you have to put a business plan together and go and pitch it to investors. Beware because they get millions of applications so it's helpful to know someone who can make an introduction and vouch for you. They do their due diligence to check everything you are claiming is true and then negotiate a valuation with you and bingo! Paisa in the bank, go spend, wisely that is!
KI: You make it sound so easy Anj, I think I will raise funding for my idea to transport illegal immigrants using ultra-sound. Now that you've established this wonderful site and are giving the world this amazing service, what are your next plans for it?
AAB: So many plans!!! Maybe we will come and buy you since you are doing such a wonderful job of keeping people informed about the fusion Desi world. I think it is really all about taking Desi to the world and showing them how crazy hip and 'with it' we are, creating collaborations in the mainstream through our contacts and defining "Desi pop culture" in a way that makes us proud. Wanna' help? Email me! Also, we have some amazing people hosting shows like DJ Arun, Jags Klimax and the Sona Family - they rock!!! We want to grow and get more talent out there, and more shows!
KI: Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? Will you move on to the next amazing venture or do you see yourself with DesiHits!?
AAB: Who really knows! I have a dream (like many!) and that is to go to India and do something for the kids that need a leg up (UK terminology there), I am truly grateful for what my parents gave me by leaving India and coming to the west, and I want to take what I have learned here and give it back to the kids that need it. I think we have a karmic responsibility and I plan to do what I can do in this life so I can sit back and enjoy "Desi pop culture" in the next life!
KI: Wow, you're thinking bigger than big! Big props to you for having a good spirit Anj!! Any words of advice to our aspiring readers?
AAB: Sounds cliché, but, "just do it," don't be scared to fail because when you are taking risks, you are REALLY living! Go meet people and share your culture. Oh and please buy music from http://www.desihits.com/itunes, we have all the latest stuff, but more importantly these artists can't survive if you don't give them something for their creative efforts!
|What are you doing to expand our Culture? E-mail us to let us know.