I love the term ‘feminist’ and ‘feminazi’. A feminist wants everything equal for men and women whereas a feminazi wants to do every wrong which a man does.They demand equality without rationale. Feminism is a great concept but now I would not like to call myself a feminist because its dimensions have changed. It’s becoming a joke now.
Anshulika Dubey is an entrepreneur and have co-founded Wishberry.in, a platform for artists to connect with people and raise funds for their projects. A true believer of individuality, she considers ‘Atlas Shrugged’, as her bible. To satisfy her creative genes, she wants to make a documentary on history of music and dance in Banaras. During her conversation with Grey Talks she shared two cents on her entrepreneurial journey and how stereotypes and generalisations are making people abysmally hopeless in India.
Everyone’s life is in phases and each phase has some state of mind…what is your current state of mind?
I think my current state of mind is my perpetual state of mind. It is dissatisfaction with myself.
…and why this dissatisfaction?
I think I am just not doing enough! I have a clear aim in my head but I just feel I am not doing enough, whether it is for myself or for my business, my parents, my love life…I don’t know. I just feel that my perpetual state is dissatisfaction with myself.
You feel that you are not doing much in different areas that you mentioned. Are you a multi-tasker? You don’t want to give your hundred percent in just one thing but different – different things together?
In life you cannot multitask. You cannot have four-five passions at the same time. At least I can’t. I can very swiftly multitask between everyday works; but in life I focus on one priority at a time. Multi tasking can be blessing as well as a disguise…
What is your priority right now?
My priority is Wishberry right now. Nothing else.
Wishberry! Sounds interesting…What is it?
Well, Wishberry is a new way to bring ideas to life. We connect artists and backers on our platform. Artists can pitch their ideas on Wishberry and raise funds for fans and followers to make it happen. In return, backers get early access to the project they funded.
So basically it’s a place where artists submit their ideas and they get crowdfunded?
It is more than just crowd fundraising, and I don’t like this term because it restricts the relationship between creator and it’s backer with only money, when it is actually beyond that. It does not end at money. It’s more of a building relationship between artists and crowd and that is why I don’t like the term crowd funding.
So what we can understand is that you connect people in a way…
Yeah, we connect people to make things happen.
What kind of projects do you host?
All creative and innovative projects in 13 categories – Arts, Film, Music, Dance, Theatre, Design, Publishing, Comics, Food, Gaming, Photography, Fashion and Mobile Apps
How did you conceive the idea of Wishberry? You are funding everyone’s ideas but we would like to know the story behind your idea of Wishberry.
I never planned on being an entrepreneur or starting something on my own. I was working in McKinsey, a business consulting firm. I wouldn’t take the credit of creating Wishberry all by myself. I came across this company called ‘Kickstarter’, while writing a report for McKinsey. It is a crowdfunding platform that started in 2009 and was helping artists raise fund. And I instantly felt a connection. I thought this is the only way to rescue arts and creativity in India as well. Crowdfunding is a disruptive idea. It democratises funding. It takes away the power of the few elites who decide the fate of an idea and places it in the hands of the public. Wishberry was the first company in India to bring crowdfunding to the creative sector in 2012. Besides government and foundation grants, there is no way for artists in this country to make their projects be it films or music or art installations. They have to either survive on their own funds or rely on loans from friends and family. With crowdfunding over the Internet, we opened up artists and their projects to a wider audience. Now artists could ask their fans to back them and fund their projects and in return share their projects directly with the fans. The USP of what I do is simple; there is no platform in India that showcases the ideas brimming in India and Wishberry is trying to be the place where the world discovers India’s creativity.
Sounds fascinating! Indeed, such startup was need of the hour. You are rescuing artists from the so called stereotypes. Have you ever had an idea that you were unable to pursue because of these stereotypes?
Yeah, I always thought that I could make a film or a music album because my mother and I are trained classical singers. So we thought that we could have this mother-daughter duo album where I could do the western vocals and she could do the classical vocals but this never happened because firstly we didn’t know how to go about it, and secondly because of the money angle. It requires you to get out of your regular day job and actually focus on making an album. Maybe money is not the only thing but it’s a big part of our excuses.
But on contrary, you took a decision to leave a daily job and pursue your passion to start Wishberry. What was so powerful about this idea that you left McKinsey, kept the money at stake and went ahead? How did you weigh your pros and cons?
First of all the one pressing thing that has always irritated me is that people do not know what they want to do in India, that’s my premise, like that’s where I start. I always assume that people in their jobs are not happy, given a chance, they would drop it and actually pursue their passion. Like there were so many awesome music bands in IITs, but all these engineers finish their colleges and then join a consulting company or an engineering company. Many of my friends have literally fought with their parents to not pursue Engineering or MBA and have gone to some music school. If you look at it, there has been some 12 Grammies in last 100 years and absolutely no Oscar from India and very few artists from India, you know, do crazy things. Like you go to America and there is some local artist who has created a street installation in the middle of New York and it’s beautiful, I wonder why this is not happening in India. So this thing of people not doing what they wanted to do is making Indian youth frustrated.
True, people are stuck in their own stereotypes and also there are negative reaction from peer group and parents when one tend to drift away from set stereotypes. What was your parent’s reaction when you left the job and started Wishberry?
One thing that I have realized is that you cannot plan on being an entrepreneur, there must be an idea to push you out and if your idea is so powerful, even though it may not have been proven, it will make you leave everything, that is the power of an idea and that’s what happened to me. When I saw this, I discussed it with everyone possible and they said, “No, No. No one finances you for such things in India” but I was adamant. Something told me that people are not bad, like if I take this idea and show it to say 100 people, there is no chance that a person would not applaud and say how you did it and then I can involve that person in the conversation and seek help from him/her. So I always thought this was possible and when I told my parents, my friends nobody supported but I don’t think I wanted to listen to anybody then. Not that I was asking for any kind of approval, I was simply telling them. This was the time when McKinsey was posting me to their Boston office, but I left all of that and decided that I am not going to America and I am moving to Mumbai with my business partner. So obviously my parents were not happy but my parents also have never been the usual parents, they would push me and say go learn yourselves.
So they would never spoon feed you?
No, Never. I think one thing that they kind of rationalized in their heads was that if I pursue an MBA from any American college, it would cost them around 60-70 lacs, so why not give her less than 60 lacs to invest in a business.
That’s indeed a very maverick rationale. So what is the harshest reaction you have got about your startup?
It’s actually interesting, this is something that can almost push me to not do this. When I started, I did with a presumption that people will not give money, but in three years I realized that people are ready to give money but people who have ideas are not ready to ask. They are shy, they have less confidence and they think that if I ask I am in a position of servility or I am asking for help. Also with current artists who are musicians etc. they have a sense of very weird righteousness about themselves, they fail to realize that it’s their fans who are making them what they are today, they are not singing in a bathroom…This is a platform which is making you do what you always wanted to do and you are still living in insecurities and some false beliefs about yourselves. And on the other hand there are such humble people around you who are ready to give you money, all you have to do is “ASK.”
Sounds interesting! Is there any specific project which was hosted on Wishberry and has changed some lives?
Yes. There are many such projects. We have done 250 projects so far and have raised 5 crores from 11,000 backers. And at the end of the day, none of these projects would have seen the light of the day if there was no Wishberry. It’s actually surprising to see that India has such great ideas, which I thought never existed. For example, there was a film called “Goonga pehelwaan”, it’s story of a wrestler in Haryana. He has won India many gold medals but there is nothing about him on Google. So this is something that was quite appalling for a few filmmakers, and they made a documentary about him. It’s a beautiful documentary about his life and how funny he is actually, his parents, the small village, and how the government doesn’t support him. And the movie won the National Award this year for best Best Debut Film of a Director (Non-Feature) Category.
So Wishberry is not only changing the lives of artists but also giving the due credit to the people who deserve it!
There are many similar stories, there is this story of Menstrupedia. There were two NID graduates, one of them is a girl and she had gone through some painful experiences during her periods when she was growing. She was always ostracised from her family like not let her do certain things, or eat certain things during those five days. She always wanted to do something to educate women around these menstrual myths, so she along with her husband started a comic called Menstrupedia to educate young girls through medium of a comic book. Investors initially thought that it’s not a scalable idea and nobody wanted to invest in that. So finally they came to Wishberry and they raised 6 lacs for their first thousand copies and after that they have gone places. Whisper came on board and sponsored other set of 10-20,000 copies. They took them to Africa and now to Spain and it has become an international comic book. So this all started from here from those 6 lacs and the amazing part is that the 40% money was given by men. So one thing that Wishberry has done is that it has made me believe in India a lot. If you give me anything I will not go to America, because people believe, people give, people care. And after Wishberry I have stopped believing the media stories who say otherwise. You know how it’s shown someone getting raped, murdered, looted or men and women doing this and that. I just feel that media does nothing but generalise things.
So we are listening about the successful ventures…about the story of deaf wrestler, and Menstrupedia. How important is marketing according to you?
That is the only thing. You can sell anything if you can market it well. What I have realized is, especially with the engineering community that people are sitting on such great ideas, you know, hardware, software, internet technology but they cannot sell. One thing is not being able to sell, another thing is not appreciating marketing, not realising its importance. Unfortunately, it is again to do with people not being able to sell because they are too shy. I think the major reason is shyness, scared of being judged by people, in general people are just asked to shut up all the time. Think about it! From the beginning of your life till now – Shut up. By teachers, by parents because they are elder. How would you sell if you were not able to convince your teachers and parents? So basically you don’t know how to do it, you only know how to lie. The reason we are a ‘jugaad’ country is because of our teachers and parents.
Interesting! Why is Wishberry based in Mumbai? Why not Bengaluru, Delhi or any other place?
I don’t think it was planned, but the biggest reason was that my business partner’s dad had an office and we could work from there. We wouldn’t have to invest in real estate at least. We just had to hire people, we had everything else like her dad helped us with the space, the computers, office boys everything. Also, Mumbai is the creative hub. I have been to Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai but I can say that Mumbai is the only city in this country where people want to do things. Everywhere else, people are just laid back. People do not shy to network here like get together, form teams. There’s a little bit of this in Bengaluru too, but not to that extent.
So you have been living alone in Mumbai for like past 3-4 years, do you feel the misery of living alone? Or are you satisfied that living alone in Mumbai is awesome.
I am a single child and my parents have been working so I have always been alone. For me there is no change. My parents used to come by 8’o clock in the evening. After my schooling, I joined Miranda house (Delhi University) and have lived alone there as well. So, since 2007 till now, I have lived away from my family, so it doesn’t bother me at all. In fact everyone should live away from their parents.
You mentioned that since childhood your parents were working, and you were alone at home and this seems to be worked out as beneficial to you. Is there any drawback?
People make a big deal out of it. It’s basically the mother and the child who have to balance things. If the child is feeling neglected and the mother shows guilt about it, then the mother is confusing both child and herself; because the child will take that guilt as an assurance of being neglected. In my case my mom had made it very clear that she is an individual first and then a mother or a wife. She would first figure out what makes her happy and then about her child or her husband, for example there was a time when she was pursuing her MBA and she used to come back from the office and study late till night because that is the only time she had. So she stopped getting up in the morning to make meals for me. I used to crib a lot about it, she one day sat me down and told me that it is inhumane on my part to expect her to wake up in the morning after sleeping at 4 am and make meals for me. She basically rationalised, she told me that just because she is a mother that doesn’t mean that I can take her for granted. I understood the concept of individuality in my impressionable years and that laid down my basics and core. I cannot take any one for granted because I couldn’t even take my mother for granted.
Indeed it’s a great learning, do you link individuality with women empowerment?
I love the term ‘feminist’ and ‘feminazi’. A feminist wants everything equal for men and women whereas a feminazi wants to do every wrong which a man does, equally for herself as well, like cheating. They demand equality without rationale. Feminism is a great concept but now I would not like to call myself a feminist because its dimensions have changed. It’s becoming a joke now. I want everything equal when it comes to status in society, salary, remunerations etc, but I will never say that if a man does something wrong then I would also do that wrong. Everyone gave a bashing to Deepika Padukone’s ‘My Choice’ video, clearly there are more rational people than idiots.
Feminist and Feminazi, Interesting terms! Was there a moment in your life when you felt discriminated being a women?
Yes, in fact recently! We were raising funds for Wishberry. We were hunting for angel investment and before that there is a whole process of meeting people, discussing the startup, interviewing, getting interviewed with investors. So we must have spoken to about 20-25 people and out of which a woman investor told us to our face that she doubts whether we will be able to continue it after our marriage. Both I and my co-founder were perplexed by this analysis. I mean it is so illogical, we have invested so much in Wishberry and why would we give it up for marriage. I mean obviously I will marry a person who will understand my work. I replied her saying that nothing will change, there is no choice between marriage and work both can be easily balanced and then she started giving her life mantra saying that once we will get married and have more responsibilities, we would have to make a choice. I was like, if you want me write on a stamp paper that I will be as passionate about Wishberry as I am today, I can do that but that would be ridiculous. She actually went on saying that if you were a man then we would have been more confident in investing in your company. Then there was another man who said “Don’t you think you are over valuing your company being women.” I was like valuation is completely mathematics, what has that got to do with my gender.
Indeed people have weird judgements about gender and their role in the society!
I would like to give a disclaimer; these people are just 2 out of 25, they are anomalies. Clearly, there are not many such people.
So, what is your idea about marriage?
hmm…well, so… The perception of marriage is corrupted in our head, because our parents have shown most boring side of marriage to us. I am sorry I keep letting getting back at parents but they are the root cause of everything. Most men and women in this country don’t know how to keep their marriage interesting for long. It has to do with taking each other granted after a time, not making enough efforts to woo each other like they used to do before marriage. We are preconceived with this idea that marriage is a clutch or a space of suffocation. It’s a very wrong notion and has spoiled our faith in marriages. On another note, I feel marriage is unnecessary, I mean if I like someone and if we gel together, I fail to understand what will change if I sign a paper or just do a ceremony. So, I don’t understand why such a big deal about marriage.
Another argument about these marriage functions puts a lot of pressure on parents to spend and have lavish functions. What’s your opinion about that?
I just said I don’t believe in the concept at all (Laughs). It’s what mediocre do.
What is the next goal in your life?
Right now I am very much focused on Wishberry, I want it to be a billion dollar company, if nothing more. I do have plans after that because I am surrounded by filmmakers and musicians I think this bug is irritating me even more. Music and writing.
Let’s take a hypothetical situation. You got lots of funding to write something what will you write?
I like exploring history a lot, I want to write about history of music and dance in Banaras. I want to have a fictional story about historical aspect of Banaras with respect to music and dance. Also, I want to write about influence of British Era on Indian music and dance.
What is the funniest project hosted by wish berry?
Graphic novel on kind of people you meet in Mumbai Locals. It’s called, “I take that train too”, and it’s a graphic novel. The novelist actually made caricature of typical people who boards Mumbai locals and it is hilarious. You just can’t put that book down.
The weirdest habit you have?
I always love the chase. The moment the chase is over, my interest in that thing gets over.
What is stability for you?
Boring, I don’t like stability. I think it has no drama, and I love drama. So, stability is not for me. I am not stable and I don’t think that I will be happy with a partner who is stable. I don’t think I will be happy with a job which is stable. I don’t think I will be happy with a life which is stable. I don’t like stability.
What is your opinion about so many budding startups?
Well! for one.. thank God (laughs) that you know people are trying things and I think it’s awesome, I mean for sure it is becoming a little bit of a crowded place but 2 years back nobody was even thinking about getting into all this. So, I will always say thumbs up to this. I know obviously certain startups will not work, some are probably not even good ideas but kudos to those guys who left their jobs and you know at least started something, even if they are in the bubble of their own that this will work. That doesn’t that matter? As I say on my business card “It’s not about the money, honey!”
One thing which you want to change about yourself? I am not too conscious about my health.
One book which you regret reading? One night at the call centre! Oh god!! Like what was he thinking man… Chetan Bhagat should stop writing.
One book which has influenced you? Atlas shrugged.. that’s my bible.
Coffee or tea? Coffee anyday..
You walk into a bar and your order is? Margarita
You are hosting a dinner for people, what are you cooking? It could either be pasta or something Mexican.
Someone said something and you suddenly got irritated… what was it? That I couldn’t do something!
You have an option to time travel.. where will you go? I definitely don’t want to go in the future, many eras… like I would love to see Mughal Darbars… I would love to be a part of Greeks and the Romans.. all of that.
One thing which is banned in India and you want to un-ban it? Marijuana
One movie which you have watched recently and you felt wow!! I think the film that changed Indian cinema for everybody was DevD… after that the standard became very high.
One person you want to vanish from this planet? All the god men, they are just absolutely ridiculous people.
You need to converse with one of them for one hour… whom will you choose? Rakhi sawant or KRK? I will definitely choose Rakhi Sawant. I think she is highly entertaining. I love her. I miss the days when Rakhi Sawant was almost every day on the internet.