I would have been a Broadway dancer, if not an entrepreneur — Ankita TandonSaswati Mukherjee
The couple of years spent working in London ordering online food gave Ankita Tandon a business idea – why not start something similar back home?
In 2012, she returned to Mumbai to co-found DeliveryChef.in, an online platform for ordering food. Ankita got associated with CouponDunia.in, India’s largest coupon website. She joined them in 2014 to help grow their offline presence in the country. Currently, Ankita is COO at CouponDunia. CouponDunia helps to provide customers with discount coupons of various brands on a common platform.
Hailing from a standard professional background, where parents want their children to concentrate on academics, rather than anything unconventional; her first career choice left them stunned. “I wanted to be a Broadway artist,” says Ankita smiling sheepishly. It was her first visit to a Broadway show in New York, at the age of 7 or 8, which left her spellbound. She thought she had found her calling: “The grandeur of the event bowled me over. It stays with me even today and had I not been an entrepreneur, I surely would have been a dancer.”
After Ankita got an economics degree from Jai Hind College, Mumbai, she moved to London to pursue her master’s degree in finance from Warwick Business School. After which, she joined Deutsche Bank in London, and stayed on for two years. “It was while working in London that I was exposed to business models and ideas which were unexplored in India at that time. The way India was developing, it was quite clear that opportunities would grow manifold in the days to come. I therefore decided to take the plunge, knowing very well that I was young and had the risk appetite,” she says.
She has done well in the last three years, and a young, savvy and confident Ankita is today a self-made woman. “In a large organization, your role gets limited. There is little scope for innovation and doing ground-breaking stuff,” she says of her banking days. Initially, she had considered starting an online gifting business but later decided in favour of food delivery.
The challenges of being a woman entrepreneur
Ankita feels women in India are not serious about their roles as entrepreneurs: “Many women get married, have kids and move ahead in their personal lives and ditch their venture midway. That is certainly not the right approach, more so when someone has invested money in your firm.” Ankita says she admires the work-life balance the women in the West manage to strike: “Most of them are able to get their personal and professional balance priorities, that too without any family support.”
When she and her business partner, Aditi, approached investors for capital funding, the response they got was disappointing. This Ankita attributes to the possible past experience of investors with women entrepreneurs who change priorities after marriage: “It is only women who are to be blamed for this.”
Ankita enjoys academics and is still a student. She is in her final level (Level 3) of CFA and is hopeful of clearing this level soon. A bookworm, she recently finished reading the Shiva Trilogy. Now, it is more business books for this young entrepreneur.
Scrapbooking is yet another hobby and she is good at craft too. Largely due to the smartphone boom in India, people have stopped taking prints of the photos they keep clicking: “The very fact that I maintain a scrapbook forces me to take prints and I am very happy about journaling them all in my scrapbook.” She adds that it feels nostalgic simply to flip through albums.
A guest lecturer at her alma mater, Jai Hind College, Ankita teaches the final year students Corporate Finance. She has been teaching weekends for the past two years. She says teaching helps her stay connected with the subject.
More than giving handouts, Ankita believes in empowering people, either by educating them or by providing them with livelihood opportunities. This young entrepreneur at some point wants to start a pickle unit on the outskirts of Mumbai. “Traditionally, we North Indians are known to love our home-made pickles and a meal is incomplete without it. At home, I have seen pickles being made by mothers and grandmothers. This pickle unit will be my way of giving back to society. I believe in empowering individuals rather than giving them fat cheques,” says she. Ankita believes in the proverb – give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw and Chanda Kochar are women she looks up to. But Ankita wants to be her individual version of everyone combined into one. “Entrepreneurship is a tough journey and can only be achieved if one has conviction and loads of family support,” she feels. She had family support at each step and says she has no regrets in life.
Ankita says that she gets to be home only for a fortnight each month: “I hope to hang my boots sooner, so it is worth being an intensive professional now.”