“It is in my blood!” says Roshni Mahtani while talking about her zest for the entrepreneurial world.
A journalist, an angel investor, an executive producer and now an entrepreneur, Roshni Mahtani has donned multiple hats. Each experience has been enriching in it’s own way and has led her to larger goals and great success.
“I have churned out ideas like running a ‘Love Concierge Service’ to help husbands be more romantic, to creating a ‘Job-a-day Internship Programme’ for undergrads to try 90 different jobs in 90 days to help them decide where they wanted to work, ” says Roshni, who is today the Founder and CEO of Tickled Media, which she started in 2009 as a digital platform for parenting content. Tickled Media now publishes theIndusparent.com, theAsianparent.com, Kidlander.sg and Pregnant.sg and reaches over six million Asian mums monthly.
Believe it or not the genesis of Tickled Media were two girls aged three and six. This was while Roshni was in New York and she decided to experience parenthood first hand through babysitting. While babysitting two girls aged 3 and 6 she would give detailed reports to their parents about what their calorie intake had been on a daily basis, she would take them on excursions and she also taught the younger one about condensation. Things got interesting when she began looking up on topics such as ‘Can you feed paneer to 3-year-olds?’ or ‘Ayurvedic remedies for baby cough’ on the net.
I realised that no one was addressing a problem facing a huge (and growing) demographic – mums and dads looking for Asian-style parenting advice. Many of my Asian friends were relying on western-style parenting resources and couldn’t relate to them. Hence, I started theAsianparent.com. Over time, I realized that technology could be a key component in helping us help parents.
Before starting on Tickled Media, Roshni worked as a journalist. She has also headed one of the world’s first blogging platforms, LiveJournal in Asia.
Born and raised in Singapore, she pursued a degree from the University of Upper Iowa.
“I grew up in an affluent household in Singapore with a businessman father. I think business is in my genes! Well, when I was in my teens, our family was hit by the Asian financial crisis so I had to start working at age of 15,” she says.
To support herself and fund her education, Roshni took up multiple jobs, from telemarketing, to conducting surveys door-to-door and ultimately landed at a TV production house where she was offered the post of a script editor. It was in this role that she discovered her love for writing and content. “It laid the foundation for what I was to do in the future!” she adds.
Roshni’s primary target was Singapore. According to her, it is a great first market as the population size is controlled and the internet penetration is great across mobile and desktop. “With diverse cultures we could test different ethnicities. We always knew that we would expand out of Singapore and we saw Asia as a region.”
The venture raised Series A round this year from Vertex Venture Management, the early stage investment arm of Temasek Holdings. Today they comprise a team of 70 people across 4 countries in Asia: Singapore, Thailand, Philippines and India. They have also stepped into India with theIndusparent.com.
For an entrepreneur, everyday poses a challenge. For Roshni one of the challenges is scaling. “With the expansion, one of the biggest things is Asia is that it is very fragmented with different customs, language and levels of internet penetration. For example, now Singapore has become a mobile-first country but we started off with a lot of desktop and Web traffic as against an Indonesia or an India where it is mobile-first. Infrastructure available too, 3G or 4G, is different. Internally, having to adjust our expectations and having to adjust cross-culturally among employees was a challenge.”
Roshni has ensured that she scaled herself and is not a bottleneck. She explains, “I want my managers to be trained up. If anything happens to me, I want the company to still run. The biggest task is to make myself redundant.”
What keeps her motivated and going is the feeling that she is doing what she wants to do -making an impact in the lives of others. Two mails that always keep her motivated- A thank you mail from a woman on the verge of separation from her husband, who got back with him and had more children after reading an article on the site; and another woman who read about thyroid issues during her pregnancy and was able to tackle her problem on time.
Other than Tickled Media, one of her most rewarding experiences has been co-founding the Female Founders Network, a not-for-profit organization. “Our aim at the Female founders is to jumpstart a positive feedback loop; more successful female founded startups, more successful female entrepreneurs and, in turn, more investment and nurturing of other female entrepreneurs. The India chapter will be launched in August of this year.”
Women’s empowerment and raising issues, “ that might otherwise be swept under the rug,” are important to her. She was the executive producer on Untouchable: Children of God a documentary about the plight of young girls who are sold and trafficked from Nepal to Indian brothels.
As an Angel investor she has invested in four start-ups, the most recent investment being Fabelio, an interior décor company in Indonesia. As an entrepreneur moving forward her venture is going to be all about integrating technology such as data science practices and machine learning into social network and media, to provide parents with the most personalized, useful and relevant information.