How many 19-year-olds do you know who are helping parents give their children a better life, are entrepreneurs running a venture that has raised funding, and have the wisdom to not let anyone judge their ability to perform on the basis on their age?
Aafreen Ansari is one such young lady. She is the co-founder and COO of MyChild, an app that helps parents screen their children and understand if they have any mental or learning disorders.
This college dropout from Bhopal met Harsh Songra, the brainchild behind the MyChild App, in April 2015 through a common friend via Facebook. The two connected and Aafreen came on board. Those were early days and Harsh was a one-man army. Aafreen had joined him to look after social media, but over the next few weeks realised that she wanted to work on the app, especially since she had studied Psychology in school. Happy with her vision and commitment, Harsh invited her to be the co-founder.
“The idea appealed to me because of its uniqueness. I see a lot of apps that are there for gaming and reading and entertainment, but not many people focus their lives on solving medical problems, that too at such a young age,” she says.
My Child App helps parents screen mental disorders like delayed motor coordination and neurological disorders. All of these are key disorders that can be detected in children aged 11–24 months. By simply feeding a few inputs parents can now figure out if their child has any developmental or learning disorder. The idea of My Child App came to Harsh who was diagnosed with Dyspraxia and realised the importance of discovery and treatment of learning and developmental disorder in their early stages.
HerStory spoke with Aafreen about dropping out of college, starting a job at 19 and the challenges it brings, handling criticism and always staying positive in the face of it all.
One of the biggest challenges Aafreen faced was convincing her parents that she was grown up enough to run a company. “My family took some time to accept that I have grown up a little early. They had to adjust to the thought that my life has changed a lot and that I’m doing something that will change lives, mine included. They have been very supportive in this journey. Also, I proved my seriousness by constantly working day and night and showing results,” she says.
In fact, her parents have seen her juggle her writing and internships since she was in Class 10, and though it was not easy, she learnt to manage both. Aafreen draws inspiration from her brother. “My brother who is five years older than me is my source of inspiration, and I have learnt a lot of things about managing family with work from him,” she says.
Content and finance are Aafreen’s department. She does research on healthcare and writes content on the same simultaneously managing and motivating the content team and ensuring that everyone meets their targets on time. She also takes care of the expenses that the company incurs, and ensures that the money is spent in all the right places.
Very recently, the company raised funding of $100,000 led by 500Startups, angel investors like Samir Bangara, Anisha Mittal, Amit Gupta, Pallav Nadhani, Lalit Mangal, Arihant Patni, Dr. Ritesh Malik, Deobrat Singh, Saurab Paruthi, and Singapore Angel Network. With this round of funding, the company aims to work on their technology and product.
Talking about the app she says, “The USP of the product is that it is the only app in the market that focuses purely on the medical life of a child. We are now shifting to the preventive side of disorders.” The app has 5,000 -10,000 downloads.
“People often question our credibility and the permanence of our dreams.
It is a constant challenge to prove yourself,” she says. Being questioned continuously is not easy, but anger is not an option for Aafreen who takes criticism in her stride and looks as it as a challenge to grow and get better.
However, sometimes, it does get overwhelming to carry all that responsibility especially as an entrepreneur. She says, “There is a responsibility to prove oneself. A business needs proper care and attention to bloom. So taking care that our business proceeds in the right direction, we have to give our best. Giving our best means compromising on our personal time.”
Dropping out of College
Aafreen loves art and hails from a family of literature and language lovers. She passed out from school in 2014 and before she dropped out she had plans to study English literature in college. She loves reading and writing, especially fiction and poetry. This year, she hopes to publish her book, a collection of her poems.
Ask her about the importance of finishing higher education and pat comes the response, “I personally don’t think a degree is necessary to be an entrepreneur. Yes, it does give a sense of security, but it is not a standard for being an entrepreneur.”
On being different
“Yes, it is very different to sit at home and think about version releases and development deadlines when my friends and other kids my age just party and have fun and study. At times, it upsets us because we have to give up on our social life and the fun life to stay focused on our work,” she says candidly.
However, it is her clarity of though and positive attitude that make her stand out. She believes that if one has a clear vision, then with focus and passion one can go far with it.
“I am not saying that the criticism does not upset me or make me question what I am doing. But I stay focussed and positive because if you have a dream and a vision, then it will all work it out in end, and if it doesn’t, then you have to find a way to make it happen.”
Aafreen resorts to reading a book or writing to take her mind off censure, disapproval or doubts that may be directed towards her or what she is doing. She also meditates.
Her biggest learning for 2015 has been that there are no boundaries to achieving your dreams. “Don’t let boundaries stop you, you can aim for whatever you want and with passion, positivity and focus, you can achieve it.”