Starting up is not a straight path; the excitement comes with constant challenges, says Avantika Meattle, spouse of Prashant Tandon, Founder HealthKart and 1mg
I meet Avantika Meattle on a freezing and wet morning in the New Year in Delhi. She joins me after dropping her children off at school on their first day after the winter vacation. A freelance photographer, Avantika began her career shooting for marquee Bollywood movies such as Ashoka, Umrao Jaan, Dostana, and more . She has her studio in Delhi and now focuses on weddings and select features for Netflix. Her recent project was the Netflix series Leila with Huma Qureshi and she is now working on her forthcoming Guilty. The timing of relocating to Delhi after working for almost a decade in Bollywood coincided with her husband Prashant Tandon starting up. I ask her if the idea of starting up was a mutual one.
Prashant and Avantika Tandon
“When I met Prashant in 2010, I had moved from Mumbai after spending almost a decade in the film industry. Prashant was already figuring out the right model for HealthKart. So, I knew that this is going to be his life and our life." (she laughs)
“Now, this was different from what my family was used to. But the fact that he had a solid education, there was a comfort that he can always go back to a job if things don't work out. But most importantly, he must do what he wants to do passionately,” she adds.
1mg is an integrated healthcare platform, which aims to make healthcare accessible, understandable, and affordable. Intending to become the trusted partner for consumer health, it is massively disrupting healthcare with its high-quality content, tools and services.
From HealthKart in 2010 to 1mg in 2015 – almost a decade of being in the ecosystem, has there been any significant apprehension about the journey and the destination?
Avantika says, “I still say that a startup always remains in startup mode. The journey has lots of ups and downs. As a process, you have to raise every two years on an average; there is a cycle. It is never like you can chill, there is something or the other always going on, and you have to be at it. But the fact is this is what excites our husbands.”
She continues, “In many ways, my work is also something like that. I believe it has helped me in coping with the stress of building up. My work has been like an unstructured work, living from one movie to another and in a way before Prashant, I have been in entrepreneur mode. My profession has helped me understand the nature a startup runs. Being in the film industry for more than nine years, the risk appetite has also been high, which certainly has helped in this journey.”
Both partners in startup mode
“Both of us are following our passion, so we don't complain. For me, photography was a passion, and for Prashant, it has been starting up and buildingto be the most trusted healthcare technology company. I am happy we have been able to follow the pursuits,” Avantika says.
Understanding the unpredictability of the startup journey as well as supporting the entrepreneur spouse, has there been any direct involvement in the venture across phases of setting up and during growth?
“We discuss issues, but I don't get too deeply involved. And I also prefer it this way so that the stress doesn't get passed along and we are balanced as a couple. Prashant is a very positive and balanced person, so even when I may have given gyaan, he knows what to take.”
Avantika remembers the initial years when the app was getting stabilised. “A lot of times, I used to shoot an email not just to Prashant but to Sameer (co-founder, HealthKart) as well as the tech team, so that the problem would get attention and be solved quickly.”
Avanika shares an interesting episode on a more direct involvement in the venture.
“Once I tried to help by doing a shoot for them. At that time, I was busy with my work, shooting extensively, like 20 weddings in a year. I was like amongst the top 10 photographers in the country. I remember waiting for four hours because of some meeting they were having at the 1mg office. I was like, ‘Prashant I wouldn’t have done this for anyone else.’”
Does she also feel she may have grown or explored new areas in the process?
There are many incidents from the journey that Avantika says will always be remembered with fondness.
“A lot of times I tell Prashant that the competitor app is offering more discount that 1mg, so smiles and says, "Go and buy from there", or like I ordered something but it took time, so replies, "We have excellent customer support, please call them".
What is the one thing that she feels strongly about this journey?
“The investing phase can be stressful, but nevertheless it has to be done. Raising money is always crazy. Starting up is not a straight path, and while there is excitement, there are constant challenges too. As you grow older especially, you may sometimes feel the need to have something steady, which of course isn't a characteristic of a startup path. There is everyday fire-fighting, and it may take years of hard work and persistence. But don't give in to the pressure because that may mean passing that on to the entrepreneur spouse. So, enjoy the process and this journey.”
(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)