This woman entrepreneur left a 7-figure salary job to become a disruptor in the digital world

Anuja Deora Sanctis left a cushy corporate job to start The Filter Coffee Co, a digital media outfit that has represented big brands like Starbucks, Kellogg's, Danone, Godrej, and L’Oreal, among others.

In 2012, Anuja Deora Sanctis left her cushy, well-paying, seven-figure salary job at Citibank to become an entrepreneur. The idea for Filter Coffee Co, a digital media outfit, was born at a Starbucks outlet in 2014. Two years later, as serendipity would have it, she would manage social media activation for Starbucks as a brand.

Initially, as part of her research, Anuja took up projects for small businesses and agencies to build a digital presence for their brands.

“As an early adopter of micro platforms like Instagram and Twitter, I learned that brands need digital shops driven by original content. Brands needed to collaborate with KOLs and influencers at a time when no one knew what that meant. The ability to interact directly with customers showcased that brands were more human and alive rather than just static billboards,” she says.

An alumna of Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS), Mumbai, and hailing from a family of entrepreneurs, Anuja believes that a true entrepreneur is a doer, and not just a dreamer.

First-mover advantage

Anuja says working during nascent stages in this field had its advantages and disadvantages.

“The first-mover advantage is significant, as is the satisfaction of knowing that everything you are doing is pioneering the way for others to follow. During the initial days, there were a lot of significant challenges. One of the challenges was to get well-established brands to acknowledge that spending their marketing budget on establishing a social media presence was in their interest,” she says.

Finding people to take the leap of faith and believe in your crazy, long-term vision, so that they collaborate on projects was another challenge.

“That has been the beauty of being able to operate in a cosmopolitan city like Mumbai. Here, you can find a taker for every idea ,” she says.

The company also pivoted from a small, single-office shop to a full-service digital marketing agency.

Over the years, Anuja began building her profile as a lifestyle Instagrammer. Being a personal user of luxury brands helped her in attracting the right kind of clients to the agency as well.

Currently, Filter Coffee Co offers digital and social media services that include digital strategy and social media management, design and production, influencer relationship, celebrity management, and media planning and buying.

A clientele of big brands 

Anuja has represented world-renowned brands like Starbucks, Kellogg's, Danone, Godrej, and beauty brands like L'Oréal, Kiehl's, Forest Essentials, L’Occitane, and Clinique.

Filter Coffee Co has managed some big social campaigns like #CommitedToKiehls. It was the first-ever high outreach Instagram campaign for Kiehl's India, #Starbucks100 for Starbucks and #PowerOfPro10 for Protinex among others.

It also creates visually and aesthetically bespoke content for brands like Forest Essentials, Clinique, and Nature’s Basket.

Hustling to find solutions

“My approach toward creative work is that of a behaviourist. I use storytelling as a tool to inspire action in consumers. I believe big ideas need to be big solutions. Big business solutions that are backed with data and directly connected to the brief. I obsess over the proper execution of every work. If we are not having some fun alongside this marketing adventure, then we are not doing it right,” Anuja says.

Filter Coffee Co started as a bootstrapped company with an initial investment of Rs 1.5 lakh. The revenue in the first year was 25 lakh, and has grown 10x to 2.5 crore annually in five years. The company is eyeing a target of Rs 5 crore by the end of this financial year.

Anuja admits it’s difficult for women entrepreneurs at times. “The concept of breaking down gender stereotypes has weighed into a more open outlook towards women hustlers. If you can take your company to new heights of success, the gender is inconsequential,” she says.

Being a digital company, Filter Coffee Co’s operations have not been affected much by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I believe that my journey has not reached a crescendo yet. If anything, we are just getting started. The world of digital marketing has unlimited potential. We have barely tapped a sliver. I am confident that I would achieve all my goals, one brand at a time,” Anuja says.


Edited by Teja Lele Desai