When Anjula Acharia-Bath began uploading podcasts of her favorite music in 2006, she didn’t realize she was creating the business of her dreams. What started out as an after-work hobby, a way to share East-meets-West style dance music with friends, quickly became a new source of income and pride for Acharia-Bath and her husband, Ranj Bath.
Acharia-Bath refers to the founding of Desi Hits! — a now highly trafficked entertainment portal focusing on the dissemination of all things South Asian inspired — as an accident.
Although unexpected, the success of their first series of podcasts managed to catch the attention of several investors, who advised the couple to turn their hobby into a business. Desi Hits! quickly proved itself a lucrative venture. Acharia-Bath and Ranj, once entrepreneurs-without-a-cause, quit their day jobs and are now pioneers in the growing world of cross-cultural entertainment.
An 'innate entrepreneur'
Despite its “accidental” roots, Desi Hits! bares all the trappings of a well-planned business. For one thing, the company was born in Silicon Valley, where the couple, natives of the United Kingdom, worked at the time. The entrepreneurial spirit and abundant capital of the Valley played a part in getting their business off the ground.
Finding investors for Desi Hits! didn’t require any hard selling on the part of the well-connected couple. When friends in the business community saw the success of their fledgling website, they approached Acharia-Bath looking to invest.
That’s not to say that Acharia-Bath is the kind of woman to sit around and wait to be noticed. On the contrary, this admitted “innate entrepreneur” had spent years mingling with potential investors and others in the business community. Those offering financial backing did so because they knew her personally and believed in her vision and ability to succeed.
Acharia-Bath believes strongly that the key to starting a successful business does not necessarily lie in intricate planning but in networking.
“There are ideas out there, but they’ll never see the light of day because the founders don’t know who to approach,” she said.
This informal take on business planning is not nearly as effortless as it seems, however. Acharia-Bath attends events — conferences, parties, fundraisers — where she continues to make personal connections with investors and others in her business community. Her hope is that someone will be inspired by her ideas and want to make them a reality.
Acharia-Bath’s focus on networking also manifests itself within the business she created. She focuses on building strong relationships in the workplace, emphasizing the importance of hiring the right people at the right time.
“When you’re building a business, you can’t do it all yourself ,” she says.
For this reason, she recommends hiring employees to do the things you can’t do, or don’t have time to do. Even with a professional background in recruitment and hiring, Acharia-Bath admits that knowing whom to hire and when to do so is not an easy task, but one essential for the ultimate success of a business.
Networking is an essential aspect of creating and sustaining a business, but investors aren’t the only ones that business owners need to woo. For entrepreneurs like Acharia-Bath, who measures success not just in dollars but by the number of people who visit her site, the most important networking takes place on the Web.
Twitter and Facebook have enabled Desi Hits! to reach a broad audience of potential customers. Acharia-Bath explains that before such sites existed, the only way to really gauge the online popularity of Desi Hits! was to keep track of its rating on Google. But this impersonal system has since been replaced by sites that allow business owners to have a more nuanced look at potential customers. Desi Hits! doesn’t just count website hits, they count “friends.” It doesn’t just have a ranking, it has a “following.”
This personal approach to building an audience is exactly Acharia-Bath’s style. It’s the same approach she takes with investors and employees. The main reason she conducts business this way is simple.
“You have to go where your audience is,” she said.
Whether it’s an investor or a friend on Facebook, Acharia-Bath believes in reaching out to her audience, and this seems to be one of the several keys to her success.
Another key to Acharia-Bath’s success is her passion. She not only likes what she does, she believes Desi Hits! can help change the world for the better. Her site promotes South Asian ethnicity — its rhythms, styles and traditions — and also showcases how Desi culture has developed around the world.
In a word, Desi Hits! markets human diversity, something Acharia-Bath refers to as “a gift for everyone.” However, she didn’t always see her Indian heritage as a source of pride.
Speaking of her childhood, she explains, “I wanted to shun my culture so people wouldn’t realize I was different.”
But it’s Acharia-Bath’s uniqueness, her identity as both South Asian and Western, which enabled her to found Desi Hits! She explains that growing up, she could never totally relate to the Western pop stars she idolized. She never felt like she was represented in popular culture. In her words, she wasn’t “on the map.”
Her passion is, therefore, not just for music and entertainment but for exhibiting the voices of artists who might otherwise go unheard in countries like the U.S. She’s a big supporter of South Asian artists like MIA and Jay Sean who have helped popularize Desi fusion music, and her goal is to get many more Desi artists “on the map.”
“For me to be the person who has enabled [Desi artists] is really how I can bring my personal passion, and a huge demographic that I represent in many ways, to the forefront,” she said.
This personal attachment to her business is what motivated Acharia-Bath to get Desi Hits! off the ground. This same passion also inspires her to keep building her business and accomplish her professional goals.
‘BET for brown people’
Part of the effort to put more Desi artists “on the map” includes creating more content for the site. The company’s biggest focus right now is producing more video and audio pieces that incorporate South Asian artists and themes. Desi Hits! recently teamed up with Universal Records, a move that Acharia-Bath hopes will enable the company to create new content around the artists it promotes.
While Desi Hits! was not founded with the intention of creating original content, but as the company has grown, so have the ambitions of the founders. This is yet another key to Acharia-Bath’s success: she is always thinking of what she wants to accomplish next. After effectively establishing her company as a mainstay of Desi distribution, she now wants to focus on the content the company distributes.
Acharia-Bath’s goal is to create an online space where Desi people and everyone else interested in Desi pop culture can go to see that culture in action. “We’re building BET for brown people,” she said.
The company’s expansion into the world of content production is a bold move, one that should significantly increase the site’s popularity. Acharia-Bath, a businesswoman in touch with her customer-base, knows very well that her clients demand good content, and this is exactly what she aims to provide.
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