Deena Venugopal’s struggle with what she wants to be and what she should be
“When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.”
Deena Venugopal’s life story aptly elaborates on this statement. Born and brought up in a traditional family in Cochin, Kerala, Deena was raised to be in the Civil Services. “Since my childhood, I used to scribble poetry, stories, sketch images and was interested in these kinds of stuff. Continuous family pressure pushed me into attending civil service coaching, which made me sad. In the end, since I was left with no other option, I had to attempt it,” recollects Deena.
After completing her degree and masters in English literature, she appeared for the main examination and much to her parents’ joy, cleared it in the first attempt. But, unfortunately (read fortunately) she didn’t qualify in the interview round. But because of her father, a railway employee, and mother, a housewife, Deena had to attempt this round again and again.
This failure, however, left Deena with the freedom to explore the world she once dreamt of. “This is when it struck me to start a digital agency. I discussed the idea with my parents and friends; everyone discouraged me except for a few friends. However, I decided to take it further without much support. But the main obstacle was that I really didn’t know where and how to start,” she says.
But as the saying goes, ‘if you have the will, you will find a way.’ Deena’s willingness found new ways to break shackles and exceed pre-defined horizons. Breaking herself from the personal battle that she was fighting, she was ready to face the professional challenges that were awaiting her.
In February 2013, Deena launched Anabytes, which helps in building brands around their client’s ‘company philosophies, and brand identities around target consumer demographics.’ “Capital was the main issue at first. I went through many local banks to see whether I could get some sort of financial assistance but no one seemed to have a provision to help me out,” she recalls, adding, “Startup Village was the next option. Again, I was driven in the wrong direction where I had to invest a good amount of capital which I couldn’t afford.”
At last, day by day, little by little, she could feel her enthusiasm draining. “At that point of my life, all I had was a laptop and a dongle and two best friends who were ready to do anything to start this. Later, we somehow managed to find a rented office in Cochin and straight away started without anyone knowing about it,” says Deena.
Biggest challenge – Gender
According to Deena, amidst all the challenges that she was facing, the biggest challenge was her gender. “In a traditional advertising firm things are never at par especially with a woman entrepreneur. The response that I received from the market was also bitter. Every corporate house seemed to have an in-house team or they were not ready to give a chance to a startup,” says Deena.
Since the company was in its initial phase, it took them some time to build a network of clients. To counter this scenario, “in some cases, we were even ready to adjust with a free-trial period. Over a period of time, we could deliver quality branding services to our clients. As a result, we were given good reference which got us clients who began to trust us with their entire branding requirements. Today, we have a good number of clients for whom we deliver branding strategy across the country. We have now expanded our services to Aylesbury, UK, as well,” says Deena.
Gradually the company saw the light of day when “my awesome crew grew up. Programmers, Android application developers, social media managers, content writers, designers added on to our team. And we are at present operating as a 360-degree digital advertising agency offering services like Branding, Web-designing and development, Social Media Optimization, Search Engine Optimization and Mobile Apps,” says Deena.
All’s well that ends well
Today when Deena looks back in time, she feels elated by her past affairs. “I am free to express my ideas and concepts, and reach out to people all around the world,” she says.
Last month, she was awarded with the Young Women Entrepreneur Award from ‘Hurun Report’, a Chinese lifestyle magazine, and also nominated for Young Entrepreneur Awards by TiE. “On sharing the stage with eminent personalities and finding herself getting equal status” she believes she was not wrong in making this decision to start up.
Today, her venture and her dreams are touching new heights. She has regained her enthusiasm and is positive about her future. What’s more, Anabytes has been chosen as the digital partner of Global Entrepreneurship Summit, 2014, to be held in Bangalore. “This will be the major turning point in our journey,” she says.
Anabytes has been selected as a successful startup for Young Entrepreneurship Summit, 2014, to be held in September, which is a novel venture by the Government of Kerala.
Message for women entrepreneurs
“Never ever give up your dreams just because you’re a girl and that you don’t have any support from anyone. As an individual, each person has an aura of their own, we just need to discover it and explore ourselves,” she says.
“Apart from the digital marketing, we also support our clients for their offline activities. The foremost and best thing we assure our clients is that once they do business with us, they don’t have to hire any other agencies for any of their promotional activities,” she says, adding, “I’m ready to help anyone who is a beginner with their branding, because we were once a beginner and I really know the pain and effort behind it.”
Related read: What you should know about women entrepreneurs in India.