Empowered women empower women. Anuradha Agarwal, who was born into a traditional Marwadi family in Jaipur, found her empowerment in education and confidence in her communication skills. So, when she got an opportunity to help a few women with their English communication skills, Anuradha took it up as a responsibility, which eventually went on to be a business venture.
Anuradha’s brainchild Multibhashi teaches English through a dozen Indian languages, and vice versa. The app, launched in February 2016, enables self-learning with practice-exercises and community-learning, in addition to live-tutoring via video calls.
In four years, Multibhashi has had more than 1.5 million users, and the startup has also raised two rounds of investment. The core team has around 25 members, and around 600 individuals - out of which more than 90 percent are women - work with Multibhashi from across the country. Now based in Bengaluru, Multibhashi has been selected by accelerators like FB Start, Axilor, Gray Matters Capital, AWS Edustart and Google Launchpad.
Creating one’s destiny
Multibhashi is the result of Anuradha’s journey from a conservative background. Speaking to MAKERS India on a Zoom call recently, Anuradha recollects that her parents never even bothered about her education, as their sole aim was to get her married. According to Anuradha, it was a blessing in disguise that her parents could not find the perfect guy – because that allowed her to pursue her education. And she was a good student too.
“I was especially interested in languages; Hindi, English, and Sanskrit used to be my favourite subjects. I used to score well in all other subjects as well. But I knew then itself that I got good marks because my communication was good. I was able to understand things and communicate them in my words very well in written and oral formats,” she tells MAKERS India.
Anuradha adds that although there were more intelligent kids in her class (in an English medium school), they were not able to communicate very well, especially in English, and hence they used to score less. “In a class of 60 students , hardly five spoke fluent English. I was one of them. I was always interested in literature, music, cinema related to the languages – which again contributed to my fluency.” As a class topper, she took up Science and Maths in 11th standard, which was a natural progression for toppers. She fell in love with Computers at the time, and went on to graduation in Computer Science Engineering. But her career was mostly focused in Finance and Analytics.
When she was 25, Anuradha married Devendra Agarwal and moved to Gurgaon. The duo co-founded Dexter Capital Advisors, a boutique investment bank, in 2013. Two years later, a visit to her hometown led her to the idea of Multibhashi. Around the same time, Devendra was setting up his startup, InstaOffice, in Bengaluru. Together, they moved to the startup capital of India, from where Multibhashi has been growing steadily.
When Anuradha started up, she was a mother of two children. “I always felt guilty as a working mother. I have had to put my children in day care centres when I started working aggressively. But I knew I didn’t want to be a housewife,” she says, adding that her being a working woman has made her son and daughter quite independent. “They respect that their mother is also working, not just their father. When my daughter grows up, she will have that sense of respect for her own personal space. And my son will have that respect for his wife’s personal space, that she also has her career that she wants to build, that she wants to do something with her life,” Anuradha adds.
Entrepreneurship is surely not an easy journey; but Anuradha encourages more women to start up. “Do not let your fire die. Whatever your circumstance, keep doing whatever you can do towards your dream. Women are great under pressure and can multi-task too,” she says.
After all, Anuradha had only a team of five women in 2017, when Multibhashi began regional language courses. She has seen their commitment to their work, despite most of their families not supporting their ambitions initially.
“I promised to support them with flexibility in work hours, and they were so dedicated that I never had to follow up with them; they were grateful for the opportunity. Most of them were even able to convince their families to let them work,” she shares.
For Anuradha, the future of Multibhashi is bright – not just because of the women power driving it, but also because the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has ignited a new interest in e-learning among Indian internet users.
“People are opening up to paying for e-learning services. After the lockdown began in March, we started foreign languages targeting white collar professionals looking to upskill themselves. We also started special languages course for kids. Our MRR (monthly recurring revenue) has grown 8x between March and August. The idea is to grow 10x in the next six months,” she says.
As a confident child, she topped her school. As a college student, interviews were a cakewalk for her, thanks to her excellent communication skills. And now, as an entrepreneur, Anuradha is busy enabling her fellow citizens to top their communication skills too.