Not averse to risks, Anjana Reddy, Founder, Universal Sportsbiz, says if you have a passion to start something of your own, take the plunge.

first_imgShe’s a woman working in a man’s world, but that has never stopped Anjana Reddy, 28, from marching ahead and that too on her own terms. As the Founder and MD of Universal Sportsbiz Pvt. Ltd. (USPL), she’s managed to bring together sports and fashion in a unique way bringing,She’s a woman working in a man’s world, but that has never stopped Anjana Reddy, 28, from marching ahead and that too on her own terms. As the Founder and MD of Universal Sportsbiz Pvt. Ltd. (USPL), she’s managed to bring together sports and fashion in a unique way bringing out fashion brands curated by leading sports personalities including Virat Kohli, Sachin Tendulkar, Sania Mirza, Saina Nehwal and Vishwanathan Anand among others.She’s also launched Collectabillia, an online portal that lets fans get access to limited edition merchandise of their favourite sporting icons. Based out of Bangalore, she’s also a former sportsperson herself, having played badminton at the national level along with Saina Nehwal. Having started USPL in 2012, she’s managed to achieve an impressive amount of success in a short span of time. Mid-last year, her company recieved a massive amount of `47 crore as a second round of funding from Accel Partners. She gets talking on her journey and why her gender has never mattered in her profession.Picture courtesy: Nilotpal BaruahHow did you come up with the idea of starting USPL?After getting a postgraduate degree in accounting and finance from the University of Illinois in the US, I returned to India with the idea of creating a brand in merchandising by leveraging celebrities. The idea came to me while watching basketball and American football in my college dormitory in the US. More often than not, people celebrated their team by wearing merchandise. Whether it was a Chicago Bulls cap or a Chicago White Sox jersey, the whole stadium atmosphere was recreated in the dorm lounge during games.advertisementI thought, why can’t we do this in India where cricket is a religion? I approached Sachin Tendulkar with my idea and the he agreed to invest in the start-up. He thought it was a great way to reach out to fans and connect. A couple of months later, in 2012, came the other big moment. The US-headquartered venture capital firm Accel Partners, which has invested in companies like Facebook and Flipkart, invested $5 million (Rs 30 crore) into Universal Sportsbiz. This gave more credibility to the company and allowed it to move into new business lines such as ethnic apparel and fashion accessories specially curated by sports and entertainment celebrities.How different is a fashion brand coming from a sportsperson to one from a fashion designer?Our objective was to create a ‘Make in India’ apparel brand with an international appeal. With the energy that India now exudes on the global stage, we roped in Virat Kohli to be an intrinsic part of WROGN. It is a breakaway youth fashion brand, which is inspired by his distinctive sense of style, and the youth appeal as such, it reflects his brand personality. WROGN is targeted towards open minded and progressive young men, who like to make their own choices in life. The brand is experimental in its ethos and also in its product philosophy. And it always encourages young men to question the status quo around them. We plan to make it the leading fashion apparel brand in the country before taking it global.Traditionally speaking, while you’ve combined fashion and sports, it largely remains a man’s terrain. How is it like to be a woman in a man’s world?Yes, sometimes being a woman in such a professional space is not an easy job to fulfill, but I am not afraid of working in a ‘man’s world’ and I never doubt my own expertise. It is a start-up culture and a professional set-up where more than the gender what matters is what you bring to the table. Also I have been very fortunate to work with people like Sachin Tendulkar and Mahendran Balachandran, partner, Accel Partners India, who treat everyone as equal.What do you think you bring differently to the table as a woman, compared to what a man would have brought in your role?I have learnt to stick with my instincts even when it’s a hard hill to climb. Over time, I brought about a unique sense of aesthetics and better project management capabilities that come through being an efficient multitasker. I learnt that my ability to empathise and build relationships worked to help me adapt to a leadership style without losing myself in the whole process.What have been some of the challenges you have faced in your journey?I think the toughest challenge, for anyone at the beginning of their entrepreneurial journey, is to build a good team and then motivate and retain them. Other challenges like supply chain and distributionexist but they are part of business challenges.advertisementWhere do you see USPL going and growing in the coming future?We are presently focussed on the three offerings and realising its true potential both in India and targeted international markets. Our goal is to build brands that are intrinsic to the lives of our customers and we are working towards weaving them into the cultural fabric. We are exploring an option to launch another brand alongside an opportunity to add other categories in the existing brands primarily to give a wholesome experience. We are also planning to launch our exclusive brand outlets.Women entrepreneurs are coming up in massive numbers in our country? How has the scenario changed for women?There is no paucity of talent and women business leaders have proved that they can handle the concept of innovative business, and are well aware of the economics their business takes. According to Huffington Post, as of June 2014, women hold 4.8 per cent of Fortune 500 CEO positions and 5 per cent of Fortune 1000 CEO positions. Today, India has more women CEOs than the US.What would be your advice to other women?My suggestion would be to not think too much. If you are passionate then you should just take the plunge.last_img