Published: 22nd December 2018
I can't handle too much free time, says musician-entrepreneur-mental health advocate Ananya Birla
For Platinum record-selling singer Ananya Birla, 2018 has been all about the hustle. With 2019, this multifaceted 24-year-old wants to tour, perform and reach out to more people through her music
Ananya Birla, the entrepreneur. Ananya Birla, the mental health advocate. Ananya Birla, the musician. It would be an understatement to say that she wears a sizeable number of hats and she wears each one of them with such elan that one would believe they were made to fit the wise head that rests on her able shoulders. If you think that the 24-year-old has too much on her plate, let us just begin by saying that she has always had a voracious appetite to have more, do more and be more. And it's all thanks to her mother, Neerja Birla, who kept her busy as a child. Swimming classes at 5 am, followed by school and three hours of homework before another set of classes which would range from arts to music to dance. Quite a packed schedule, we say. Ananya agrees and adds, "That's how I am as an adult as well. I can't handle too much free time, I need to be productive." And that's why she is the way she is.
Ananya believes in self-love and stepping out of her current surroundings to gain a better perspective of things
Music is her poison
The day we got on a call with Ananya, we were first introduced to Ananya, the musician. Though her musical career began recently, in 2016, when she was signed on by Universal Music India, music has been sort of an old friend to her. From learning to play the santoor at the age of 11 to singing covers of songs like Sweet Child O' Mine and Poker Face and crooning at open mics and karaoke nights, music has always been an area of interest for her, right through the time when she was pursuing Economics and Management from the University of Oxford.
Listen up: Ananya's latest song, Circles
She co-wrote and produced her first single, Livin' The Life, with Jim Beanz (who has also collaborated with the likes of Nelly Furtado and Demi Lovato), which was also remixed by the popular Dutch DJ Afrojack. How's that for a start? Then followed songs like Meant To Be, Hold On and her latest, Circles. All these established her as the first Indian musician to be certified Platinum (based on the number of records sold) in the English music category. When we tune into the video of Circles, we notice that the video starts off with a hat tip to all her best friends. "I just thought to myself, what would I be without my friends? And wrote the song in two hours flat," says the Mumbai-born singer. The soft and mellow Circles has crossed ten million views and made a place in the hearts of many. And if milestones like four platinum hits back-to-back and crossing 100 million hits are already behind her, we wonder what's ahead for Ananya.
For her, the best way to relax is to Netflix and chill with her puppy in bed. She also loves watching documentaries and travelling
"2018 has been about hustling and grinding it out. So the next year is going to be all about outcomes," she says confidently. She is going to drop her next single on January 18 which you can apparently run or groove to. And her much-awaited first album will be released with five tracks. Also, having collaborated with Afrojack and Sean Kingston in the past, she looks forward to collaborating with more artists — and not just the famous ones. She wants to collaborate with regional artists as well and provide them with a platform on which both of them can shine together. What a breath of fresh air it would be in a country where only film-linked music sells.
My focus is my music. I've learnt a lot in 2018 and 2019 is going to be all about touring, performing and more
Ananya Birla, Musician and entrepreneur | (Pic: Ananya Birla)
Next, we switch gears to talk about Ananya's entrepreneurial ventures. The mental health organisation Mpower, which she started in 2016 along with her mother, has already impacted 17 million people through their therapy and awareness sessions. Mental health is a cause which is close to Ananya's heart because she has had her share of lows too. "People suffering from mental illnesses are discriminated against, lose out on opportunities and are generally thought to be less capable. They need to be encouraged to reach out for help. Also, it's totally okay to take the help of a therapist to help rationalise your thoughts," says the mental health campaigner who says that therapy helped her develop a thick skin and feel more confident. Soon, they are going to launch a helpline too, says Ananya, who is the Co-founder and Co-chairperson of Mpower. Then there is the e-commerce platform that sells handmade lifestyle products, CuroCarte. There's also Svatantra Microfinance, which came to her as an idea when she was a teenager, that offers loans at a low-interest rate to rural poor. So much to talk about, so little time. Sigh.
This is it: Afrojack's remix of Ananya's song, Livin' The Life
Doing her own thing
With whatever she does, Ananya, who is the daughter of Kumar Mangalam Birla, Chairman of Aditya Birla Group, is dancing to her own tune and not shying away from doing her own thing. Much like her cricketer brother, Aryaman Birla, who scored his maiden first-class century this year. So, what does her father think of her music? "Oh, he loves it. And has always been very supportive," she says cheerfully. And it is this support and love, from her parents, her team, her fans and all those who love her, that makes her dream of reaching greater heights of representing India on a global stage and raking in Grammys. "I know what good music and lyrics have done for me. It has seen me through some tough times. It makes you feel less lonely, which is why I spend so much time creating my music because I want others to feel the same when they listen to my music," says Ananya, and adds, "I want to make music that lasts for decades and make people smile."
A few things Ananya has been up to in 2018:
- Ananya was on one of the panels at One Young World Summit, a global forum for young leaders, last month, which saw guests like Amal Clooney, Naomi Campbell and others. She spoke about the stigma associated with mental health issues
- Named in GQ's 50 Most Influential Young Indians list this year
- Collaborated with MAC Cosmetics recently
- Performed in the Oktoberfest held in Goa
- Appeared in a TV show called Twinning which was aired on AXN recently
Such a poser: Ananya's vocal coach is Samantha Edwards
For more on her, click on ananyabirla.com