Leading two genomics companies one after the other, Anu Acharya, CEO, Mapmygenome, has been able to become a successful women entrepreneur. She opens up on her life, entrepreneurial journey and the learning experiences. By Sanjiv Das
Being an entrepreneur, Anu Acharya has always had it her way. She is revered for not one but building two companies over the years, the first being the co-founder of Ocimum Biosolution, where she led as the CEO from 2000-2013 and later becoming the CEO of Mapmygenome, a molecular diagnostics company. Alumni of IIT Kharagpur, Acharya completed her two post-graduate degrees in Physics and Management Information Systems (MIS) from and University of Illinois. Several accolades during her robust career motivated her to rise to newer heights. Despite travelling extensively, learning the importance of work-life balance helped her to reach newer heights, thus helping her to prioritise the goals, scope for improvement and even schedule.
There are different layers and perspectives to care-giving. While many people associate it with caring for an invalid family member, Acharya believes it is so much more. Says Acharya, “Let us start with self, the most neglected entity in many people’s lives. It is about knowing ourselves better, for me it starts at the molecular level, what does my DNA say about me, my quirks that make me what I am, my habits, and my health. With this knowledge, I can define what I want from life, my goals, the scope for improvement, even my schedule. The last step is applying mindfulness and productivity principles to achieve day-to-day and long-term goals.”
Family is a key part of care-giving and is not limited to the old and the invalid. According to her, caregiving is compassion and empathy we share for our family. Sometimes it may involve just listening. She believes, “As an entrepreneur, I believe that the term extends to my team. It means policies and practices to build a strong and productive team and strong communication channels. For a preventive healthcare expert, it means finding answers that will help save lives. From a rapidly ageing population to newborns, we are building solutions that would work for the people of India.”
Family and friends are important for Acharya and so is fitness. Experimenting with food is fun for her and reading is essential for the mind. As an entrepreneur and heading not one but two companies, she has learned the importance of work-life balance. She believes, that there are some tasks that one can do and some that may be delegated. Though travelling for work is a key part of her schedule, she ensures that there are precious moments spent with family. A fitness enthusiast, she believes fitness is all about the journey and it certainly adds life. While keeping in mind about the fitness quotient, Acharya ensures that there is time for fitness activities. She says, “Oh! And I sleep very little.” Elaborating more on fitness, Acharya says, “Fitness is a key part of our healthcare portfolio. The genetics of nutrition and fitness are of special interest to me and my entire team.”
Learning other forms of art
Acharya stresses on today’s mindfulness-based activities which encourage art forms like collage and art journaling. Tea ceremonies are one interesting art form, according to her. Passionate about teas, her journey has helped to build a huge collection of age-old and exotic blends of spices and infusions. Says Acharya, “Learning in children happens through music, theatre and dance. These art forms can help adults too. A new sport can be an excellent way to challenge yourself while learning something new.”
She is fond of writing poems. My book of poems, Atomic Pohe, was published a few years ago. Acharya opines, “There is nothing like a good cup of tea to clear the mind and to enthuse us with agility and zeal. Many a problem can be solved over a cuppa. Poetry, on the other hand, is about creativity, empathy, and all the positive feelings that we need.”
Favourite book and the learnings An avid reader, Acharya’s favourite book is Against The Gods by Peter Bernstein, which she says appeals to the scientist, innovator, and entrepreneur in me. Says Acharya, “My father taught me to appreciate books and reading at an early age. I love books and read as many as possible — a love that I have passed on to my daughters. When it comes to books, variety is the spice of life; I don’t confine my reading to a particular category.”
Being the CEO of Mapmygenome, the job profile makes her travel extensively all around the world. Travelling is part of an entrepreneur’s job description. Acharya travels to participate in events and conferences. However, the best travelling according to her is with family. Visiting a new place, soaking up the culture, treading the paths where so many great people walked, sampling the local cuisines, and of course, the mandatory pictures with the family are all part of the experience. Japan and Goa are the best destinations according to her.
Gadgets and gizmos
Acharya believes that gadgets and apps are an essential part of lives today. From productivity to music, everything happens through gadgets. Wearable tech is one favourite, especially for fitness.
“When it comes to new wearable tech, I’m an early innovator. I have been using fitness and health trackers for several years. Often, I recommend them to friends and team members. They are a great way to promote fitness and health awareness. I have initiated many fitness challenges within my team and friend’s circle, most of them involving step count,” admits Acharya. “As important as gadgets are, one should also learn the art of switching off,” she says
Giving top priority to ones health despite hectic schedules is something which Acharya would like to recommend to professionals. “Work and success are important, but so are fitness and family. Your health is your priority – take care of that first,” she says. Acharya signs off and says that there are days when 24 hours are not enough, but it is important to pace yourself and to organise things for optimum productivity.