On Women’s Day let’s get to know the women behind Language Curry!
Aneesha Jyoti and Vatsala Sharma: co founders, Language Curry
Introducing Aneesha Jyoti: Non-Resident Indian who returned to her motherland.
Her journey with language learning started when she moved from Delhi to Gujarat and struggled to pass her Gujarati language tests. It was only when she started speaking the language that she began to improve. After immigrating to Canada with her family, Aneesha noticed a growing need for NRIs and Canadians to connect with India and its rich culture. This realization, combined with her own experiences, led her to create Language Curry, a platform dedicated to promoting and preserving Indian languages and culture.
Aside from running Language Curry, Aneesha has her hands full with two kids and a passion for cooking. These pursuits keep her busy, excited, and sometimes exhausted, but she wouldn't have it any other way. Her story of language learning and cultural preservation can pique anyone’s interest.
Introducing Vatsala Sharma: the Chartered Accountant whose heart lies with the arts.
While she sharpened her financial acumen in her Corporate Banking days at Standard Chartered Bank; the hours spent providing training for SCB's volunteer arm is what she truly loved. The entrepreneurial spark soon flickered, and in 2015, she embarked on a journey to impart training to CAs, MBAs, and Corporates through her own L&D firm.
Vatsala is a tapestry of hues - an avid reader, an amateur painter, and a champion of culture and the arts. At Language Curry, she steers the ship of Finance & Operations, firmly anchored to the platform's mission; which is close to her personal story. Having grown up in Delhi, she was unable to pick up Marwari, her mother tongue. As a mother now, she wishes that she could speak Marwari fluently to pass it on to her children.
Let us get to know them better:
Why did you create Language Curry instead of pursuing another prestigious job, (given your qualifications and work experiences)?
Aneesha: The idea of Language Curry had been brewing in my mind for many years, and it became increasingly difficult for me to resist pursuing it. However, once I had the support and belief of my loved ones, there was no turning back. When one is truly passionate about something and wholeheartedly believes in a larger vision, letting go of a stable job becomes a minor obstacle.
Why did you decide to integrate 'culture' into the Learning Management System?
Vatsala: Language learning can be motivated by two broad reasons - learning one's mother tongue and learning a new language due to relocation or travel. However, both reasons are fueled by a sense of 'curiosity' - curiosity about people, their lives, their customs, and their perspectives. Language Curry seamlessly combines language and culture, providing learners not only with the ability to speak a language but also offering a window into the rich cultural tapestry of the people who speak it. From the festivals of Kerala to the dances of Punjab and the lingos of Karnataka, Language Curry offers a comprehensive exploration of the diverse cultural landscape of India.
What were the biggest challenges when you started and how are they different from the ones that you face today?
Aneesha: Initially very few people believed that there was a market large enough for learning Indian languages. We had to release our MVP and demonstrate traction based on limited marketing and social media spends. Once we overcame this hurdle, the journey has been both exciting and challenging. Today, our challenges include building a sustainable business model and ensuring continued engagement for our learners.
What keeps you motivated on the bad days?
Aneesha - Happy learner feedbacks that magically pour in on the toughest days, I consider it a sign from God to keep going on.
Vatsala - Ditto. Feedbacks are our life force. They give direction, course correct when required, and motivate us on a rainy day.
How do you select your team members?
Vatsala: Culture (again) is the key factor in our team selection process. In addition to technical skills, we seek out colleagues who are either multilingual or passionate about Indian culture. We once had to decline a talented content developer who claimed that there was nothing exciting about his home state, Kerala! Our team is a delightful blend of talent from various parts of India, all of whom are dedicated to our mission. We also do away with designations and instead focus on roles.
Is it possible to have a family life when running a start-up? What about social life?
Aneesha: Family will be your constant no matter what. Of course, they are your punching bags for all tough days and the first people you would hug to celebrate a win! There are financial challenges and risks that as a family you have to take but as Harshad Mehta's iconic quote goes "Risk hai to ishq hai" - to be an entrepreneur you have to be in love with both ishq and risk!
As for my social life, with two young children, my time is limited. My best buddies are mostly the awesome team I work with!
Since being an entrepreneur is a 24/7 commitment, how do you manage your health and fitness?
Vatsala: As an entrepreneur, I have come to realize that managing one's health and fitness is critical. Initially, I struggled with this as I was pregnant when Language Curry started and subsequently had to handle both my babies and the business, my third baby. During the pandemic, things got worse as I was functioning on about four hours of sleep and a lot of caffeine.
However, my bout with COVID-19 changed my perspective, and I began to take my health more seriously. I discovered the healing powers of pranayama, and we even started a global free pranayama program, which helped many people recover faster. I now understand that as women juggling multiple roles, we can only take care of our families and work if we prioritize our own health. So, health and fitness have become essential parts of my self-care routine.
What advice would you give to women who aspire to start their own businesses or pursue their passions?
Aneesha: If you believe in your dream, then go for it! Yes, there will be challenges, but these challenges will only make you stronger and more resilient.
Vatsala: Don't let the fear of failure hold you back. Failure is an inevitable part of any journey, but it does not define your worth or your potential. Instead, view it as a learning opportunity and a chance to grow. Also, don't be afraid to seek out mentors and support networks, particularly other women who have been where you are and can offer valuable insights and guidance.
As we wrap up this conversation, what are your hopes for the future of Language Curry?
Aneesha: My hope is that Language Curry becomes a global platform for promoting and preserving Indian languages and culture. I hope that we can continue to expand our offerings and reach new learners from all corners of the world.
Vatsala: I share Aneesha's vision for the future of Language Curry. Additionally, I hope that we can play a role in bridging cultural divides and fostering greater understanding and appreciation for the rich diversity of India and its people.
Aneesha and Vatsala’s stories are a true inspiration. They’re women who embraced the challenges of preserving and promoting the Indian languages and culture with grit and determination. Their story reassures us that in this rapidly changing world, there are still some people who value our roots, cherish our traditions and work hard to keep them alive.