Each week, Female CoFounder features a female founder in the community. Follow along each week and learn from different founders and their journeys.
For this week's founder spotlight, we'd like to introduce you to Archana Amaragandhi! She's the Founder and writer at Autholish.
FcF: Tell us about yourself.
Archana: I did my engineering in Information Technology in India and began my career as a Software Engineer at Infosys Technologies. After that, I continued my journey as a Dot Net and SQL developer across IT organizations of different sizes from multinationals to a start-up for the breadth of experience that each one offered.
My career graph, which was steadily climbing, started staggering after marriage and childbirth, thanks to the systemized inequalities. My first labor had a complication that caused a near-death experience, shook me to my core, toughened me up, and forced me to re-sort my priorities.
At work, the directors at the start-up recognized my leadership skills and encouraged me to pursue PMP certification. Emboldened by my ability to complete PMP with less than two months of preparation with a toddler in tow, I decided to expand and structure my business acumen with an MBA after I had my second child and considered my family complete.
I immigrated to Canada to do my MBA at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. During the program, I yielded to peer pressure and pushed my entrepreneurial dreams to the back burner when I got the job as a Technology Solutions Professional for Azure at Microsoft Canada. A good salary alone was not motivation enough to survive the realities of the corporate job, and I found myself unhappy in my situation. My passion won over, and I resigned from Microsoft to try my ideas as an entrepreneur at Autholish. Fail I may, perhaps even abysmally, but try I will.
FcF: What is Autholish?
Archana: Imagination is the pre-successor for innovation. Today, as technology keeps advancing by leaps and bounds, human creativity outside the technical realms is on the decline. Lack of imagination is leading to a lack of empathy. The efforts to curate content on the internet, gain analytical intelligence from the data using technology and the associated monetary benefits has led to a growth of ambition and a crunch of time. Creative writing and storytelling have become diluted or has limited itself to two-line tweets.
Autholish is an online platform for short storytelling. A fiction story from one writer can be extended to another short story by another writer and so on, and the blend of imagination and creativity from various writers would result in an anthology. The same can be extended to real-life stories we well wherein a person shares an experience, another resonates with it and shares a related experience and more add on, tying together multiple perspectives into a single narrative.
Stories under 1500 words can be written and read on the run, during the commute to work or coffee break or wait at the doctor's office. The idea is to encourage and provide creative gaps between busy schedules, minutes to unplug and imagine without interrupting regular life. Besides, there is an ending at every 1500 words, and the reader can choose when their story should end.
This co-creation model is the key differentiator between Autholish and other online writing platforms and becomes its unique value proposition.
FcF: How did you come up with Autholish?
Archana: I am a blogger since 2005 and have attended writing workshops. Both from experience and the feedback from fellow writers, I am aware of a steady decline of creative writing, depleting it to descriptions for images and selfies, two-line tweets or worse as a weapon for hatred and troll.
The young population is so consumed by the surplus of content on the internet and spends its spare time on social media that the mind is continuously occupied and distracted. They unconsciously fail to tap into their imagination and creativity. As a mother of two young children, I am worried. I came up with this idea around the time I published my young adult fiction novel back in 2012.
Leveraging my technical skills from my experience as a software developer, enriching it with learning the nuances of entrepreneurship from the business education, I want to help that passionate writer and the mother in me to create a better digital world where dreams and imaginations live.
FcF: How did you meet your Co-Founder? What do you look for in finding your Co-Founders?
Archana: My co-founder is my husband, Vijay Venkatesh Ilangovan. Relationship aside, I had known him for years before we got married, and we've been great friends who understand and work seamlessly as a team. We worked together right from our study preparation as high school students during our teen years. We worked together in buying our home and settling in. We worked together in making our family and raising two small children. We worked together when we had to immigrate to Canada with young children, and I did my MBA in parallel. We've brainstormed the idea and strategies among us hundreds of times.
I could not think of a better co-founder who knows not only my pulse but also the passion behind my dream because he shares my vision too and is technically qualified for the position. The fact that we share the same birth dates is sited by mutual friends as the reason for two fiercely independent people such as ourselves to cohere on our thoughts and actions.
In our lives, we've faced many challenges and have overcome them by balancing together as two wheels of a bicycle and have successfully brought our personal dreams to fruition. With family made, we now want to leverage our teamwork into bringing our ideas for a better digital society to reality.
FcF: What were the first 3 steps you took after you knew you wanted to pursue this idea?
1. I immigrated to Canada in 2016. Though an MBA is not a prerequisite of entrepreneurship, I believed it would help me tailor my thought process and structure my idea into a form that can be converted into business. Also, while I did my program, I assimilated Canadian culture that helped me adapt to a new country and community that much faster.
2. I created a website named https://autholish.com, where I narrate my entrepreneurship journey. I've also posted information about myself and my team, along with the credentials for credibility and some of my blog articles for authenticity. Autholish, for now, is a stand-in blog site that would garner internet traffic on the domain name. When the actual application is ready, it will replace this site under the same domain name, taking advantage of the organic traffic collected while the making was in progress.
3. I did Entrepreneurship 101 course at MaRS, not only for the information but also to build a network. I wanted to understand the challenges and learn from the successes and failures of other aspiring entrepreneurs like me. I set up a room in my house exclusively as my home office to give me privacy to focus and work on my venture during my self-allocated working hours without being interrupted by the endless chores of everyday life.
FcF: What advice do you have for other women who have a start-up idea or side project idea?
Archana: It is not uncommon to see a woman's idea not being taken seriously or a woman being mansplained with the assumption that she does not know enough. Her efforts are not validated unless backed by a man, and she is expected to prove herself repeatedly for the same things that have the road cleared for men. I've faced it multiple times, and I understand the bitter after-taste of condescending talk and bottling up frustration with a smiling face.
Dreams unfulfilled is less painful than dreams untried. From personal experience, I urge women who have a dream not to stop dreaming. Despite the gender lens, I would advise a woman to look at herself as an individual with strengths, weaknesses, passion, and personality. Introspect and draw courage from your willpower. Be open to the feedback and opinions from others but don't let influences cloud your judgment. Leverage the learning from the societal obstacles that women overcome every day and apply that to analyze your market and target audience. Believe you are free to pursue, and you will be. All the very best!
FcF: Is there anything you would like the Female CoFounder community to help you with?
Archana: Allow me an opportunity to pitch to you. Listen to me, not because I am a woman or a mother, but because I believe in my idea. If my concept convinces you on your own or resonates with you at some level, we could talk about working together or helping each other. My call of action is a stage to present my pitch and receive advice and feedback from the Female CoFounder community.
FcF: How can people connect with you?
Archana: I write at Autholish. You can visit my website to read my stories or reach me to share yours. I am as digitally available as an entrepreneur should. You can message me at LinkedIn, contact me through Autholish or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you.