Aashika Abraham Chittiappa – "We were all struggling with our time, mindspace, and well-being"
When Aashika became a mother, she realised moms needed a single solution to manage their tasks, thoughts and well-being. She talks to us about her rewarding entrepreneurial journey creating MAMA-MIYA and the need for women entrepreneurs to redefine success on their own terms.
NN: How did it all start for you?
Aashika: I had a pretty successful career working between Ernst & Young, some exciting F1 sponsorships, and IPL in its initial years. And then, I became a mom. I felt like I had been hit by a freight train. Although I had a greater sense of purpose than ever before, I was really struggling to manage my time across all the other things that also mattered to me – my relationships, my career, and myself.
On talking to hundreds of moms around the world, I soon realised that irrespective of age or culture, we were all struggling with our time, mindspace, and well-being. This is the problem I realised I was most committed to solving for myself and millions of other moms around the world who also wanted to be great Moms and so much more!
5 years in, as an only 2-mom-team, we’ve taken what began as a 5 people WhatsApp group and converted it into an Apple-supported app. We’ve had completely organic downloads in 103 countries across the world (with 56% of our user base coming from the US, followed by 14% from India), we’ve been recognised by some pretty prestigious accelerators and after being bootstrapped till the necessary business validation was in place, we’ve raised our first round of funding in 2023 to help us grow MAMMA-MIYA.
NN: What do you like the most about being an entrepreneur?
Aashika: I love that you can pour your time, energy and passion into your IKIGAI zone, every day – that space where you can work on something that you love, something that the world needs, something that you’re good at, and something that you can get paid for!
I also love that the entrepreneurial ecosystem is mostly made up of some of the most optimistic people on the planet. The ones who thrive in the ecstatic joy that comes with creation. The ones who enjoy harnessing the energy from the roller coaster journey of building out their vision of a better tomorrow.
To me entrepreneurship is also an accelerated path to some pretty deep personal growth – you’re tried and tested in so many ways and you need to keep evolving to stay the course. It teaches you to balance attachment and detachment, passion & pivoting, persistence & patience. It’s almost meditative.
NN: What is the hardest part about running a startup?
Aashika: Personally, the hardest part was that decision to start – to acknowledge you have an idea worth putting a lot on the line to pursue. But then, what is the cost of not pursuing it?
The second hardest part is probably to have the perseverance to stick it through when things get really tough and to continue to believe in yourself and not let the weight of others' doubts and fears weigh you down. You really need to learn to genuinely self-validate vs lean on external validation on this journey to be able to thrive through it.
However, the biggest and constantly growing daily challenge though has been to find that sense of balance between the work you’re so committed to (maybe borderline, obsessive about?) and the rest of your life – your family, health, friendships, hobbies, etc. For me, it's been about determining the right pace for me and our organisation – recognising it is an interesting mix of some marathons and multiple smaller sprints.
NN: What is needed for women entrepreneurs to succeed?
Aashika: As female founders in this current ecosystem, I have to admit, we have received a lot of support and encouragement. In fact when I reflect on my journey – I think this has only been getting better because of the work/ narrative/ support of those women who have walked ahead and held the door open for the rest of us. I think the greatest lesson I’ve learnt from my women mentors is how to redefine success on our terms instead of emulating the hustle-led startup culture.
However, similar to how in professional sports there is a renewed focus on mental training in addition to the physical and skill training, I do think women entrepreneurs need support in their struggles with self-doubt and managing the daily juggle – maybe even more so than just technical skills or access to capital. We don’t yet have enough role models or established social systems to support us on this entrepreneurship marathon.
NN: What is your motivation?
Aashika: I think when you build something you’re passionate about, for an audience you deeply care for, you don’t need to keep motivating yourself. The vision draws you in. To be honest, it’s more of a pull than a push.
Knowing that MAMMA-MIYA has the potential to truly impact the lives of millions of moms and their families by giving them the gift of time and mindspace is a powerful draw for us. What is more promising than a generation of fulfilled moms?
I have two young daughters and showing them the power and magic they can unlock in their lives by following their dreams, being financially independent on their own terms, and believing in their own potential definitely helps keep me going.
I also do think learning to reframe success and failure and focusing on learning & growing makes the entire journey more valuable in the bigger picture of our lives.
(This February, Nüshu Network is bringing you stories of inspiring women entrepreneurs and startups that are truly gamechangers.)