Ananya Birla Talks Being DJ Afrojack’s Favorite Pop Star, Her Music Obsession And Being A Role Model For Young Women

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Ananya Birla skyrocketed to the top of the charts when DJ Afrojack approached her to remix her song “Livin’ The Life.” The single got nearly 15 million views on YouTube and her latest single, “Meant to Be,” was just platinum-certified in December. Dutch superstar Afrojack’s favorite international pop sensation is now on a mission to create a female-led empire, emerging as a leading agent of social change and women’s rights in her native India and the world.

Birla’s business savvy came at a young age (her father is Kumar Mangalam Birla, chairman of the Adita Birla Group). At the age of 17, she created her first start-up, Svatantra Microfinance. With a vision for helping the poor become economically self-sustainable, Birla created the microfinance organization to support women entrepreneurs in the Indian rural areas to further grow their business. As of April 2016, the company had grown to more than 600 employees across 70 branches in four Indian states, and won the Gold Award for Best Start-Up.  Birla’s second business, CuroCarte, curates rare, high quality, handicrafts designed for the 21st century luxury society and makes them accessible through an e-commerce platform.

Did we mention she is only 23 years old?

Ananya BirlaPhoto Credit: Ananya Birla

We caught up recently with Birla to chat about her collaboration with Afrojack, her lifelong obsession with music and being an inspirational role model for young women.

When did you first become obsessed with music?

I have totally been obsessed with music all my life. I don’t quite remember an exact moment. My family has always been very musical and I was into poetry that later turned into songwriting. Music has been almost like a friend to me all my life.

Tell us how the single “Livin the Life” came about with DJ Afrojack.

After I got signed as an artist with Universal Music Group, Afrojack was in Bombay and heard the song and got in touch with me saying he wanted to remix it. It was really a dream come true to work with him and he’s such a nice guy.

DJ AfrojackPhoto Credit: DJ Afrojack

How did it feel when you learned you had millions of views on YouTube?

I didn’t have any expectations going in. I was just looking to release music that comes from my heart. All of the love that comes in is something for me that will always be overwhelming. Every small message, when someone tells me that they love my music, that is what keeps me going.

Who are some of your favorite musicians?

My all-time favorite is Eminem. The fact that he can be so authentic and vulnerable and scared at the same time is incredible. He’s a complete genius. Kurt Cobain was also someone who always intrigued me. The culture he built with his personality was mind blowing.

Where does your songwriting inspiration come from?

My latest song, “Meant to Be,” is about a lot of things in life, things that happen for a reason that you might not realize, but when you look back in retrospect, you see it clearly. The song is a love story about two people that didn’t work out forever. It’s quite a simple story really.

You have been such an inspiring role model for young girls and women. Tell us how you are continuing to help them in your native India.

Thank you. I appreciate that. I started an organization, Mpower Minds, to stamp out the stigma of mental health. I go to colleges and speak to young people. We help people by letting them know to speak up if they are not feeling well and that there is nothing to be ashamed of if they do need help. We are working to continue that movement throughout the world.

Ananya BirlaPhoto Credit: Ananya Birla

What has been your most gratifying experience so far?

That’s a good question. I am really beginning to enjoy the journey. I’m a very ambitious person. Today, people want to keep going, but often forget the journey. My milestone was when I went platinum (“Meant to Be” was certified platinum by the Indian Music Industry in December 2017). I was the first Indian to have an English single in India.

Any plans to come to Boston?  

One of my best friends lived in Boston and went to Boston University. I had such fun memories sitting with her in her dorm room just going crazy. I would love to get back for a visit soon.

What can fans expect this year from you?

My next song is being released on March 2 and after that, I have an EP that will launch. I am also doing a vlog because I want people to get to know me, so there are loads of fun stuff coming up.

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