Anu Acharya: From Janamptri to Genomepatri™

In the year 2000, Anu starter her entrepreneurial journey. She decided that she would move to Hyderabad from the state of Chicago. She also founded a company which was named as Ocimum Bio Solutions. This company helps scientists in conducting their research. There are a lot of things that Ocimum Bio Solutions does. They went through almost 3 acquisitions with this company and there were almost 2 rounds of funding which came from World Bank and Kubera Partners. For about 14 years, the company continued to grow. For Anu, all that was great, however, it was still not enough for her.

Every day she asked herself if this was it if this was what she really wanted to do, what she really aspired! She said in an interview. ‘The real desire was to be able to create an impact. To create a big impact, you have to look at how you actually affect people directly. When you are working merely on the research side you are working as a sub-contractor to the pharma companies. The process is long. So, you are not directly impacting people. That was the main driver to start MapMyGenome.’

In one of her interviews with Your Story, Anu said, ‘We should do something else in this space. In 2012, we came up with a basic version of the algorithm. It took a lot of effort because we have to download a lot of data from the database that we already had. (Previously Ocimum Bio had done an acquisition of GeneLogic in the US for 150 million dollars.) 22,000 samples is a good sample set on gene expression. It was a very comprehensive database. What you are intrinsical might be different from what’s expressed at this point in time based on your current lifestyle. If you have a health history and your genetic profile, then you can come up with a very interesting understanding of yourself. What’s next is for you to take actionable steps. MapMyGenome is tied up with 38 hospitals. People can directly order online or they can call us and order. Our interface will be the hospitals, fitness/wellness centers and individual distributors we’ve tied up with. MapMyGenome wants to plug itself wherever people go for wellness advice like hospitals or a certain type of places like yoga centers. MapMyGenome will go there and work with those people as well. We can grow, but we’ll grow slowly.’

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Her journey on starting MapMyGenome has her hidden passion because this is when she felt happy. Both are her entrepreneur models. However, what she wanted to achieve in life, came true with MapMyGenome. In simple language, MapMyGenome is a scientifically validated horoscope which is probably about health or a genomics profile which has been personalized for you. It asks about various aspects of your physical appearance, personal details, and the produces a report which is accurate and suitable for you.

During an interview, when she was asked about what she has to say about the planning and model of her business, she said, ‘Our pricing came in between 23andMe and others who have a premium price because we don’t have the ability to wait up to 20 years to make money. As a start-up, we don’t want to kill ourselves if we have to lose money in terms of every test that we do. it’s clear we use ilummina. There is no doubt our machines are of high quality. You don’t have to worry about data output accuracy, as illumina guarantees 99.9% accuracy. none of the genetic predictive analysis is going to be 100% accurate. It is a predictive test. It is not diagnostic. It answers ‘What is the probability that you are likely to get it.’ We’ve compared our test with the others’ out there. We don’t do all the diseases others do. One worrisome issue is people don’t read fine prints. For example, in a particular case, if there are only 0.2 % of incidents in India, we don’t want people to be confused. We have to explain that even when you have high risk, the number of people affected by this particular disease is only 0.2%. You might have high chances of getting it compared to an average person but that doesn’t mean you’ll get it. That is why counseling is very important.’

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Anu feels that people should be more aware of themselves. During one of her interviews with Shenomics, when she was asked about failing while working, she said, ‘We’ve made several mistakes. The biggest was to hire in the US. We had one of the largest labs in the US that were doing fairly well. This was in the middle of the financial crisis. We hired someone to run the US operation and it didn’t end up anywhere close to what we expected. We eventually had to sell off a portion of the company, close it down, and move things back to India. We bounced back to a profitable state, but it was a much smaller venture than it was earlier. It was a lesson learned. Thankfully our other mistakes weren’t as expensive.

Even though you don’t want failure to ever hit you, it’s always a good thing to experience. When you’re in the dark, you think about things more clearly. For me, I started thinking about everything more clearly. It made me ask myself what I really wanted to do, whether it was making money, whether it was creating an impact, whether it was doing something else.

My response was a course correction, which is natural. I also started to evaluate what I really intended overall. When you’re an entrepreneur, the buck stops with you. Regardless of whether you have a board of directors or investors, the final decision is yours, and the consequences of that decision are yours. Failure really drives home that point.’

With her journey, it is pretty clear that, regardless of what she went through and her major ups and downs, she was always ready to get up and try again because she had an extreme love for what she did and this is always a brownie point for an entrepreneur.

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