Anjula Acharia Bath started out where many second generation children find themselves. She grew up in aÂ quietÂ suburb of London and only experienced desi culture through the eyes of her parents, associating the culture with boring Indian parties and old traditions. Thankfully, like many second generation children, she discovered the world between desi and western culture, in college.
“When I was growing up I shunned Indian music,” Bath confesses. It was only when she attended an Asian party at a London club that she realized that her culture could be cool. After entering the venue with her English friends, she says, “they loved it and thought it was the coolest thing ever. They were dancing to the Hip Hop and I was dancing to the Bhangra. I remember being there in the moment and thinking, this is me, this is what I am. I found my home in that moment. I found a home in that music.”
Her husband and co-founder of DesiHits, Ranj Bath, shares her passion for music. In his university years, he was a DJ in the UK. When the duo came to the United States, they found a lack of community in the desi music scene. “When I moved to California, we met alot of young kids torn between their cultures,” Bach recalls. Their solution was to start a podcast series, featuring fusion desi music.
“The first [podcasts] featured Jay Sean, Raghav, and the 50 Cent Candy Shop Bhangra Remix,” she shares,”The first week we had 4,000 downloads, then 40,000 downloads, then we were at a quarter of million.” It was at that point that the husband wife duo knew they were on to something. Looking back to that moment, Bach boasted with a laugh, “I was like, OK, people really like this!”
The magic formula, in Bach’s opinion, is that South Asians growing up in western culture are “fusion at their core.” Describing the movement she says, “We think there is a whole music genre that relates to this subculture, which is a fusion of cultures, mixing Bollywood with House, R&B with Bollywood, Hip Hop with Bhangra, or just giving a platform to artists that want to reach our audience.” In a recent deal with Universal, DesiHits now has the opportunity to nuture and encourage new talent within the South Asian diaspora. The first group to be signed is a veteran in the field, Culture Shock.
Photo Credit: Tim Knox for The New York Times
DesiHits has shown big investors, such as Jimmy Iovine, of Interscope Records, and Israeli venture capitalist, Aviv Nevo, the promise of the South Asian market in the U.S. and globally. A seasoned businesswoman, Bach is quick to give supporting stats, “This next generation of South Asians is global. Even in India, the younger demographic is growing rapidly.” After sharing that there are 700 million Indians under the age of 30, Bach continues, “They are far more like us than like their parents. They are on Facebook, Twitter, DesiHits; they are shopping at Zara, and Mango. They get info as quickly as we do.”
Anjula’s business acumen has opened a lot of doors for her. Yet, she believes that the essential ingredient to her success is “being bold.” One story she shares about her boldness in action takes place on NYE in a bar in San Francisco. She was desperate to get a connection at Apple, and she overheard a husband and wife talking about their friends, GuyÂ KawasakiÂ and Steve Jobs; she knew she had to make an introduction.
Striking a conversation with the couple, Anjula asked why the wife looked so miserable and found out it was because the kitchen was closed. She knew it was her opportunity and struck a deal with the couple, saying, “If I can get your wife some food, you have to get me an intro to Apple.” She quickly ran to her “mate” who managed the bar and begged him to find some food in the establishment. Lucky for her, there were some employee meals in the kitchen and she held up her end of the bargain. That Monday, her quick thinking, resourcefulness, and boldness (not to mention her connections), got her an introduction via email to Guy Kawasaki.
Singing the tune of the successful, Bach preaches, “Too many people are scared to do things, you just have to go and do it.” That is exactly what she is doing with DesiHits, which now gets over 10 million hits per month and over 400,000 Facebook Fans. Using her resourcefulness, boldness, and connections (not in any particular order), Bach is bringing desi music to the likes of 50 cents, Lady Gaga, Wyclef, Nicole from the Pussycat Dolls. “My vision is that our content will be mainstream,” Bach elaborates, “its taking Western music to South Asia, and taking the South Asian sound to the Western demographic.”
â€”Â NATASHA KHAN KAZI