Navya Naveli Nanda
Co-founder, Aara Health; Founder, Project Naveli
Before last year, most people knew Navya Naveli Nanda for the family she comes from. And growing up, she wasn’t necessarily comfortable with that attention. She faced the pressures of constantly being in the public eye. People expected her to pursue acting, follow in her father’s footsteps, or walk one of the other paths that were set out for her.
But in 2020, Navya Nanda did something that nobody expected her to do. She started from scratch.
Navya was in her last year of college, when the pandemic hit. Like many others at the time, she found herself at a bit of a loose end. She did her classes online, attended some webinars, and started learning a new language. Having interned in a small startup back in college, she had already developed a taste for entrepreneurship. She spent this time reading up more about it.
One day, a friend reached out to her and asked if she would be interested in joining her team for a hackathon. This friend was someone she didn’t really know very well back then — and the other two members of the team were complete strangers to her. But the hackathon seemed interesting, and Navya agreed. For 36 hours straight, she and her teammates remained connected over Zoom, brainstorming ideas to create impact in a Covid-affected world.
As they got talking, the conversation turned to certain horrifying experiences that they’ve all had as young Indian women visiting gynaecologists. ‘Even though we came from very privileged backgrounds, we realised that there was still that lack of awareness about things like sexual health, birth control, menopause, or menstruation. We had all studied abroad, yet we found ourselves not being able to speak openly about these things. That opened our eyes to how challenging this is to those who don’t enjoy our privileges; to women who haven’t had the opportunities that we’ve had.’
They did some research and realised that there weren’t many companies focussing on women’s health or making such information more accessible. So that’s the space they decided to work in. Navya’s team did not end up winning that hackathon — but at the end of those 36 hours, the four of them had the same thought. ‘How would it be if we were to actually do this?’ They took a leap of faith, and the four near-strangers became co-founders of a wonderful platform called Aara Health.
They initially operated as a content platform with three or four doctors who helped them put out some legitimate information. As Navya worked to grow the platform, she suddenly found a way to make peace with all the attention that came her way. ‘I used to feel uncomfortable that everyone’s watching me because of my family. But then I realised that if they are going to watch me, I can at least make sure that they are watching for the right reasons.’
Today, Aara Health offers content, community and commerce with over 150 doctors on board. Navya leverages her voice and her position to spread awareness about feminine hygiene, women’s healthcare and more recently, about women and economic empowerment. In June, she set up #EntrepreNaari collaboratively with our team here at Aspire for Her. ‘I know that I’m extremely privileged to wake up one day and decide I want to go into entrepreneurship. Not everyone has that option. I have always believed that privilege comes with responsibilities and I am glad I am now able to use the position I am in to make a difference.’