2018 W-Power Trailblazers: Meet Shradha Sharma, the chronicler of young startups

Started to tell entrepreneurial stories, YourStory has evolved to help and expand the ecosystem

Salil Panchal
Published: Mar 8, 2018 02:49:27 PM IST
Updated: Mar 8, 2018 02:56:57 PM IST

Life is not a template and neither is mine. Like several who have worked as journalists, I am a generalist in my over two decade experience across print, global news wires and dotcom firms. But there has been one underlying theme in each phase; life gave me the chance to observe and tell a story -- from early days tracking a securities scam to terror attacks and some of India's most significant court trials. Besides writing, I have jumped fences to become an entrepreneur, as an investment advisor -- and also taught the finer aspects of business journalism to young minds. At Forbes India, I also keep an eye on some of its proprietary specials like the Rich list, GenNext and Celebrity lists. An alumnus of Xavier Institute of Communications and H.R College of Commerce and Economics in Mumbai, I have worked for organisations such as Agence France-Presse, Business Standard, The Financial Express and The Times of India prior to this.

g_104063_shradha_sharma_280x210.jpgImage: Nilotpal Baruah for Forbes India

Shradha Sharma
Age: 37
Founder and CEO, YourStory Media

Shradha Sharma’s drive to launch YourStory in 2008 grew from the “recurring theme” that she, then a journalist with CNBC TV18, experienced—of people across society who were professionally starting out on their own, wanting to make a difference. “These were experiences and stories which need to be told,” she says.

Besides telling entrepreneurial stories, the Bengaluru-based YourStory closely interacts with seed funders, accelerators, CEOs of Indian unicorns, marquee investors and influential members of the government, to help build and expand the ecosystem they operate in.

YourStory was launched with Sharma putting in ₹2 lakh as seed capital and it remained bootstrapped until 2015. It picked up pace between 2015 and 2017, when it bagged investments from Ratan Tata and University of California, Berkeley, Kalaari Capital, Qualcomm Ventures, 3one4 Capital, and TV Mohandas Pai. In two rounds of funding, YourStory raised $8.5 million. Sharma, who holds close to a 50 percent stake in her company, says it is estimated to post more than 70 percent year-on-year jump in revenues for the financial year ending March 2018. YourStory has been profitable in some previous years and Sharma expects it to break even again in FY18.

The venture, with more than 100 people on its rolls, has published over 70,000 articles in 12 languages, collectively reaching (through text, videos, social media and other digital platforms) in excess of 200 million people. YourStory attracts 12.5 to 15 million page views and 6 million unique visitors a month. Not bad for a venture that was started with technological help from students at IIT-Bombay.

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Sharma, who grew up in Patna and moved to New Delhi in 1997 to complete her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from St Stephen’s College, says 2017 was a key year in which reportage of entrepreneurs and startups in regional languages picked up. The company also launched more products, including video formats on YourStory TV. Last year, the company launched YourStory Germany, which has content on the startup ecosystem in Germany, which is seen as one of the vital hubs for technology and innovation in Western Europe. YourStory will act as a bridge between entrepreneurs in India and Germany.

Sharma believes that people would be more successful if they did not constantly seek validation for themselves from others. “Don’t wear the labels that the world puts on you,” she says.

“Shradha has acquired a semi-cult status, venturing into the startups world when few wrote about them. She has perseverance and clarity of thought. The biggest challenge for her now is to evolve from a founder to a successful founder-manager and build an effective team of leaders,” says Mohandas Pai, former Infosys director and chairman of Manipal University.

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(This story appears in the 16 March, 2018 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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