How we beat the odds: Keshav and Shruti Malani

The brother and sister founders of Powr of You on growing up in India, investing their savings in the business and keeping it in the family.

by Elizabeth Anderson
Last Updated: 27 Oct 2014

We were born and raised in Calcutta, in the east side of India. Our parents moved to the US when we were teenagers to give us better opportunities. They were entrepreneurs themselves, running a chemicals business, but when they moved abroad they started doing various retail jobs, and now own a small supermarket in the East Bay area, near San Francisco. It was difficult for them as our mum didn't speak English. Both of us worked weekends in McDonald's from the age of 14.

After finishing high school, we went to UC Berkeley for our degrees. We worked as consultants for a few years - at Accenture and Deloitte - and later came to the UK for an MBA at the London Business School.

We had always wanted to run our own business - it was just a case of waiting for the right idea. Powr of You came to us in April 2013. We were learning about the value of data on our MBA course. It struck us that if our data is so valuable, why aren't we, the consumers, paid for it? We are the ones creating the data.

Powr of You is a platform that allows consumers to understand their online footprint and help them earn cashback for their data, while staying anonymous. When consumers sign up, they can track which websites they've visited, the pictures they've shared, or even which hashtags they've used. Powr of You syncs with subscribers' favourite apps, anonymises the data and aggregates it with other users to creates insights for both consumers and companies. Every time a company buys these insights, the consumer earns cashback.

We've only recently started working on the business full time, so we're still talking to lots of people about raising capital. We like London because it's so international but at the same time it is harder for a company like ours - pre-revenue, without a physical product - to raise money compared with somewhere like San Francisco.

In the meantime, we've invested more than £30,000 ourselves to continue building the product. The website has been live for a couple of months and we're already starting to get people signing up, even though we haven't done any marketing yet as we want to upgrade the site and create a mobile platform.

At the moment we're doing everything from home - a flat in Canary Wharf that we share with Shruti's husband. You hear a lot of horror stories about family businesses, but it works well for us because we understand each other. We're our biggest critics.

It was both scary and exciting to stop relying on a full-time job for income, but it was an exhilarating decision. If you're passionate about an idea, you have to take the leap. How often do chances like that come along?

Keshav won the Pitch it! competition at MT Live.

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