Jun 29, 2024

Aneri
Shah

Aneri Shah is a Comedian, Director, Writer, and Creator of Lonely Girl – a self-inspired comedy series about a South Asian woman navigating her newfound queerness alongside her three South Asian girlfriends. She has directed “I’m Doing My Job”, a documentary following 6 first-generation, women of color, emergency medical workers in NYC. Aneri was formerly a video technologist.

Episode Highlights

  • 0:00 – Introduction to Aneri Shah and her comedy pilot project “Lonely Girl” featuring four South Asian women in their thirties navigating life authentically.
  • 3:15 – Aneri’s goal to represent South Asian women similar to Issa Rae’s approach in “Insecure” and her ambition to sell the show to platforms like Netflix or Hulu.
  • 6:45 – Plans to establish a media brand to share more stories about South Asian women and non-binary individuals, bridging narratives between the South Asian Diaspora and women in India.
  • 10:30 – Discussion on cultural differences, societal norms, pressures for success within the South Asian community, and the importance of sharing diverse narratives.
  • 14:20 – Challenges faced by South Asians across various fields, including overcoming fears, persistent effort, embracing opportunities, personal growth, and the significance of continuous improvement.
  • 18:10 – Challenges encountered by a venture despite initial funding, an incident with an inappropriate text from an investor leading to financial setbacks, emotional tolls, tough decisions, and eventual success in rebuilding the business.
  • 22:45 – Emphasis on co-founder relationships, securing funding, creating films during the pandemic, personal interests, and life lessons learned as an entrepreneur.
  • 26:30 – Highlighting legacy, self-censorship avoidance, physical health improvements, genuine connections, loneliness, self-awareness, and connection as crucial elements for a fulfilling life.

Show Transcript

Transcript - Full Episode

[00:00:00 – 00:00:08] Nitin Bajaj

Everyone. Welcome to the industry show. I’m your host, Nitin Bajaj. And joining me today is Aneri Shah. Aneri, welcome on the show.

[00:00:08 – 00:00:09] Aneri Shah

Thank you for having me.

[00:00:10 – 00:00:13] Nitin Bajaj

Pleasure is all ours. K. Let’s start with who is Aneri?

[00:00:15 – 00:00:38] Aneri Shah

Aneri is many different things. First of all, my name means unique, so I always think it’s funny because when people ask my name, the most common response I get is, oh, that’s so unique. So I like that it’s so literal, That That’s awesome. Yep. And congratulations. Thank you.

[00:00:38 – 00:00:46] Nitin Bajaj

Let’s talk about what is Lonely Girl, why that name, and give us a sense for the mission and the vision.

[00:00:47 – 00:04:12] Aneri Shah

Okay. So Lonely Girl is it’s actually 2 things that kind of sit together. So Lonely Girl is a project that I’ve been writing for about a year and a half and it’s a comedy pilot based on my own life. So I spent 8 or 9 years in New York and so all of my twenties and I wrote a show about 4 South Asian women in their early thirties in New York based on just based on me and my friends living in New York Aneri us dating and working and living life, so it’s like an insecure meets girls, but for South Asian women. And I decided to write that when I moved to LA a few years ago because I hadn’t really seen anything on TV where it was about South Asian women just living Nitin a way that felt reflective of the experiences of me and my friends Aneri I just wanted it. I’m like, I don’t know that just feels revolutionary and Issa Rae always talks about Issa Rae is the writer, director, lead actress, and then Secure and she always talks about how making shows about black women just doing mundane things like dating is actually revolutionary because not everything is about activism, so to speak. And so that’s what the show Lonely Girl is about Aneri I also decided to act in it because the main character’s journey is largely centered at least the first episode on her realizing that she also likes to date women in her thirties which that that’s what happened to me, like when I say happened to me. That discovery happened in my thirties and it was really jarring because I was like, who am I? What have I been doing? How do I explore this as a millennial? I think, right, like the future generations they have, especially in bigger cities, more permissivity around this. But when I was young this was not talked about especially if you were South Asian. True. Yeah. So the show is funny. I think it’s quirky. We just produced a proof of concept for it, so I’m hoping to sell it to Netflix or Hulu or a big network. And then Lonely Girl, the media and entertainment brand I’m building, it’s focused on, again, telling more stories about South Asian women and non binary people just living and exploring all the different facets of that and what it means. Starting with the South Asian Diaspora, but I actually think it could be really interesting to create a bridge between South Asian Diaspora women Aneri and then women back in India, because in so many ways they’ve actually progressed far beyond what we’re doing in representation because they’re not thinking oh I’m so Indian, I’m so American, they’re just living. Yes. And what I find many times is when I go to Mumbai and I meet women my age or like me, they’ve just progressed far beyond where I’m at and where my me and my friends are at, which is always so funny. And a lot of it’s also because my parents moved here in the seventies, eighties, so they’re still stuck in that mindset. And they created that time box. They created a time box whereas women in India especially in like Mumbai Mhmm. They’re talking about women’s rights, they’re talking about fertility, they’re talking about sex, like nothing is as big of a deal. Even in the the show Lonely Girl that I wrote, we had 1 of the girls actually be from Mumbai because we thought it would be fun to play with that as a character, which I have not seen done. I was yeah. Lonely Girl, the entertainment brand, it’s just a a company that covers all the different film, TV, digital, and unscripted and scripted projects we’ll do in the future. I think we have a pretty strong mission. I’m figuring out what projects and products will fit under that vision.

[00:04:12 – 00:05:25] Nitin Bajaj

That’s awesome. And I think the big thing here is, as you mentioned, when it comes to certain minorities Nitin whether it’s South Asian or black or any of these, it doesn’t always have to be about something revolutionary. It doesn’t have to be about activism or about or 1 person going against the grain of everything and becoming a success. It’s, yeah, how does somebody get up and go about their day and and in some cases find their identities. So it’s I think we’ve come to that point and come up age where things like these have to be out there in the mainstream. So thank you for doing what you’re doing. It’s important. And more so as we become a more mainstream part of this country as of this community, we’re only worth 1.2 percent. When we look at the economics, we are punching way above our weight class. Yes. So why not in entertainment? Why not in the day to day communication Aneri we are still not being thought of as a stereotype? That you have to if you’re selfish and you have to be good at math, you have to be a genius in science.

[00:05:25 – 00:06:15] Aneri Shah

Yeah. Some people don’t have to be. And just this pressure to feel like you always have to be successful in a very specific way is for me, it felt very oppressive growing up. I was like, I was thinking about, okay. III always like to think about, okay, when we host an event, when Lonely Girl gets picked up, Aneri, like, what are the things I wanna ask panelists? And every panel I go to, it’s, like, oh, tell me about your success story. And for some reason, I was just imagining a panel of South Asian people, and I was, like, what 1 time you failed and you didn’t it didn’t end well. Like, you didn’t reframe it as a success because those stories are important too and and I think our community in particular we’re highly overrepresented in fields like medicine and even in tech. There’s so many South Asian CEOs, but yet the pressure to assimilate means we’re never really thriving.

[00:06:15 – 00:06:15] Nitin Bajaj

Yes.

[00:06:15 – 00:06:22] Aneri Shah

We’re still despite having large monetary gains still just surviving, which is like an interesting dichotomy I think.

[00:06:22 – 00:06:37] Nitin Bajaj

It is and it’s more mental than anything, right? Yeah. We come from that scarcity mindset. Mhmm. And going back to that time box, we’ve also boxed ourselves into that thought process of there is not enough and that’s not true.

[00:06:37 – 00:06:37] Aneri Shah

Right.

[00:06:37 – 00:06:58] Nitin Bajaj

Aneri, yeah, it’s very interesting. So breaking that barrier, I think, is the more fundamental thing that’ll make us move, make the next generation have a a better sense for clarity and being able to just live. Yeah. That’s extremely important. Okay. So you have this pilot coming up.

[00:06:58 – 00:06:58] Aneri Shah

Yeah.

[00:06:58 – 00:07:10] Nitin Bajaj

Aneri, but before we talk about that, I wanna ask you what is the biggest challenge you’re facing despite all of these other things which are challenges in the world? Yeah. Yeah. What’s the 1 big challenge you wanna call up?

[00:07:10 – 00:07:50] Aneri Shah

Fear. It’s so interesting because I think about this question a lot because I’m like Shah are real challenges versus perceived challenges? But the biggest challenge I face day to day is literally fear Aneri I don’t know it’s a lot of things, it’s fear that especially coming from before this I was working as a tech startup founder for 7 years Aneri then at bigger tech companies like Shutterstock before that and so I think moving here and entering this space it feels competitive, it feels unknown, Hollywood has been through a big upheaval in the last few years, so I think that unknown creates some kind of legitimate fear of what what’s gonna happen, what is that all look like.

[00:07:50 – 00:08:10] Nitin Bajaj

Is it the fear of success versus failure? Is this the fear of not being accepted that nobody gives a crap about the everyday life of an ex. Right? The ex being a minority or someone who is looking to find their identity. Like, what is the fear about?

[00:08:11 – 00:08:42] Aneri Shah

It’s actually really specific. It’s in my head. I feel are people thinking who does she think she is to create this? That’s what’s going through my head even though there has been no evidence to show that this is true, because I’m actually really sincere and I work really hard, but I think coming from the tech world it’s like you work fast you break things, but I’m coming here and there’s many people that have been here a lot longer than me, and working a lot longer than me in specific ways Aneri so my fear I think is sometimes people thinking my work is trite or that who is she to

[00:08:42 – 00:09:13] Nitin Bajaj

be doing this. That’s a fundamental fear all entrepreneurs have because we are going and doing something that has never been done before. Mhmm. And 1 part of us will always think, does nobody give a crap about this Aneri that’s why it’s not being done? Or nobody just wanted to do it because they had other problems or other issues or whatever. Right? So it’s good to have that fear, not in a restrictive way. It’s just to say, am I showing up and giving it my 100% day after day?

[00:09:14 – 00:10:26] Aneri Shah

Yeah. And even a 100%. Right? There’s there is such a thing as 10000 hours like each This is actually my second project I worked on a film before this and I’m seeing that everything I work on things get better, the process, the quality, the types of people that want to work with me it’s slowly improving, but what’s really interesting about art is that by the time you finish something you already, at least for me, I keep looking at it thinking here’s all the things I could have done better. Yes. And so it’s hard to have that perspective, but the other fear is so much of my work is based on my personal life, and so this fear is actually less than it used to be, but there’s fear of how it will be received within my community. Mhmm. Luckily now my parents also both know that I date women too, but it’s still just scary thinking about not just this project, but the fact that the thing I’m most passionate about is minding my personal life for stories and being relatable. That’s just I’m good at. It’s what I like doing. There’s such a perceived risk involved with that, and I don’t really see very many South Asian women doing that. So in in that way, I guess it’s also in the the tone of the content is also an entrepreneurial endeavor in itself because it feels new.

[00:10:27 – 00:10:38] Nitin Bajaj

The lazy in me says we don’t have to go out, figure out something. This is just this is who I am, and I can write about me at the end of the day and keep producing more and more content.

[00:10:39 – 00:11:14] Aneri Shah

That’s been my that it’s my approach. I’m like, I don’t I but weird stuff happens. Okay? I I went to this I’ll talk about it. I went to this South Asian matchmaking convention last year, and this 1 guy was like, oh, so it was a lot of Gujarati people, which we know tends to be a slightly more conservative culture. And this guy was like, so we’ve been on 2 or 3 dates after the convention Aneri he goes, so how do I explain to my parents that you’re bisexual? And I was like, what do you mean? I was like, okay, so you’ve already decided they’re not gonna like it, you’ve taken that upon yourself and now somehow it’s my problem.

[00:11:14 – 00:11:15] Nitin Bajaj

Yeah.

[00:11:15 – 00:11:32] Aneri Shah

I was like, I don’t understand, never call me again. Like it was but it was a good filter. Yeah. And Aneri didn’t say Shah. I I was way too nice about it actually. It’s more that when I thought about it after I was like, wow, this is interesting that this is gonna now come up because it’s more public facing. Yeah. So, yeah, it’s pretty funny.

[00:11:32 – 00:11:35] Nitin Bajaj

So you have a better response for the next person who says that?

[00:11:35 – 00:12:24] Aneri Shah

I don’t know. Help me think of 1. What do you say? I think in our community, even in my generation, many of us are still working through this idea that we feel like we owe our parents something for coming to this country and sacrificing so much. Mhmm. And I understand that, you can have gratitude for your parents, but what’s been really interesting with me and my parents is that I think in many ways they’ve had the privilege of being able to evolve with me because I’m so open, so it’s not always easy, but it’s actually definitely more fruitful and that’s something they’ve told me. That’s been an interesting development for me Aneri also creating an identity that’s just separate from your parents. In the show, so much of it is about that, and you would be surprised how many people who’ve watched some of the content or who have read the script have said, how how come you don’t have their parents as part of it? You should have their I’m, like, not all of our experiences have to be defined by our parents.

[00:12:24 – 00:12:29] Nitin Bajaj

It’s different for people to think about it in that way. Mhmm. Because that’s how we’ve been ingrained

[00:12:29 – 00:12:29] Aneri Shah

Yep.

[00:12:30 – 00:12:35] Nitin Bajaj

That our identity comes from and is attached to and rooted in what our parents is.

[00:12:35 – 00:12:37] Aneri Shah

Yeah. I know. Totally.

[00:12:38 – 00:12:43] Nitin Bajaj

Now on the flip side of challenges come opportunities. What’s the 1 you’re most excited about?

[00:12:43 – 00:13:03] Aneri Shah

And you asked me about this as a challenge, but I actually see this as an opportunity. I’m very convinced that over the next 5 years, 10 years, whatever it is, that we’re gonna see an explosion in South Asian content generally just because the population is quite large. When you look at in the US it’s still only 1.2%, but I think the buying power is in the trillions.

[00:13:03 – 00:13:04] Nitin Bajaj

Yes.

[00:13:04 – 00:13:55] Aneri Shah

It’s very high Aneri it’s a highly educated population. And then more generally speaking, almost 25% of the world is South Asian, but South Asian women’s on screen representation time is just 0.3%. So what I actually think about more often than the challenge of do people even care about this is actually the opposite of can I get there fast enough? Okay. Because I think it’s going to happen. Mhmm. And so I just wanna make sure that I’ve I stay cutting edge enough and relevant enough to stay at the helm of it. So I’m really excited about that, I think that I think the deeper we’re willing to dive into ourselves, especially women who in our culture who tend to be more, like, I don’t wanna say this about myself. I don’t want people to think this. I think the more we can delve into our actual complexity, it’s gonna be so interesting because the South Asian woman’s experience in the US is so different than South Asian men’s. It’s very different. We are both we’re, like, fetishized by

[00:13:56 – 00:13:56] Nitin Bajaj

Mhmm.

[00:13:56 – 00:14:15] Aneri Shah

The American community and then treated it like we should be chest or whatever by our own community. We’re expected to serve the elders in our community, but then in the workplace where we’re succeeding that seem as a weakness and I don’t know people hate us sometimes in our own family. That’s like a weird I don’t know if I’m allowed to say that but I’m saying it.

[00:14:15 – 00:14:15] Nitin Bajaj

It it

[00:14:15 – 00:14:17] Aneri Shah

is Yeah. It’s weird. Yeah. And

[00:14:18 – 00:14:53] Nitin Bajaj

I’m with you. The more a box is unopened, the more it has inside of it that can come out. And to me, that’s the biggest opportunity. And you’re right, from a from an economic perspective, yes, there is huge opportunity. But also at the other end is this is completely unexplored. Even in India, this is something that’s just about coming out in a way that people are starting to accept, starting to talk about this Aneri put it out on the screen. So, yeah, right place, right time. So

[00:14:53 – 00:14:54] Aneri Shah

Yeah.

[00:14:54 – 00:14:55] Nitin Bajaj

Keep going.

[00:14:55 – 00:15:47] Aneri Shah

That’s been my favorite phrase whenever somebody says keep going, I take it as a sign of okay just 1 do 1 thing today. Yes. And 1 of my 1 of my mentors wrote a book called doing it scared Mhmm. Which I really like because her thing is a lot of times people will wait until they’re not scared anymore to do something, but she’s that’s not a real thing. Most people who are doing things they’re scared every day and yet even for the proof of concept, I’ve been putting off hosting a round table for feedback with all the different people that have been following it because I’m just scared. I’m watching it, I’m like is this even good? I don’t know maybe it’s good, but the point isn’t is this perfect or not, the point is just keep going and people follow that Aneri it takes look when you’re doing something that feels so new it’s not gonna be perfect because you can’t imitate what someone else has done because it doesn’t exist. Aneri so that’s something I have to keep reminding myself in my meditation every day. I’m like, it’s okay. Just keep going.

[00:15:47 – 00:16:04] Nitin Bajaj

And drawing from the startup world, especially on the tech side, because you’ve come from that world, is 1 thing I personally believe in is if you wait for the product to be perfect, you waited too long. Yep. Right? Just put it out there. Take the feedback. Keep improving.

[00:16:04 – 00:16:22] Aneri Shah

Yep. Yeah. Built in public. Yeah. Yeah. And I think you have to be and then I think developing a spiritual practice where you don’t take feedback too personally, that’s something I’m working on now because honestly, with tech, if I built a product and then users didn’t like it or whatever, I never took it personally.

[00:16:22 – 00:16:24] Nitin Bajaj

But this content also comes from you.

[00:16:24 – 00:16:28] Aneri Shah

Yes. It’s so different. Like, we built products for marketers to

[00:16:28 – 00:16:29] Speaker 3

make video. That was a

[00:16:29 – 00:16:39] Aneri Shah

very different feeling Aneri sometimes I have days where I’m like, oh, man, that was nice. It was a lot easier. In some ways, it was a lot easier. Yeah.

[00:16:39 – 00:16:41] Nitin Bajaj

Now as we look forward,

[00:16:41 – 00:16:44] Aneri Shah

I wanna take a moment and look back in the rearview mirror. Mhmm.

[00:16:44 – 00:16:59] Nitin Bajaj

Talk about 2 instances. 1, where things did not work out as you had expected. There was some failure, some lesson that came out of it, and on the other end where things of this particular experience became a success beyond your imagination.

[00:17:00 – 00:17:54] Aneri Shah

Okay. Where do you want me to talk about something that just failed Aneri then something else that became a success that I didn’t imagine? Yeah. So in terms of failure, it it was not 1 I guess it was 1 inciting incident that led to a series of what I now look at is I don’t wanna say failure, but maybe redirection. I don’t know. Rejection. Yeah. Pivot. But I I was building a startup called SiteWorthy that actually still exists as a consultancy, but we were building products and networks of video editors to help brands and agencies repurpose their existing content into short form ads for TikTok and for Instagram and for social. And a couple years into that business, we got funding from a big agency, RGA. And then maybe a year after that, I was raising money from, like, VC venture capitalists Aneri I was doing a seed round.

[00:17:54 – 00:17:54] Nitin Bajaj

Mhmm.

[00:17:54 – 00:19:06] Aneri Shah

And that’s, like, the first round of proper funding that you get for your startup. And it took a few months to get a couple of investors on board, and then we had what was called a lead investor Mhmm. That would take a larger share of the equity and set the terms for the round. Aneri there was 1 guy in particular that he was actually from India, and he was the 1 I was in touch with most of the time about our finances and that kind of thing. And then they finally agreed to come on, and then we had a whole round set up based on those 2 guys, him and his fund manager being on our board. And maybe 2 or 3 days before they were supposed to wire the money, the guy from India sends me this long text basically being implying that he expects to date me Oh. After the yeah. After and I like he wants to. I’m like, who would text that? Why would you text that? So I read it and I was shocked Aneri was also like younger, I was less seasoned and also really nervous about how things would play out. I think I would handle it very differently now. But it took me a couple days to report it, and then I did, and he got let go. And but what was challenging was that then that fund decided to pull out

[00:19:06 – 00:19:06] Nitin Bajaj

Yeah.

[00:19:06 – 00:19:59] Aneri Shah

Of the round. So then we lost our other investors, which I don’t think we had to. I think I just didn’t have the emotional capacity in that moment to explain and tell the story Aneri everyone, you should do press, and I was like, I I don’t wanna do press. I wanna sleep. So I slept. And my cofounder at the time was 7 or 8 months pregnant. I remember we had to have some hard conversations, like, she needed money, and she was a single mom. It’s the whole thing. So I was like, okay. Let’s just you don’t have to work on the business anymore. It’s okay. You should probably go somewhere where you can make more money or and quite honestly, I was like I don’t think it’s helping me to have somebody who is both pregnant and needs more money from the business than we can give. So I would say that I didn’t have I had been working on such a high energy

[00:20:00 – 00:20:00] Nitin Bajaj

Mhmm.

[00:20:00 – 00:20:48] Aneri Shah

Path for so many years that when that happened, I didn’t have any reserves, so I completely burned out. Yeah. And so I would say by mistake, obviously, I can’t control that the guy did this, but I learned from that experience that 1, if you are working on high for a long time then when something does happen, the burnout is not 3 months. It was like a year and a half, 2 years maybe. And I was able to rebuild the business, make it profitable. I just made it into an agency. I Shah off the tech. It was fine. But I feel like my personal life really suffered and I don’t see it as a failure anymore, but at the time the ways in which I felt like I had failed were just I just sleep all the time. I’m like, oh, I’m just totally burnt out. I’ve hit a wall Aneri now looking back I’m like I just had no reserves. I had no cushion for the stress because I was working all the time.

[00:20:48 – 00:21:03] Nitin Bajaj

Yeah. In the moment it may seem like a failure because those are the metrics you’re checking. Yeah. Did I get the funding? Did I Yeah. Increase the customer base, revenue, etcetera? But, yeah, that’s especially when you’re running on fumes.

[00:21:03 – 00:21:20] Aneri Shah

Yeah. I literally remember thinking like I can’t do it. I don’t know what to do but I can’t do it. And I think I got lucky in many ways because I don’t think that was the business I wanted to be running for 10 years, so now looking back I’m like, thank God. Thank God that didn’t work out. I would still be working on it because we would have raised more money Aneri

[00:21:20 – 00:21:23] Speaker 3

then more money and then who knows what would have happened.

[00:21:23 – 00:22:00] Aneri Shah

And in many ways, I think also I learned and thought a lot more deeply about what I needed a business partner Aneri maybe conversations I should have pushed harder for us to have that I didn’t think about at the time. Because nobody teaches you how to do that stuff Aneri most businesses Shah down. I was reading about this the other day. 40% of businesses that shut down is actually due to the co founder relationship. And I was like, oh, that makes sense and you should treat it like a marriage, you should go to therapy, you should have conversations every week, so that’s something I also learned from that is if I were to have her have a business partner again, I would not just treat it. I would treat it with as much seriousness as I treat a serious romantic relationship. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:22:00 – 00:22:15] Nitin Bajaj

That’s perfect. And I think we talk about this a lot that it’s not really failure because you learn something from it. You’re better, you’re wiser, and you’re not committing the same mistake again, you came out ahead. Yeah.

[00:22:15 – 00:22:25] Aneri Shah

And thank God I met look, there’s I think I still in my twenties then. I’m like, you know what? Relatively speaking, at least I made some of those mistakes or those things happened early on Yeah. And now that’s done.

[00:22:25 – 00:22:26] Nitin Bajaj

They’re smaller. They’re cheaper.

[00:22:27 – 00:25:01] Aneri Shah

Like, in the rear view, it seems, oh, at the time it felt so big, but now it feels medium or necessary or just part of it. And then you said, what’s something that I was that I thought succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. I did for that company when we got funding from RGA, that was a really fun experience because they brought us into their venture arm and then they would introduce us to all their brands to sell our products. And I remember the 1 the 1 of the biggest sales I made that I was really excited by because I beat all the guys in my cohort was at Princess Cruise. I was really excited because everybody pitched them, because everybody wants to work with Carnival Cruise. Right? They’re huge. And I remember when I won the pitch, 1 of the directors at RGA being like, you’re gonna be famous 1 day. And I was like, thank you. And I got lucky. Their chief digital officer at the time was Asian, so I don’t think it was a coincidence. And it was also a reminder that when you have more people like you sitting in the seat of power, they wanna give you that power too. Yes. The second 1 was I my first film happened by accident, but I’m really proud of how it turned out. I was living in New York when the pandemic started, and I had a cousin on the front lines working as Nitin ER physician in Brooklyn. Mhmm. And she was 2 days back from maternity leave when, like, the lockdown started and everything went crazy, and then her boss had emailed her telling her you have to make a will and get your affairs in order. So she called me and she’s panicking. She’s like, oh my god. I have a son. What am I gonna do? And she’s like, can I work you in to my will in case something happens to me and my husband? It was a really scary moment and I started recording our conversations thinking, I don’t know what this is, but I’ll start recording and then 1 thing led to another Aneri all these other women physicians started reaching out to me in New York Aneri I ended up making a 50 minute documentary called I’m Doing My Job, where we followed 6 South Asian and black female ER physicians throughout the pandemic. And I didn’t know what what the movie was or what I was even doing. I thought the pandemic was gonna be 2, 3 months, but I’m really proud because we were able to get funding for it through GoFundMe Aneri then also an executive producer in Brooklyn, and we finished the film in 2020 2, like, November, December. Mhmm. And then in 22, 23, did the film festival circuit, and I’m really proud we finished it, honestly. I don’t know exactly where it will be released, but I remember thinking, like, oh, this ended up being such a cooler experience than I thought it would be, and I also think that’s when I realized I liked telling South Asian women stories. It was just fun.

[00:25:02 – 00:25:14] Nitin Bajaj

That’s awesome. It’s sometimes it’s just going through that experience, not caring about what the end product is and how it shaped up. Mhmm. But just knowing you can do something and put something like that together, having that vision, going through the motions.

[00:25:15 – 00:25:57] Aneri Shah

Yep. That’s awesome. Yeah. And in 2020 when I started making it, I got so much pushback around why does it have to be all South Asian and black women or what. I’m like, first of all, South Asian women are extraordinarily overrepresented in medicine. Yes. So why would it be weird? And I’m like, this isn’t about COVID. This is about the women, and we’ll be able to go much deeper. That was my vision. We’ll be able to go so much deeper if it’s from a similar immigrant culture Mhmm. About the challenges they face, but I thought a lot about if it was all white women Yeah. Would anybody have pushed Bajaj was like, no. It would have been like, oh, this is such a feminist film. The more people push back, the more I wanted to make it all South Asian, which was and a lot of South Asian people push back. We hate ourselves.

[00:25:59 – 00:26:00] Nitin Bajaj

We do. We talked about

[00:26:00 – 00:26:01] Aneri Shah

that a lot, like,

[00:26:01 – 00:26:20] Nitin Bajaj

when, the article we put out came out on Fortune. We ended up getting calls and and messages about why are we writing about this? Like, why not? This is a fact. Right? We are out there running multiple fortune Aneri companies. Why would we not write about it? So, yeah, we do hate ourselves.

[00:26:21 – 00:26:29] Aneri Shah

It’s such a and we’re very critical, and I think so much of my theory is that the less you create, the more you criticize.

[00:26:29 – 00:26:30] Nitin Bajaj

Mhmm.

[00:26:30 – 00:26:52] Aneri Shah

And our community is not, at least in the US, is not creating to its full potential. Right? Like, we come from such a creative background in in South Asia, but then a lot of people come here and you lose all of that. Like, I grew up doing Bharatatiyam and playing harmonium and doing all these things. If I wasn’t writing and performing now, I feel like all of that stuff would just be in me and it creates, I think, anger.

[00:26:53 – 00:26:53] Nitin Bajaj

Mhmm. So I

[00:26:53 – 00:26:58] Aneri Shah

think that’s part I think that’s why we criticize so much. We love to. Yeah.

[00:27:00 – 00:27:02] Nitin Bajaj

Talking about criticism, what do you do for fun?

[00:27:03 – 00:27:50] Aneri Shah

Oh, that’s a good question. I do I do a lot of I I have a lot of fun because I have to. I live really close to beach in LA. I live in Santa Monica, so I like playing beach tennis, and I like just jumping in the water Aneri going to the beach in the morning and reading a book. It’s 1 of my favorite things to do. There’s a bookstore near me called Zippy’s Bookstore. I love bookstores. So I go in there. I when I go on a run up Montana, every time I go up on the way back, I get a sea salt cold brew, and then I go into Zippy’s bookstore Aneri I get a book. Nice. So it’s a very expensive run every time I go up Montana. Yes, I like bookstores. I really like comedy shows and shows, and anything my friends are doing creatively, I like supporting them. I think it’s really fun. So I have friends that are doing 1 woman shows or also producing films, like LA is a very creative place. 1 of my fun things to do is just going to their stuff and

[00:27:50 – 00:27:51] Nitin Bajaj

Supporting them.

[00:27:51 – 00:28:02] Aneri Shah

Supporting them. And then I think, yeah, I said running. And then 1 of my friends just opened up a dance studio in, Marina del Rey. Mhmm. So twice a month, they do Bharatnatyam classes, so sometimes I go to that.

[00:28:02 – 00:28:04] Nitin Bajaj

That’s cool. Yeah. Keeps you active.

[00:28:04 – 00:28:05] Aneri Shah

Yeah.

[00:28:06 – 00:28:11] Nitin Bajaj

Alright. Now on to my favorite part of the show, which we call the 1 9 life lessons.

[00:28:11 – 00:28:12] Aneri Shah

Oh my god.

[00:28:13 – 00:28:16] Nitin Bajaj

Would love for you to share your life lessons with us.

[00:28:16 – 00:29:19] Aneri Shah

Oh my gosh. I don’t know if I have any life lessons. I I don’t know. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we often avoid we think we’re supposed to avoid difficulty. If something feels difficult or painful we try to avoid that feeling. I don’t know the only way out is through. So I feel like the biggest skill I’ve gained throughout being an entrepreneur for so many years is just the ability to navigate change and difficulty and not see it as so scary, but just see it as an opportunity to become an even better, brighter, more playful version of myself. And so now that I’ve completely unleashed my inner child, I play every week, I like whatever. I’m like, I’m gonna be okay no matter what happens, I’m gonna be okay. And especially for people in the South Asian community, I want them to have that. Just like the ability to know they’re always gonna be okay. So maybe there’s a lesson around playfulness. I didn’t distill it into 1 line because I’m not good at doing that. I’m not a writer. I’m just kidding. I’m a writer, but I’m still not good at doing that. I don’t know. Maybe my lesson is play every day.

[00:29:20 – 00:29:21] Nitin Bajaj

It’s an important 1.

[00:29:21 – 00:29:22] Aneri Shah

Yeah. Right?

[00:29:22 – 00:29:37] Nitin Bajaj

It’s not being inhibited by these cultural norms or boxes that have been created for us that you have to fit this XYZ stereotype or expectation. Just go out and do what feels right for you. Mhmm.

[00:29:37 – 00:30:58] Aneri Shah

Aneri, like, the other 1, someone said this to me at 1 of our event or when I was making the documentary, it was interesting because we had to go through so many pages of transcript to figure out what audio to include. Aneri some of it was some of the South Asian women were talking a little bit about how they felt like during the pandemic, even though they were on the front lines. They’re like, even though we have doctors in our family that are not even seeing COVID patients, because people in our culture respect men more, they’re still only talking to them. And that line, I went back and forth so many times on whether or not to include it because the line was talking about someone that I actually know, and I was like, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know if this is gonna hurt someone, and someone said to me instead of thinking about who you’re gonna hurt, think about who you’ll inspire. And that I think about that line all the time because I think it made me think a lot about my legacy and about the younger generations and I was like, oh my gosh, it doesn’t matter what the people who came before me think of me, it’s actually much more important with the people that are coming from us are able to take away from us because that’s the future. And so I think about that line a lot whenever I’m spiraling back into that Mhmm. Feeling or space of I don’t wanna hurt anybody because I find that even South Asian creatives I’ve met published things, who’ve written things, they censor themselves constantly. Yes. So I’m That’s huge. Trying to commit to not doing that. Mhmm. Cool. Yeah.

[00:30:59 – 00:31:00] Nitin Bajaj

What other lessons do you have?

[00:31:01 – 00:31:02] Aneri Shah

Oh my god. Oh, move your body.

[00:31:03 – 00:31:03] Nitin Bajaj

Mhmm. I

[00:31:03 – 00:31:39] Aneri Shah

don’t know. I’ve III know you get it. Yes. I didn’t work out at all during the pandemic or maybe the 1 or 2 years prior. I was and I was in, like, a relationship I wasn’t super happy in Aneri I think that it all played together. And in my head, it wasn’t affecting me that much. I didn’t know. And then after I went through my breakup, I started eating a little bit I spent 3 months. I stopped drinking alcohol for those 3 months Aneri I started just eating more protein, less carbs, and made, like, some simple changes that was a year and a half ago. Within a year, I had lost, like, £35. Wow. I’m 52. And forget the weight. I look

[00:31:40 – 00:31:40] Nitin Bajaj

Yeah.

[00:31:40 – 00:32:16] Aneri Shah

5 to 7 years younger than I did 5 years ago. And I truly believe it’s just the reduction of cortisol, the meditation, like, the moving my body, and it started small. I started with just taking walks twice a day Mhmm. And then slowly added running in, and then just 3 months ago, I started doing a little bit more strength training. But, yeah, after 4 years of not working out, I couldn’t just everyone thinks they have to start extreme. I’m like, I started with doing a 20 minute walk every day because I was like, I’m not moving at all. And I think that moving my body has been the single most helpful thing for my professional life outside of everything else, I think.

[00:32:17 – 00:32:25] Nitin Bajaj

It’s huge. And you’re right. You don’t want to start off on a cliff wanting to fall off and or injure yourself.

[00:32:26 – 00:32:46] Aneri Shah

Yeah. Like, I couldn’t even imagine. Like, even going on a walk every day felt like a big deal. Yes. So that was a really interesting it’s interesting how much that changed my life and it it I did it in sustainable way because I started small. So even that part of it, just go incrementally. You don’t have to do everything right away.

[00:32:46 – 00:33:03] Nitin Bajaj

And that’s a big realization because, yeah, people do think I have to do this with a bang because it has to be announced to the rest of the world, not understanding that keeping up to something that’s extremely high or different, very different from what your today looks like Mhmm. Is not sustainable.

[00:33:03 – 00:33:48] Aneri Shah

Yeah. My last 1 would be I have 1 more. Is a lot of times in every industry, tech and entertainment is my experience. People talk a lot about networking. My advice is always prioritize connection Yes. And building relationships over networking because sometimes that word networking is good, but treating relationships like they’re transactional, I think is helpful in the short term, but actually really harmful in the long term. Whereas connections and relationships will always pay off. Aneri I think we sometimes forget that Aneri I I just the number 1 cause of death outside of anything else, I think, is loneliness. Yes. And so outside of everything else, I think the connections we have are all we have. So

[00:33:50 – 00:33:51] Nitin Bajaj

It’s a lot of wisdom

[00:33:51 – 00:33:51] Aneri Shah

Yeah.

[00:33:52 – 00:33:52] Nitin Bajaj

Right there.

[00:33:54 – 00:34:30] Aneri Shah

Yeah. Oh, yeah.

And Lonely Girl. I never talked about it. I can’t why it’s called lonely. Yeah. A Kaylee? A Kaylee girl. No. Just kidding. I guess you can cut this in. I was the loneliest I ever was when I was in a bad relationship with myself and with the wrong partner. Mhmm. And now that I’m living alone, but I know myself better and I’m prioritizing connection, I have so much life and so I wanted to create a sardonic take on the word lonely because being lonely is not about being alone, it’s about feeling misunderstood or not being seen. Aneri so I wanted to play with that word because I think it’s such an interesting word Aneri think our conception of it is off.

[00:34:31 – 00:34:35] Nitin Bajaj

And it plays well into your name. Right? Yeah. You’re being unique.

[00:34:35 – 00:34:44] Aneri Shah

That’s true. Aneri being an Aquarius. Yes. We fly alone. That’s awesome. Yeah. So Cool.

[00:34:44 – 00:34:52] Nitin Bajaj

Anurag, thank you so much for making the time to share your journey, story, and your life lessons. Congrats again on the pilot.

[00:34:52 – 00:34:53] Aneri Shah

Thank you.

[00:34:53 – 00:35:03] Nitin Bajaj

We I’m personally rooting for you that all these Amazons and Netflix has grown a competitive bid. Yeah.

[00:35:03 – 00:35:09] Aneri Shah

I hope so. Manifesting it. Yeah. We have to. We have to. So If we don’t root for ourselves, who will?

[00:35:09 – 00:35:11] Nitin Bajaj

Who will. Yeah. Exactly. Thanks again.

[00:35:11 – 00:35:12] Aneri Shah

Thank you for having me.

[00:35:12 – 00:35:14] Nitin Bajaj

Looking forward to bringing you back on

[00:35:14 – 00:35:15] Aneri Shah

Okay.

[00:35:15 – 00:35:23] Nitin Bajaj

After the bidding war is done, to talk about how that went, what goes on in that mix of things. Thank you.

[00:35:23 – 00:35:24] Aneri Shah

Okay. Thank you.

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