There are two ways to live life. Whether by your way or by life’s way. Whatever your plans are, life has some different plans for you, always. Further, whenever you try to act according to your plans, life puts challenges, obstacles and hurdles in your path. It tests you at every step of your chosen way. It is like a constant battle of your wits against your life. In such a chaotic scenario, how do you shape your personal and professional future according to your wishes, desires and dreams?
The answer is very simple yet profoundly difficult. Simple to listen to, difficult to act upon. And if you are a woman, then everything catapults to the highest level of difficulty. If you wish to live your life on your own terms, you must make your willpower resolute, your nature resilient and your acumen outstanding.
To do so in a short period, you must follow an ideal. Here is one, Zarine Manchanda, CIOWorld India’s ‘Outstanding Woman in Business.’ The reasons are aplenty. First, she is a rarity who ventured into glamour, social, business and political arenas, conquering everything and amazing everyone quickly at a very young age.
In the Riches and the Glories
In the glamorous world of Bollywood films, Zarine shined as an actress in the short film ‘MeToo Meets Aarey,’ and as a Second Unit or Assistant Director for Superstar Sunny Deol’s movie ‘Bhaiyyaji Superhit.’
Here is Zarine’s success story for you to get your inspiration from.
Zarine’s journey began in Himachal Pradesh. She was blessed and fortunate to grow up in a prominent family in HP. Her father was a minister and one of the most successful businessmen in the state; many constituents and residents called him the ‘King of Himachal.’ So, it is fair to say that Zarine enjoyed Princess Life growing up and many luxuries and unique life experiences as a child.
Despite this wonderful upbringing, Zarine’s lifelong dream was to become an actress like many girls in India. So, she left that life to move to Mumbai to try to crack into Bollywood. The transition proved to be both challenging and difficult. She tried so hard. “I went to hundreds and hundreds of auditions but never secured a role and could never launch my acting career in a big way,” she recalls.
However, Zarine is not someone to take failure as the end of everything. Rather, she took it as a challenge. Her mother always raised her to have a Plan B ready. Thus, after several years of struggling, she knew she wanted to enter politics. “Because I had my father’s DNA in me, having watched him as a prominent politician and minister all my life.” Then, she acted upon her father’s advice to open an NGO foundation to witness all the societal issues from a political point of view. “This is what I did. I established the Zarine Manchanda Foundation in 2019.”
In the four years of its existence, ZM Foundation has administered over 400 charity donation programs for the poorest residents of Mumbai, first in the Aarey Colony and then in Andheri. She informs, “This became my life mission and purpose. Each program filled me with compassion, and I was invigorated each time a program took place.”
A Flame Ablaze
Fortunately for her, the media took notice, and then the media exposure became astonishing, as she was approached practically daily for coverage. Zarine was covered by virtually every prestigious media outlet, first in India and then internationally. People labelled her “Princess of the Poor,” and she received numerous awards for her philanthropy and social activism, including
- two National Awards,
- two Governor Awards, and
- the Nelson Mandela Peace Award, which conferred a doctorate upon me.
With this resounding success, Zarine focused on her entrepreneurial ambitions as her father did. She opened India’s first seven-star café, the Zarine Manchanda Cafe, which became a talk of the town venue for Bollywood’s A-listers and other well-heeled guests.
Then, Zarine opened a premium security agency also bearing her name. She followed it with a cloud kitchen: Zarine Manchanda‘s Heavenly Flavors. Most recently, she opened Mumbai’s first Himachal Cuisine Restaurant, Flavors of the Himachal Pradesh.
As a young woman entrepreneur engaged in multiple business expansions, Zarine also received numerous awards from the media and other organizations, recognizing her multitude of accomplishments.
For her business enterprises, the guiding principles are a marriage between luxury and spiritual charm. She adds, “I, of course, growing up as I did with a princess life, luxury has always been a part of my life experience, and I want to bring this element into all of my businesses so that my guests and clientele can enjoy the finest things in life.”
Accordingly, everything is elegant and luxurious in her café and restaurant, from wall to wall and floor to ceiling. And this includes crockery and cutlery. She wants everything to be the finest possible so that patrons and guests have a unique and memorable experience.
An Enchanting Spirit
Zarine remembers, “I was raised by my mother to have a strong spiritual component. From this standpoint, good karma and good intentions define my life, and I want to bring this element into my business enterprises as well.”
For example, with her café and new restaurant, each venue has beautiful Tibetan bells from Dharamshala, which had been a feature where Zarine grew up and, of course, is also in the home of the Dalai Lama. “My staff rings these bells to bless our guests whenever food and drink are brought to the table. Even with my premium security agency, it is important that we have an element of spiritual charm in our business practices, meaning our staff who serves as guards, bouncers and the lake are trained to be most courteous, polite, professional, and ethical as I want all clients to feel blessed by their presence,” she mentions.
Virtually everyone who knows Zarine understands her strong spiritual practices. The way she sees it, God is always watching her, and the more she serves him through good deeds and good intentions, the more her life feels blessed. This is her most defining quality. “It has served me well throughout my life, and I will never change this aspect. Because it gives my life meaning and purpose as I try to live in a way that my legacy will always be remembered,” states Zarine.
As CEO of many business enterprises, she knows the buck stops with her. “Meaning I am responsible for whatever happens on a day-to-day basis. Fortunately, the businesses have all seen impressive success and growth to the point that I am now considering franchising and other business growth opportunities outside of Mumbai—both in other cities in India and internationally,” Zarine adds.
She is the Trend
Without wanting to sound arrogant, Zarine says she does not follow trends. It has never been her style. Her father taught her to be bold, have a unique and far-reaching vision and lead and not follow. Trends can be fickle. What is ‘in’ one day can be ‘out’ the next. “I prefer to be the trend, not to follow them. I feel my USP of luxury and spiritual charm brings two highly popular and coveted concepts together that ensure long-standing growth on a global basis because everyone desires these concepts,” she insists.
Therefore, Zarine feels that if her initial vision is bold and encompasses appealing and revered concepts, it will bring lasting success without day-to-day fluctuations, changing course or re-branding. Because, to her mind, the initial branding is all that matters if the branding brings forth the right USP.
According to Zarine, leadership requires bold thinking and a bolder vision. It must carve out new pathways for success and not copycat someone else’s success. From her standpoint, she infuses her leadership style with her passions and interests in life story. She reiterates that she grew up in a princess life with all the luxuries a girl could dream of, and she loved that! She brings these elements forward as the purveyor of all things luxurious for India and soon, the world. Spiritual Charm is also an important part of her background. She incorporates this aspect into her business enterprises as well.
Proving Her Leadership Mettle
Leadership, therefore, feels organic and authentic to Zarine. Because it reflects her personality, background and upbringing, passions and interests. “As I say, I think these concepts are revered worldwide and highly desirable commercial concepts. By crafting my business USP in this way, I feel that leadership becomes a natural extension of myself and easy to lead. And such leadership can then also become inspirational. Because others sense my authentic passion for the enterprises that bear my name and follow my own USP,” she explains.
For Zarine, as a young woman, the entrepreneurial world opens up huge opportunities. Also, it can help address societal challenges since the playing field between men and women is not exactly an equal playing field yet. But she is determined to show that a woman-owned business can be bold, strong and robust. Business leadership cannot be subordinate or demure simply because it is a woman-owned business!
Zarine accepts that she was fortunate to see her father engaged in many successful businesses throughout his life. To be sure, his enormous success inspires her. Still, she wants to run her businesses in her way. “In some ways, I suppose, I deviate from how I saw him run his successful businesses.” There is more than one way to achieve business success. Zarine feels her business mission and purpose feel authentic and organic to her, and others noticed this as well, whether it is the media or clients and patrons of her many business enterprises.
Casting a Luxurious Spiritual Charm
While it is often said that ‘expectation’s expectations are the twin of disappointment,’ Zarine believes that customers and clients of her businesses should expect and demand a lot from her, her managers and staff. Their user experience should not only reflect that high expectation but must also match it!
She claims, “This is why I mentioned earlier that I believe the concepts of luxury and spiritual charm are normally commercially viable. In fact, 100% of customers and clients would desire a combination of luxury and spiritual charm because both concepts are revered and embraced all over the world.”
Zarine wants her customers and clients to have a unique experience, whether in her café or restaurant or has hired security guards from her agency. Because these clients have an affinity for good taste, high standards and luxury. She expects that she can fulfil their needs repeatedly because of her USP. So again, the user experience must match the customer’s high expectations. That is the entire premise of her business success and why she has a loyal and recurring clientele and customer base.
Sharing how she integrated innovation in each of her endeavours, Zarine says that the innovation originates with the initial business vision and operational business model. When the concept is innovative and ingrained with desirable concepts, that is innovation in motion. To Zarine, it is virtually foolproof because she is simply giving people what they want. “That is my innovation. As I mentioned earlier, the important thing as CEO is to bring forth a bold vision from the beginning, and I believe I have done that in each of the businesses that bear my name. The branding is similar, combining luxury and spiritual charm for each enterprise,” she elaborates.
When the initial concept is bold and favourable, Zarine believes that business growth is consistent and logical. “From this standpoint, we have not had to encourage any transformative experience that changed our operations markedly or brought us abundant success from the brink of some business disappointment.”
Of course, the vision starts with her. But then she has to instil such values and principles into her management first, who in turn implements those values and that vision to her employees and staff.
Thus, the commitment to excellence starts with division and is then crafted daily with specific guideposts and milestones that guide management and staff to achieve those results synchronised to stay true to the initial vision.
Zarine reciprocates, “My employees are the cornerstone of all my businesses. While my name is on each of my businesses, and I may be the face of the overall Enterprise, my employees are the face of the companies to our various clients and guests on a day-to-day basis.”
To ensure that the daily operations match Zarine’s vision, she goes through a painstaking process to hire management and then staff who buy into this vision with the specific skill set to implement these practices on a day-to-day basis.
My Team-My Game
The hiring and training process is of supreme importance because, as a business owner, Zarine only wants to take steps forward, not to take steps forward but then endure actions sideways or backwards if hiring and training are not done according to her exacting standards. For the most part, her employees and management have been incredibly loyal because they believe in luxury and spiritual charm, and they can bring these elements forward daily with their customers and clients.
Whether it is the security guards or the waiter staff in Zarine’s restaurant or café, she wants work uniforms and costumes to reflect her USP so that the very first impression that clients and customers have when they enter any of her business premises or hire her security staff is positive and unique. When the first impression is strong, the rest of the client relationship develops more comfortably and favourably.
She adds that she wants her employees to take pride in their jobs and company. Her employees now see all of the media coverage and awards that she has received. So, they understand that they are a part of something special and unique, giving them a lifelong opportunity to contribute and grow with their businesses as they expand.
A Star is Born
Zarine’s businesses have been blessed with strong growth and remarkable success. Of course, when She thinks of adversity, it is in knowing, for example, that her Foundation and Cafe were both launched before COVID-19, and both had to endure the extreme downturn with Mumbai essentially locked as a city for months and months. It forced the café to be closed, and for an extended period, it prevented her and her team from engaging in any charity programs for the poor even though COVID unleashed even more pain, anguish and hardship on Mumbai’s poorest residents during the protracted COVID lockdowns.
“Nevertheless, we persevered, and I insisted on paying my employees their full salary, even when they could not work due to the various lockdowns. But this decision proved to be the kindest in the long run. The staff and management recognized her commitment to them, which helped ensure a long-term commitment to Zarine and her businesses from their side.
Zarine wishes to reciprocate the same goodwill for her clients and customers. “As I have said earlier, I think the user experience for our clients and customers always remains my primary focus. I want these clients and customers to enjoy a unique and memorable experience when they engage with any of my businesses.”
Ensuring Customer Remains the King
To do this, Zarine says her management and staff constantly seek inputs from customers and clients as to their satisfaction with their experience. Of course, with any of her businesses, there can be an isolated instance where a client or customer is unsatisfied, but when these issues are brought to her attention, she works quickly. “I believe in effectively remedying that to the best of our ability. All CEOs know that the customer is king, and the customers’ inputs need to be honoured and addressed to the maximum extent possible. Only in this way can a business virtually ensure consistent client engagement positively,” she says.
As a young woman living in India, Zarine’s plan was always to first succeed in Mumbai, which she believes she has done. And then to expand her businesses into other Indian cities and then overseas. Happily for her, this expansion process is now unfolding as she and her team assess franchising and other business expansion opportunities for her security agency, café and restaurant.
“And, of course, the same holds true for my beloved Foundation. As my father taught me, having a bold vision and being ambitious is important, which I have, and I am. I can say truthfully and without arrogance that I believe in the USP of my enterprises and the perfect storm they create by mixing two commercially viable and desired concepts of luxury and spiritual charm,” says Zarine.
With her initial successes, Zarine is confident she will soon be one of India’s most successful women entrepreneurs. Her ambition is to be one of the most acclaimed and credentialed women entrepreneurs anywhere in the world.
On her various social media, she has followers worldwide who seek employment with her companies and want to act as investors for franchising opportunities or other business development and growth. This network is indeed global, as the requests and expressions of interest come from worldwide.
Zarine adds, “This fills me with pride because, from the beginning, my focus was globally and internationally once I achieved the strong stepping stone of garnering so much favourable media coverage and receiving many prestigious awards first in India.”
Beyond her entrepreneurial success, Zarine is pleased and proud of the various prestigious awards, accolades and recognitions she has received in the past few years.
First, in 2021, Zarine was appointed Regional Director for BRICS—India’s trade alliance with other member countries of Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa as administered by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
More recently, in June 2023, Zarine was appointed by the National Council of News and Broadcasting as Chairperson and Editor-in-Chief for the states of Maharashtra, Goa and Himachal Pradesh. This position focuses on media reforms, freedom of the press and human rights.
Of the People; For the People; By the ZM People’s Party
In addition to it, Zarine is ready to contest the next elections as an MLA candidate in Andheri in 2024. For this purpose, she has recently registered her own National Political Party, the Zarine Manchanda’s People’s Party, to represent the masses politically.
According to Zarine, this is a logical next step for her due to the substantial success and media recognition of her NGO Foundation, where she helped thousands and thousands of Mumbai’s poorest residents through their various charity donation programs over the past four years. This social reform helped Zarine build her political ideology. Zarine showed all the citizens of India and the world her intent and commitment to bring compassion and dignity to those most in need and to do so with a determination that can only succeed.
Zarine concludes, “As the daughter of a prominent politician, I am extremely confident in my ability to lead and govern as I saw my father achieve his political aims through his dynamism, charisma and commitment to all citizens of Himachal Pradesh. Of course, I will lead my party in my unique way, which will infuse many of the values my father taught me or that I saw in him, but also in my unique way based on my own life experiences in Mumbai and to align with my political ambitions.”
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