When the worlds of philanthropy and entrepreneurship intersect, the images that most frequently come to mind are the titans of business and commerce: Bill Gates, Mukesh Ambani, Ratan Tata and other such industrialists. If a woman is included in such exalted company, we expect her to be dignified and elegant, with decades in the spotlight, perhaps having her own business success but many times as the wife of such titans. And it is rarer still if a woman who is recognized as a rising philanthropist and award-winning entrepreneur is young, in the dawn of her career, not the elegant doyenne in the twilight of her career.
Which is why Zarine Manchanda is so perfectly positioned to be an influential, leading force in India - and globally - as an empowered woman with limitless philanthropic spirit and as a successful entrepreneur. She is young, dazzling and charismatic. She is glamorous and stylish with movie star beauty. And she is ambitious, with a family DNA that portends “sky is the limit” possibilities in politics and business.
It is no wonder that in the past six months – all during COVID – Zarine has featured in virtually every leading magazine and newspaper in India. She’s been felicitated as one of Femina magazine’s “Fab 50”; she was recognized as one of India Today’s “45 Life Changers” in its 45th anniversary edition and has been awarded as entrepreneur and philanthropist by Economic Times and Times of India, respectively. She’s been on the cover of Femina, and a showstopper at a Bombay Times Fashion Week extravaganza.
That the stars are aligning for Zarine Manchanda is not surprising. Born into a prominent political family In Himachal Pradesh, Zarine’s childhood was shaped by two forces. Her upbringing was in fact luxurious as her father was a minister and a successful businessman. Yet, growing up in a small town near Dharamshala – the home of the Dalai Lama – also meant she was raised with simple values and a strong spiritual core. Says Zarine: “I was blessed to have the upbringing I did and I am forever grateful. While I grew up in a privileged lifestyle, in fact this emboldens me to give back to society, to make my life’s purpose to improve the lives of others, so that others have an opportunity to succeed as well.”
These roots have become the USP of her business brand: Luxurious Spiritual Charm. As is seen in her new upscale café in Mumbai’s Andheri area, Zarine Manchanda Café. It’s a 5-star experience, with its elegant décor and ambiance evoking Paris, London or Dubai. The café even showcases Tibetan bells from Dharamshala, which the café staff uses to provide a blessing to each customer when they are served. The café was designed by Zarine Manchanda Interiors, with its stylish lighting, flooring, and furnishings. Despite COVID lockdowns and curfews, the café already has a loyal and steady client base. Talking about her café, Zarine says: “I was always surprised that Mumbai, India’s banking and entertainment hub, did not offer a luxurious café experience apart from the 5-star hotels. I wanted to be different, not to follow the common blueprint of all the other ubiquitous cafes and coffee bars in Mumbai and the results have been amazing. I have a loyal, upscale clientele that only wants to come to my café! Many come all the way to Andheri from the Town section, Bandra and Juhu and they beg me to open more locations, so I am planning a second café in Juhu in the next few months.”
While these entrepreneurial successes have increased her commercial profile, Zarine is also known as the founder of a charity NGO in Aarey Colony, Mumbai, that also bears her name. The Zarine Manchanda Foundation has been a prolific force in caring for Mumbai’s poorest and neediest residents, administering almost 150 charity donation programs of food, clothing and other essentials since it opened in 2019. The Foundation’s website showcases these donation programs through photos and videos, and Zarine enjoys “rock star” status among her constituents as she builds her political base. The Foundation expects to have its 80(g) status by mid-year and is already planning for a large-scale expansion of its operations to include the building of a hospital, orphanage, shelter and school. Says Zarine: “The Foundation showed me I could run a successful organization as a start-up. I had no prior experience running an organization, but everything came together comfortably and assuredly as I simply followed God’s plan for me: to have pure intentions, good karma, this became my life’s purpose. I run my business in the same manner as I conduct my life and my successes show that there is no better way.”