My name is Manni Chopra and I guess you landed here because you want to learn about me and how I can help you become financially free. But before we get to that, I wanted to share a bit about me. I wrote this little biography for more than one reason. Firstly I wanted to document my journey for my own sake, because it’s easy to forget sometimes where you started and how far you’ve come and just focus on all the stuff you still want to achieve.
But the second, more important reason is: the only emails I look forward to getting are from people who I feel I know personally and I will want to send you some emails in the future.
There is nothing worse than a stranger hitting your inbox! And I bet you are getting emails from people all the time and you don’t know. Let’s fix that right now.
I grew up in the commercial capital of India, Mumbai as it is known as now. Back then we knew it BOMBAY. For those who haven’t visited BOMBAY, it is a densely populated city, extremely buzzing and a land of opportunities.
On the positive side it is home to
• the largest film industry in the world BOLLYWOOD (by the sheer volume of films released)
• one of the top ten richest men in the world MUKESH AMBANI ; AND
• the most magnificent DABBAWALLA (TIFFIN) system that Harvard school of management have studied and teach their Management students.
In contrast, it is also home to
• DHARAVI (the biggest slum in Asia);
• the UNDERWORLD MAFIA gangs; AND
• All that Slumdog Millionaire has depicted in the movie.
Sorry to go on about it, but if you haven’t been to Mumbai, it’s worth a visit. You will probably find the maximum number of entrepreneurs on the street…..from the cobbler, to the sweet corn seller, to the guy selling newspapers and magazine, rickshaw drivers, sweet sellers, corner shops etcetera.
I was the first born in a family with 3 younger siblings. We lived in a 1-bedroom apartment together. So when people in the UK complain of not having enough space in a 3-bed house I think that they should realize how privileged they are. Anyway, we all survived in this flat, not to mention my dad ran an office from here too….those were hard times but we learned to make the most of what life gave us…
SCHOOL and COLLEGE….
I went to an all girls’ convent school run by strict nuns and class sizes of 60. Schooling was kind of OK, all work and no play really. I was a bit of a tomboy to start with and we grew up reading Enid Blyton story books including the Famous Five, Secret Seven & Nancy Drew. We often formed our own version of the secret clubs in the school holidays and made up mysteries to solve. Those were stress free times and we often played in large groups of 10-15 kids.
My claim to fame is that one of the most famous Bollywood actresses, Aishwarya Rai was my childhood friend. We played games like Queen of Sheba (Indian version) together and even back then she wanted to be the Queen of Sheba as she had green eyes! At the time she wasn’t famous or anything, just a normal kid.
I studied hard for my 10th grade (equivalent to GCSE) and got good grades which got me admission to a good college, namely N.M. College of Commerce and Economics. Most of the time in college was spent missing lectures and going out to daytime socials (disco) as we weren’t allowed out at night.
During this time one of my challenges was that I had to jump in to finish what my dad had started…
My dad had a very troubled working life. At one point in his life he was rolling in money but that all came to an end when all his 3 shops burned to the ground. There was no insurance in India in those days, I am talking about 1970s. Suddenly from being one of the biggest traders in his industry to nothing, my dad NEVER recovered from this loss and then just kept moving from one disaster to another. (Now thinking back, I can only assume that he had lost his SELF BELIEF).
Although we were never without a roof over our head or food on the table my mum had to somehow run the house with the little money that my dad did managed to bring in. My sisters and I would always feel the pinch as our friends were all from affluent backgrounds and lived in big, lavish apartments, drove good cars and seem to lead a ‘normal’ life.
One of my dad’s many projects was to start up a DOCTORS directory. He started on a high but he could execute the project. My dad was getting threatening letters from the doctors to return their money or they would go to the police. My younger sister and I took it upon ourselves to complete the project.
At the time we were in our late teens but we felt we had the confidence of completing the project. So we did and my dad was so relieved. That was my first taste of being a Business woman…
I also had a go at becoming a Fashion designer and somehow managed to get admission in one of Mumbai’s best fashion design colleges, S.N.D.T. I made a brilliant start on the course, but left it a few months later as I got influenced by the wrong people telling me that I don’t really need to formally learn how to design clothes and that it just comes with experience. So I joined one of my aunts who was running a ladies boutique and started working for her for a very small amount of money.
As the money wasn’t enough I trained to be an aerobics instructor. I took classes in the morning and evenings to earn bit more pocket money on the side. Life carried on but I was getting a lot of pressure from my parents to get married…It wasn’t easy to find the right person as all the men my mum introduced me to were SO NOT MY KIND…I was petrified of getting married to a really traditional man where I would end up just having kids and being a kept woman all my life. It was emotionally a really stressful time for me as I had to stand my own ground in the face of my parents and the rest of the family trying to get me married off to someone I did not approve of.
Finally I got my ‘get out of jail’ card when I met Romey. He was handsome, charming and most importantly (at the time) had a secure job as a Pharmacist in London. He swept me off my feet and I had to pinch myself to make me believe he was real! I came to England in 1996. The only other foreign country I had travelled to before then was Dubai when I was 13 years of age. So coming to London was a shock to my system. I didn’t know anyone here apart from Romey and his family (my in-laws). It was like starting all over again, building a network of friends and colleagues.
The first thing I did was I joined the YMCA ‘Exercise to Music’ teacher’s course and started teaching aerobics. It was a tough market to crack and although I did get some work, it wasn’t enough and I soon realised that I would need to get a job to start earning some decent money. At this point I met another girl who moved here from India and she was learning Computers. At the time it was a good industry to go into so I joined a degree course in Brunel University and put all my efforts and commitment towards achieving a good grade.
At the same time I started temping as a PA during the day and was earning about £8 an hour. I was settling in quite well at this point…
In 1998 somehow managed to see a good I.T. job in Kensington while I was doing my degree in the evenings. At the time £30k a year was good money (at least for me!!). In 2000 I graduated from Brunel University with a First Class Honours degree (I had made myself and Romey very proud)!!
I became a bit more ambitious and in 2000 I moved to work for another I.T company…CMG now known as LOGICA.
All this while I was thinking of how I can start my own business as it’s always been my dream. During my maternity break with Rhea (my daughter) I went back to Mumbai for a few months as the winter months here were getting depressing. While I was there I decided to do a course in studying diamonds as my aim was to start selling diamond jewellery in London.
I managed to find a wholesale jeweller who gave me the goods on the premise that if I can’t sell them he would take them back at the original price I paid for it. I thought it was a low-risk strategy so when I came back I started my own business. I took part in a couple of jewellery exhibitions and did well for a start-up. The only problem was that I was trying to juggle too much and was not being able to do justice to the business.
I gave up too quickly (on hindsight) and then a year later returned all the unsold goods back and closed down the business.