Meher Mirchandani of Palmon Group on her journey of self-discovery and leadership

Meher Mirchandani is the Director of Dubai-based Palmon Group and Manrre Logistics Fund. She is also a transformative coach and an author. In a conversation with YourStory Gulf Edition, Mirchandani reflects on her professional stint and her inner journey.

Meher Mirchandani of Palmon Group on her journey of self-discovery and leadership

Tuesday April 18, 2023,

8 min Read

Meher Mirchandani is the Director of the Palmon Group, which was started by her father in 1974. It is today one of the most prominent family businesses in the UAE with interests in real estate and warehousing. 

Interestingly, Mirchandani did not begin her professional journey with the Palmon Group. At the age of 22, an ambitious Mirchandani launched her own fashion venture—Meher and Riddhima—with her childhood friend. 

Over a decade later, the entrepreneur decided to join her family business. What helped her during her journey as a leader here was her quest for self-discovery.

While she achieved one milestone after another, something continued to irk her, and she experienced a feeling of incompleteness. Mirchandani took this as a challenge and engaged in healing and spirituality. 

Eventually, at the age of 35, having found her true self, she felt fulfilled as an individual.

“Upon going inwards, we gain authentic power as a leader and as a person,” she says. “And we need that authentic power to lead an organisation because if your relationship with yourself is not strong, you will never be able to exude that kind of power and leadership from within.”

Currently, Mirchandani is an entrepreneur, a transformative coach, and an author as well. She also serves as the Director of Manrre Logistics Fund as well as the Palmon Group.  

Manrre Logistics Fund was co-founded by Mirchandani with her brother Kunal Lahori and father Manohar Lahori. It focuses on institutional-grade logistics and industrial properties in Jafza, Dubai Investments Park, Dubai South, and National Industries Park, along with investments in cloud and dark kitchens and the data storage segment in the UAE.

In a conversation with YourStory Gulf Edition, Mirchandani talks about her journey over the years. 

Edited excerpts from the conversation 

YourStory Gulf [YS Gulf]: How did your experiences growing up shape you into who you are today? And what fostered your interest in fashion?

Meher Mirchandani [MM]: Recently, in a conversation with someone, I was talking about second-generation entrepreneurs and how it's important to be aware of the responsibility one holds. [Growing up] I had everything, but, at the same time, my parents gave me the right values. 

My mother is a speech therapist by education. Eventually she set up her own business. At the same time, she would support the family. My father believes work is worship, and I was taught that we must work hard to be able to claim something or to be rewarded in life. Our conversations were around having the right values and mindset. 

The year I graduated, I launched my label, Meher and Ridhima, in 2002. I had always been interested in fashion and studied fashion design and marketing from American Intercontinental University, London. My father was in the garment manufacturing industry and he produced garments for men for about 20 years of his life. He supplied to major stores in the US and UK. So, I grew up seeing fashion. and it was a natural progression for me to adopt it as a career.  

YS Gulf: What led you to switch from fashion to your family business at the Palmon Group?

MM: With Meher and Riddhima, we were producing and supplying Western women’s wear to about 25 stores in the US and 10 stores in the GCC region. We did it for about 15 years, and it was a beautiful journey.

Two things triggered the switch. One, I do not think that fashion was aligned to my journey from a deeper perspective. I was facing a lot of challenges at that time in growing my fashion business. My ambition was to be an international designer, but my personal responsibilities were coming in the way. 

At the same time, stores were closing down in the US, because of an online disruption. I did not know what would be the fate of our brand, and it was a lot to keep up with. I was travelling to the US every six months to do shows, etc., and my children were very young back then. I was feeling very burdened, rather than enjoying the journey.  

I joined the Palmon Group in 2013 to help with the real estate that we owned in the UAE. 

YS Gulf: What challenges did you face along the way and how did you overcome them?

MM: At first, I was excited to add value and help out in any way I could. The company had grown a lot and was into kitchen appliances, office furniture, facilities management, real estate, and investments. Over time, we have changed the course of the business. At present, we have consolidated everything, and deal with real estate and warehousing. 

I was made the MD and given the task of taking things to the next level. But, as soon as I joined, I realised it was a lot more complicated than I thought. The company was old-fashioned, male-dominated, and didn’t have any clear processes in place. There was no HR team to help build a strong company culture either.

Even though my dad, who was the CEO and chairman, cared about his employees, contributed to their livelihood, and understood their pain, it seemed to me that the lack of transparency and processes led to him being taken advantage of in several instances. 

The more time I spent there, the more I realised that the company didn’t have any vision or plan for the future. There was no unique selling point, and I didn’t think I could add any value. In the end, I understood that the company needed to change, but it wasn’t ready for it.

More importantly, and this was a big realisation: I wasn’t entirely ready to drive that change. I knew I needed to work on my impact as a leader, cultivate ways to create a deeper and more meaningful impact if I wanted to be the change agent that the business needed. So, I started the internal work.  

Have you heard of the saying ‘A one-degree change is all it takes to change the course of a huge ship’? Well, that’s what I did. After being with the Palmon Group for five years, I focused on building the company culture, finding our true purpose, and cutting out businesses and verticals that didn’t fit with our vision. And finally, my hard work paid off. 

Meher Mirchandani

Meher Mirchandani

People started to take notice of what was happening within the organisation. My name started showing up on the Forbes lists, and I started to get invited to speak about my approach to leadership. 

My dad was resistant to the change that I was driving at first, but eventually, he started to see the value in the new ways of doing things too. We aligned our values, vision, and mission, and I was able to lead with my heart. I felt liberated and fell in love with the process of doing business. I brought in new people who shared our vision and added positive energy to the team.

Around this time, I had also joined Entrepreneurs’ Organisation and started attending a lot of courses and pursued levels of Theta Healing. I also undertook coaching from the Co-Active Training Institute. Eventually, it helped me work on myself as well as the company. 

I learnt that, upon going inwards, we gain authentic power as a leader and as a person.  And we need that authentic power to lead an organisation because if your relationship with yourself is not strong, you will never be able to exude that kind of power and leadership from within. 

YS Gulf: Have you faced any biases along the way due to your background?

MM: No, nobody has ever made me feel that way. I’ve always been very disciplined. Even today, I come to the office at eight o’clock, one hour before my team arrives, so I can be ready for the day. I have always enjoyed learning, waking up early, and contributing to people. 

However, gender-based biases have always been there, right? Many of these stem from our own limiting beliefs. We are born with this conditioning and self-limiting beliefs that a woman’s first priority is the family, and that’s exactly what I faced internally. I got married at 22-and-a-half. It was very difficult to reprogramme that subconscious programming so as to think about myself and live a life that I desire.  

YS Gulf: What are your future plans?

MM: The plan is to grow the fund (Manrre Logistics Fund). At present, it has assets worth $80 million, and the vision is to make it $250 million. 

And personally, I’ve written my second book, and I’m working to publish it this year. I’m also writing my third book, which is going to be focused on teenagers and how to love oneself and break away from the conditioning and limiting beliefs early on in life. 

YS Gulf: What advice would you give to women leaders in the region?

MM: Loving and understanding yourself will give you the power to be able to cater to all areas of your life. When you have a great relationship with yourself, everything falls in place. Also, you must set boundaries and learn to say ‘no’ to effectively lead every area of your life. And feel free to ask for help. 

(Cover Image by Chetan Singh)

Disclaimer: This story has been updated to correct a typo.

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Edited by Swetha Kannan