“A Father’s Daughter”, in conversation with Manju Ramanan – Group Editor of Saffron Media Corp By Zareen Khan

Manju Ramanan

“I have kept my Father’s Name, his name will always be attached with mine, I carry him with me, wherever I go”. Manju Ramanan

I first got a glimpse of Manju Ramanan, a couple of years ago at an event where she was a guest speaker on “The Evolution of Sarees”, she looked stunning in her electrifying peacock blue silk saree draped eloquently around her, it was an unforgettable sight.

She went on to share a very personal poem with the audience that she herself had penned. I was so touched by the experience, that after the event, I bought my very own first Saree. As the years progressed, we kept criss crossing eachothers paths and then one fine day, I got the pleasure to work with her on an event and since then, she has been a constant mentor and friend who, I’ve come to adore and be is awe of all at the same time.



The more I got to know Manju, the more I was confused. I cant explain it in words, I mean she is just different I guess, you know, one minute she would be in an interview with Amitabh Bachan Sahib and the next instant, she will be with Shahrurkh Khan, sometimes, Rithik Roshan is posting a selfie with her and at times Salman Khan is sitting next to her for a chat. She is someone, who celebrities line up to meet, and here she is, taking time out for me, a mere writer– who wants to write about people that are simply inspiring. I find this quality of being grounded the most attractive in Manju and it keeps me on my toes as well.


The Birth of a writer

(Nov 2000) Manju’s writing career began, after getting her M – Phil in literature, she was looking for a job to start off her writing career and she found her calling in India’s leading News Paper.

Mr. Ramanan - Manju's Father

The loss

There is a sincere sense of sadness when Maju mentions her father, who she lost just when she was about to start her writing career and with his passing, being the only child; the financial pressure also bore heavy on her shoulders. Her father was one who had a great influence on Manju; eventhough he travelled extensively through his life; their bond was strong and their connection till today is alive. There is something Manju said which only a father’s daughter could say; “I have kept my father’s name, his name will always be attached with mine, I carry him with me, wherever I go”.

Manju Ramanan

Journalism calls on Manju

Her getting the Job in one of India’s most reputable News papers & continuing to work in UAE’s top media firm is a huge feat, however when you speak to Manju, she humbly credits most of her success to destiny and to her mentor Mr. Kingshuknag; who she praises for his ethics in Journalism and for being a guiding force throughout her career.

Not many of us are fortunate enough to follow our passions, I am glad that Manju followed hers; She believed in herself, and pursued journalism unapologetically. Manju’s ability to become a medium to tell stories; to be unbiased and without prejudices, is what sets her apart from the crowd.


The skyscrapers of Dubai

I often bring up Dubai in my interviews, write ups, and chats, mainly because, I was born here and eventhough have lived here for almost all my life, still cant find the right words to describe it. I guess I try to find answers of my own questions; and Manju probably gave me the most unique answer of all, how the sharp edges of the “Sky Scrapers” poked her; as an artist, I could empathize; where most people are drawn to the city for the high rises and high end brands it offers, there are a handful who gravitate towards Arts & Culture. Her answer was not surprising; since her upbringing was in India’s most cultural hub of Baroda; she attended a university that was built in the colonial 1800’s. On exploring deeper, she discovered, in hidden corners of Shindigah, Deira Souqs, Ahmediya, Bur Dubai Creek & Bastakiya is bustling with History and Culture; where the soul of the city comes alive with smells from the spice market and chitter chatter in 100 different languages at the shops; where no matter where you come from, you are embraced as Dubaite.

Love for the eternal Poet

Manju has interviewed dozens of Celebrities, so when I asked her to choose one that she absolutely loves, with a heartbeat she mentions his name; her eyes glistened that she adores him for two reasons, First he shares a Birthday with her Father (18th August) and second, he writes from his heart; his words have inspired generations of love stories; he has penned emotions that have overwhelmed millions; her favorite celebrity is none other than “Gulzar Sahib” – The eternal Poet.

A Glimpse of the most important people in Manju’s world – Her Family (Manju’s Mother, Sunder Iyer – Manju’s Husband, Shashvat – Manju’s Son)

Manju's Mother

Sunder Iyer- Manju's Husband


Shashvat - Manju's Son

The Independent Woman

In Manju there are many facets, there is a strong Group Editor of Saffron Media who runs 3 leading Magazines (Filmfare; Femina & Salt n Peppa) in the region working with Madhu Arora MD and Vikram Arora CEO of Saffron Media Corp who are the wind beneath her wings; a caring wife to Sunder Iyer, who is her better half in every sense of the word, offering her the support & encouragment which allows her to soar high, a multi tasking mother to  Shashvat who is her biggest inspiration, a beautiful daughter to her ma, her mother let her father take all the credit for shaping Manju’s life, eventhough she herself played a huge part in Manju’s life, she gave support and love unconditionaly becoming Manju’s pillar of strength; A poet who speaks volumes through her words, a loyal & supportive friend to many & lastly one of the most inspiring woman who speaks her mind and drapes the most stunning Sarees.

Manju Poetry Reading

Manju the Poet

This is how I would like to leave you- with Manju’s poem that I heard years ago at an event and it touched my heart.

Six Yards of Beauty

Paati wore it years ago

Her slender frame

Wrapped itself in voluminous folds

She was a widow and

didn’t wear red or a bindi

I never saw her

In a six yards saree.

When you get married

Wait, you’ll wear a 9 yards sari

She smiled……..( did I see a hint of wickedness there!)

And I blushed and ran away


Amma only wore saris

She woke up in a faded cotton

Crumpled by sleep

That climbed an inch high

Showing her ankles

Wore a crisper one

As she wrapped her long wet hair

And cooked in the kitchen

Before changing into

One of her breath-taking ones

When she left for work

She usually wore all kinds


Dad worked

In an an acrylic fibre plant

And like the man of his times

Believed that synthetic saris were a new invention and should be worn

Because they imitate real fabric

In a world of natural cottons and silks

He went to Japan when I was three

And among many things

Bought us three Lady Hamilton saris

While he handed it over to ma

He told her

Keep the multicoloured one

For her wedding (mine)

I was three and

My wedding trousseau was being planned


As a child, I was a tomboy

Scraping my knees and wearing my cousin’s clothes

Never for a moment waiting to be a girl

But the saris were around me

My bua, a dreamer also, only wore saris

She had this beautiful purple sari

A shade, I still cannot find anywhere


But my family had one peculiarity

Every once in a while

They would air out the costly saris

Usually the wedding saris

So, out came the expensive kanjeevarams

That is a Rama green, and the border is pure gold, ma would say

My sari was the best in the lot my athai or bua would boast

About her vaira usshi ( diamond  needle) sari

It was an orange and green and glittery but sober

Like a thousand needle like sparks

Flashing across the fabric


One day

I was returning from a flower plucking session

And my family was laughing at something

A European family had bought some expensive saris

From Kanchipuram and

Cut them up and used them as curtains in the house

My people found that funny……

I laughed too

For, we never saw a sari any other way

Than it being draped around us

Or cut up as a dress or an odhni

Half saris happened, so did short saris

For dance practice and programmes

Never curtains….


By the time I was in Std 10

My wedding sari collection

Was spilling over

It was the Garden Vareli phase

And you fascinate me

Fascinated all of us


But ma knew more

Than synthetic saris

For teacher s day

She bought me my first  Mysore silk

A Rama green with  pink border and a blue blouse

She would hold it close to her cheek

And tell me, to touch it

She would know instantly

If a sari was fake( synthetic) or real ( woven or natural)

I wore it and fell in love with it ever since


In college, saris happened once in a while

But by then both my parents

Had abandoned synthetic saris shopping

And got into the world of handlooms and handcrafted saris

Shops in old town in Baroda

Where we sat on white gaddis

Where the owner spread out his saris for you

At times draping it around himself too

That would make you smile


Literature class and some professors

Made me sensitive to the sari

Especially the arty ones

Seminars and conferences

Made them dress up in what looked like intellectual saris

Kala Niketan salesmen used to call them

Widow saris

Because they were somber and not fun and colourful


You should have a sari from every part of India

Said my dad

Handing me over a motra from Rajashtan

Or a Jodhpuri bandhni

We also bought the Jamnagri bandhni and leheriya

The Rajput part of Gujarat

Or the Pochampalli of the South

But we couldn’t ever afford its expensive cousin

The Patola of Patan

The saree also inspires several garbas

And weddings in Gujarat

I grew fascinated by the white red and green panetars

Maharastrian neighbours

Introduced me to the Pooneris and the Jija Mata

Named after Shivaji s mother

Then came the world of saris named after towns and villages

The Chanderis, Lucknowis, ichalkaranjis, Barmeri etc

The Chanderis

Especially fascinated because

Out of the 27 paintings commissioned to Raja Ravi Verma

By the royalty of Baroda

All the royal women he painted

Wore a chanderi

Its gossamer folds

Falling elegantly around the diamond kadas and bracelets


Saree sighting was a common occurrence

When friends started getting married

The family would call us all

And in the bedroom, spread over the sheets

Came out one beauty after another

Navratris also became an occasion to see the spread

Kutchi handwork, mirror work, wool work and the works


Sarees got irritating

When the family forced me to wear them

For studio photos for circulation

In the marriage market

I deliberately chose cottons with greys and reds

Not any eye catching colours

Needless to say, to my delight

The photos were ignored


Sarees came handy

When as a young lecturer

And in a bid to look older than the rest of the class

I draped myself in one


For my wedding

I couldn’t buy any of my saris, not even choose them

It was the year 2002 and Gujarat was burning with the riots

My masi asked me my colours over the phone

And got them woven at Kanchipuram

When I got to see them

I had no complaints

Each of it is like a poem filled with love and affection

For the bride who couldn’t shop for her clothes


Saris in my home are associated with memory

Like most homes in India

That tusser that Poulomi s mother gave you

Or that Kantha that Ashok uncle got made for you

Each sari has a memory and that makes it special


Today as my son digs his head into my lap

Or wipes his wet hands in the pallu

I feel as part of a  continuum, a chain

Of what I

Felt as a child, when I cuddled up my ma

And wrapped myself in her pallu or

Wiped my tears as a teenager

Not telling her about a friend’s biting insult


The garment has a sense of dignity and pride

Of being Indian

Yet not too jingoistic

It keeps people in place

Their body language behaves

Because the aura of the saree

Protects you

And gives out a signal of grace, dignity and pride

Isn’t that all we need as women………….

(By Manju Ramanan) 

 – End –

















A Chat with the Young & Fearless Sarah Appleton, the Founder of Mini Exchange by Zareen Khan

Sarah Appleton_High res

Introducing Sarah Appleton – The Founder of Mini Exchange, if anyone is looking for inspiration to follow their passion, then Sarah’s journey from a successful, high earning Banker to starting up a Business that was not only risky but the concept itself was foreign to the region has got to give you a shock of Adrenaline needed for starting up a business of your own.

My senses light up every time I hear about young entrepreneurs successfully turning their Passion to Business; I heard about Mini Exchange through a colleague at work, the concept itself was fresh and unique, offering affordability and access to otherwise unattainable brands; and in turn conserving the environment by recycling; I thought it was brilliant; and then my colleague mentioned Sarah, her eyes glistened while talking about her passion & work ethics within 5 minutes of our conversation, I requested an introductory meeting with Sarah; I wanted to meet this young businesswoman taking the region by storm. Not only has Mini Exchange been on every major publication since its launch, but the number of Brands it represents have grown expediently over the few months since the Business started up in February of 2014, to have such a reputation with less than a year under your belt is an incredible feat.

Like every success story, there is a visionary behind it, and this one has Sarah Appleton, on meeting Sarah for the first time, I saw a very young & fearless woman, someone who took the risks and grabbed the opportunities; even though she now works twice the hours, her energy seems infinite, and her welcoming smile led our conversation to an interview with ease, and since I love to share the good things in life, here is Sarah’s story, adding a dash of inspiration for us all to savor.


The Birth of Mini Exchange

I grew up in the UK and graduated from Edinburgh University in 2009 with a degree in Economics. During my University years I dipped my toe into the consignment world by running an online store on eBay, which was a lot of fun, however after graduating I thought that I should get a proper job so left the fun of buying and selling clothes to join Deloitte in London in Mergers & Acquisition Advisory. I seconded to Deloitte in Dubai after two years and then after a further two years in Dubai, I left Deloitte to start Mini Exchange. Working in finance, I was always working for other people, advising inspiring entrepreneurs how to grow and sell their companies and I was always envious when they left the room. I wanted to be on the other side of the table! So one day, I took the leap and now I’m here, absolutely loving my new role back in the consignment world and am excited by all the new challenges that lie ahead.


Dubai as a city for Business

Mini Exchange is something that’s never been done before in Dubai or in the region; we’ve built an online platform for parents to buy and sell new and like-new kids’ clothing, accessories, fancy dress and school uniform and also created a site for brands and retailers to sell their end-of-season items. The same concept works very well in other parts of the world so it made sense that I should try and make a success of it in this region too.


Mini Exchange’s Customers

Parents around the world or anyone who need to shop for little ones!

Brand Presence

The brands themselves love Mini Exchange as there really are limited options for them to clear their stock once the season is over. They love the convenience, as we do all the hard work for them, and the smaller brands love the exposure that they get on the site.

Mini Exchange_Homepage

Challenges for Mini Exchange

Getting the first designs on the website. That was a good day. Seeing the site start to materialize from a concept into a product, and to see the Mini Exchange branding develop, I really enjoyed that.

Behind the Scenes

Mini’s team is growing rapidly. It started with just me and then quickly started to grow. Now we have a content manager, a full time photographer, graphic designer and social media expert, and that’s just in Dubai. Then in Turkey we have our digital marketing team, in London we have our web development team and in India we have our photo editing team, so it’s a growing operation!

Mini Exchange in the Future

Mini Exchange is planning to be the ‘go to’ place for kidswear in the region. The feedback so far has been incredible with mums, dads and stores already loving it so we’re hoping that we can keep that up. Next steps are therefore spreading the word to more people in the UAE and then hopefully launching the site in a number of other neighboring markets, which I have no doubt will bring us lots of new and exciting challenges.

Sarah Appleton_High Res3

TOP 5 tips for Startups

  1. Hire good people. The investment will be worth it in the long run.
  2. Be healthy. Sleep, eat well and exercise. It’s very easy to get all consumed by your new venture but you need to take time out for yourself or you’ll stop being productive.
  3. Marketing.
  4. Marketing.
  5. Marketing. You can never do enough.

Mini - logo

Mini Exchange

Website: www.miniexchange.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MiniExchange

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MiniExchange

Instagram: http://instagram.com/miniexchange

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/miniexchange/

Any questions, drop us an email to hello@miniexchange.com

Introducing Popular Music to Classical Opera the Trio “Opera-Pop Group” for the First time in the UAE!


Ductac in Mall of the Emirates will open its doors to the First of its kind musical extravaganza, introducing POP Opera; a unique technique of performing classical Opera with Popular tracks of Music, this performance appeals to both, the young and the old. The performance is by Dubai based trio’ the Opera- Pop Group’,   (pop-opera) consisting of highly experienced Soprano Guzel Teymour , Tenors Muratti and Wim Hoste and special guest performance by Jin Soo Young , mezzo Soprano.   The group takes to the stage at Ductac in MOE on Wednesday 22nd October 2014 for their first big concert.


After several performances at the Jazz Pizza Express, the Squisito Art Gallery, Al Qouz and Burjuman Shopping Mall, the ambitious and highly talented trio are presenting their First LIVE Concert in Dubai. This concert has a unique concept covering baroque opera music as well as jazzy popular crooners with a witty colorful presentation .This concert is the perfect initiation into classical and modern professional singing. ‘’We are excited to start our series of concerts at DUCTAC a world class Theatre with amazing acoustics’, says tenor Wim Hoste, initiator of the group. ‘It is like a dream coming true and my motto is: Never too late to fulfill your dreams”


The Opera-Pop Group consists of 3 international professional singers including the highly professional diva Guzel Teymour from Russia. Strongly skilled Soprano with 15 years of experience in classical singing and teaching. Muratti is a passionate who enjoys Baroque and Classical singing but does not shy away from modern masterpieces. Wim Hoste is a very enthusiastic Tenor and entertainer who goes easily from crooners and evergreen over to operatic arias.


Event Details:

The concert starts 7.30pm.

Doors open at 7pm

For Concert tickets and information, contact



Concert Details: www.opera-pop.com

For more press information, please contact:

Zareen Khan – W2W events – Email: zareen.w2w.pr@gmail.com050 5515979