From Calcutta To California: Indian Girl Escapes Arranged Marriage, Becomes Millionaire

Chanda Zaveri was 17 years old when her parents had arranged for her to get married. This scenario is very typical for young women in India. But what was not typical was the rest of her story. Chanda is now 49 and lives in the United States. Her journey getting there, studying at Harvard and becoming a self-made millionaire is nothing short of inspiring.

Speaking to The Telegraph, she told them she decided that she was not going to settle for the regular way of life for Indian girls in Calcutta. While living in India, she would regularly visit the American library in her hometown, and made friends with a tourist couple from Boston in 1982. Two years later when her parents tried to force her into marriage, she ran off and contacted her Bostonian friends David and Karen to ask for help.

Selling a pair of diamond earrings, she bought a plane ticket and headed to the USA. Chanda desperately wanted the chance to pursue education and knew this was her only way.


When she first got to the US, she started working as a maid for an elderly lady who treated her like a daughter. They become close and the 98 year old Mrs. Leslie one day gave her $30 000 and told her to go to Harvard University to study. She could see Chanda was a smart girl with ambitions for a career.

Coming from a culture in India where they had servants, and the women were taught to be mothers, wives and not give education or a career a second thought, stepping into the western way of life was a bit of a culture shock for Chanda.

“Coming from a well-off Marwari family, you have your servants doing everything and I had never worked. But to go to school, I had to do it.”

Her friend David’s father-in-law decided to adopt the young Indian girl and brought her out to California to study a masters degree. She joined the California Institute of Technology and became very interested in science. She was mentored by two-time Nobel Prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling where she learned about peptides and formulas.

Under his tutelage she came up with an idea for a unique product. “The first peptide that I made is the B2 Actigen, which improves collagen in the skin. While studying and dealing with radioactive particles, I got very sick. I was 22, my skin got dragged out and I was looking very bad. So I thought, ‘What if I can create that collagen and put it in a cream.’ That got a huge reaction and it started selling.”

Her professor at Cal Tech awarded her with $70 000 as the inventor, and a green card! She now had enough money to start her own cosmetics company, which is now based in Los Angeles called Actiogen. Word of her talents soon spread and she was asked to develop skin lightening, anti-ageing and sunscreen products for Estee Lauder and Revlon.

Her drive and ambition for creating a product that helps people is certainly paying off, as the company expects to make at least $100 million in sales this year! “We create scientific peptide-based skincare products on anti-ageing, acne, cleansers, toners, day and night creams, sunscreens and stretch-mark removers. They are functional cosmetics, which aren’t just feel-good and smell-good.”

Chanda Zaveri at home

Decades later, Chanda has not forgotten about her home country, India. She goes back every year and wants her story to inspire other young women to pursue educations and careers.

“I am happy to see more Marwari girls pursuing higher studies, but the priority of finding a good groom still remains. Having gone through that and having worked as a maid, I hope for a day in India when people, irrespective of their status and gender, will treat each other as equal.”

Her advice for others looking to achieve goals is not to second guess yourself. “If you want something and you don’t have ifs or buts, you will get it. No matter what.” She is now the CEO of her own company, Actiogen, and a self-made millionaire entrepreneur. Oh, and her parents are extremely proud of her too!

Her journey is unique, but resonates within us all. We all have barriers, hurdles and struggles to overcome in life. It is what makes the destination more rewarding. Don’t give up on your ambitions. Don’t take “no” for an answer if you know what you are doing is respectable and worthy. You too could one day have the type of life story that will empower many other young women to persevere in life!


What do you think of Chanda’s story? What hurdles do you need to overcome to achieve your goals? What are you up against in life?


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  2. Thank you Chanda for your courage. You have given women everywhere the faith to know that they too can follow their dreams. I am so excited to be in Chanda Zaveri’s new Business venture, XO Lifestyle Worldwide where her anti-aging and targeted peptide products like the 180 Serum face lift and the Skin Healix Acne Dots will be available exclusively. If you would like to participate and be a brand partner in Chanda Zaveri’s new venture, contact Lynette Henk at (877) 208-8172 or email I would be happy to help you get started with a successful business.

  3. Pingback: Indian Comedian Zarna "Auntie Z" Garg Takes TikTok By Storm With Her Immigrant Story - GirlTalkHQ

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