By Kamala Kirk
She’s a successful entrepreneur, a former MTV executive, a published author, mother of two, not to mention the daughter of New-Age guru Deepak Chopra. Mallika Chopra has led a very unique and interesting life, although she insists that she had a very normal childhood, despite the fact that she grew up exposed to individuals such as George Harrison and Elizabeth Taylor.
“I think because we were exposed to a lot of famous and extremely successful people because of the work my father did, we always thought of people as people, no matter who they were,” Mallika explained. “So generally in our family we don’t take ourselves too seriously. I think we try to focus on the relationships and living that authentic life just because we’ve seen so much.”
Things have been especially busy for Mallika lately. This past month she spoke at the Organization of Women Leaders in Santa Monica. The web site she created at Intent.com is growing with a community of contributors. And In April, she releases her third book Living with Intent: My Somewhat Messy Journey to Purpose, Peace and Joy with Harmony Books. We caught up to Mallika on a quiet afternoon at their exquisite Santa Monica home. It’s ultra-modern furnishings are counter-balanced by statues of Hindu Gods in the corner of the living room and in the backyard.
Mallika and her younger brother Gotham were raised in Boston by their parents, who came to the United States with only eight dollars and worked very hard to create a life for their family. Her father’s busy career as a doctor kept him working seven days a week, which led to Mallika learning the art of meditation at the age of nine.
“That was when my parents’ lives changed quite a bit,” she said. “So I was very fortunate to grow up with the gift of learning how to be anchored and connected. In my younger days my dad was really stressed out because he worked all the time. It was his discovery of meditation and changing his life which had a huge impact on him and our family as well.”
Mallika went on to attend Brown University where she studied International Relations, and before she had even graduated she had landed a gig working for the King of Pop, Michael Jackson.
“While I was in college we grew up knowing Michael Jackson through my father,” Mallika explained. “At one point he had approached my father about stuff that was going on in his life so they became friends. He was a very warm and loving person.”
Her first job while she was still in college was working for Michael Jackson to launch his Heal the World Foundation. Seeing the power and reach of Michael’s music, she learned about the power of music and media, which put her on a path to work for the nation of India as an assistant for International Marketing out of college.
Mallika then went to New York and traveled around the world for six months before returning to India to work for MTV when she was 23-years-old, which she describes as “an amazing experience and the best education I could have had at that young age.”
She convinced the network to hire her and ended up meeting her now-husband, Sumant Mandal, in India. The two married a year later and ultimately decided to return to the United States together to pursue their MBAs at Kellogg School of Management in Chicago.
“Mallika had the coolest job when we met,” Sumant said. “Working for MTV and going to all the clubs to ‘check them out.’ We’ve been married 18 years but it’s going really quick. Her first focus is the kids and the family. She texts a lot so we are constantly connected. She loves to plan vacations (secretly trying to start a travel company), so the family does spend a lot of time together even though we all travel constantly. She’s obviously the writer in the family!”
Mallika ended up dropping out of business school to launch a company with her father called My Potential, and the concept was to recreate the ESPN or CNN of the self-help industry. Despite raising a lot of money and dealing with the expected highs and lows of a start-up, the company ultimately did not survive.
“It never realized its potential,” Mallika said. “But I think in the back of my head, I had this desire to create this platform where people could share their stories and connect with others who were interested in self-development.”
At that point, Mallika learned that she was pregnant and was ready for a new phase of life. She returned to Chicago to finish her MBA and then returned to Los Angeles, where her husband had joined a venture fund. While she was pregnant, Mallika was inspired to write her first book, 100 Promises to My Baby.
“It was when I was pregnant with my first daughter that I reflected on how I had grown up in this world of self-help. I started to think about who am I?” Mallika said. “Where do I come from? And what do I want? Because I started my journey of self-development at the time and was thinking about who I wanted to be as a mom, that was my inspiration for the first book.”
When Mallika’s younger daughter started pre-school, she started the company Intent, which stemmed from her days of blogging as a hobby. The company has come a long way from its humble beginnings and launched an Intent app (Intent.com in the Itunes store) on March 1, marking an exciting new phase for the business.
“We’ve gone through many phases with the company,” Mallika said. “It started out like Twitter with a purpose and it’s just grown and evolved. There are people all over the world who are part of it, supporting each other on that platform. We let it grow organically and it’s been such a wonderful thing for me to see this community that is built around sharing dreams and aspirations.”
Alex Bloomingale, who works with Mallika on the Intent website, said she’s able to blend things that other people find really difficult, such as a work-family balance.
“Mallika has an instinct that is innate, but she also has a curiosity and openness that allow her to be comfortable anywhere she goes,” he said. “She is the last person to brag about herself, and yet new people sense her intelligence and accomplishment very quickly.”
The entrepreneurial spirit that she is, Mallika also sits on the board of Liquid Comics, which is her brother Gotham’s initiative, and they have also launched The Chopra Well, a YouTube channel.
“My sister is smarter than me and nicer than me,” Gotham said. “Working together was interesting. Seriously, I think we have some shared interests, but for the most part she’s focused on parenting and wellness and I’m all about sports and comic books. My sis and I have always been close. And now that we live so close to each other and our kids go to the same schools and go back and forth between our houses literally every day, we are closer than ever. Her kids are mine and vice-versa.”
Mallika’s second published book evolved when her younger daughter turned four and started asking her mother deep probing questions concerning the bombings in Spain and other issues, so Mallika was inspired to write 100 Questions from Her Child. Mallika’s latest book, Living with Intent: My Somewhat Messy Journey to Purpose, Peace and Joy, is coming out April 7.
“Intent is my main focus and out of Intent, my new book is coming out,” Mallika explained. “The inspiration for this third book came from having a very hectic life, being an entrepreneur, two kids, family, travel, work, etc. and I’d lost a sense of my own balance. This new book is the next phase of my life, getting re-anchored in the same questions. Who am I? What do I want? What does it mean to take care of myself, my family, my community? The book is my personal narrative of that.”
When she isn’t working on Intent and pursuing other side projects, Mallika and Sumant enjoy spending time with their daughters Tara and Leela in Santa Monica. They chose to make the West Side community their home because of the healthy lifestyle it offered, in addition to the beautiful weather. With her brother Gotham in the nearby Pacific Palisades and her parents frequently visiting, there is never a shortage of family around. Mallika also takes her kids back to India once a year in order to connect with the rest of her family that is still out there.
“We’re a very nice, close-knit family,” Mallika said. “We spend most of our time together and we love where we live. We love to go out and eat at restaurants, hang around, go to the beach, do yoga – we really enjoy our lives here and we also love to travel. We think it’s a great education for our daughters.”
Mallika was recently honored by the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, where she was an Owlie honoree and asked to speak to attendees during a big breakfast.
“I feel very humbled and honored,” Mallika said. “I really enjoy speaking. I talk a lot about Intent, meditation, finding purpose, sharing a lot of my stories and techniques that I struggled with and found to just keep anchored and focused. I enjoy audiences, interacting with people, the challenges of different talks. I like the diversity of that experience and then I love to teach meditation as well.”