Varsha Kalra, the 276th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, has a brain for business and a heart for humanity. 

Varsha, who was raised in India but now lives in Dubai, contacted me after travelling to Sydney for business. 

“I stumbled upon ‘500 lunches with 500 strangers in 5 years’ initiative and was super impressed 🙂 Big fan of what you are doing. Totally love it!” she wrote. 

“I’d love to catch up with you over lunch. Let me know how your calendar is looking for this/next week and we can take it from there.” 

So that was how we ended up meeting on a Saturday for lunch – well, breakfast actually. 

You don’t have to spend long with Varsha to realise she’s a special person. 

Varsha also has a very kind soul and a very positive mindset. 

The two of us got on so well that, when Varsha said she hoped to visit the beach during her time in Sydney, I suggested we jump in an Uber and go then and there. So, we did. 

Varsha runs Refine Interactive, a full-service marketing and advertising agency she founded in her native India in 2008. The early days were a big struggle – it was hard to convince price-sensitive local customers of the value of Refine Interactive’s offering and hard to win over Western customers who were operating in different countries and time zones.

Varsha made the brave decision to expand to Singapore and Dubai and grow her business by attending countless networking events, building lots of relationships and over-delivering whenever she landed a new client. 

Then the pandemic hit, and most of Refine Interactive’s revenue disappeared overnight.

Varsha was devastated. But she wasn’t defeated. She’s been in rebuilding mode for the past couple of years. 

One of the challenges of running a global business is that you have to live out of a suitcase. That’s how I was lucky enough to meet Varsha – she was in Sydney for a couple of weeks to meet partners and clients. 

She’s very warm and relationship-driven, so I can understand why clients want to do business with her. She’s also incredibly resilient; she doesn’t let obstacles and setbacks defeat her. 

It’s wonderful when you can meet a complete stranger and make such a quick connection.

I’m looking forward to catching up with Varsha next time she’s in Sydney.