Zelma Lazarus

Founder Director and Chief Executive Officer, IMPACT  

MRS ZLazarusZelma Lazarus is the Founder Director and Chief Executive Officer of Impact, a United Nations’ Inter-Agency Initiative, in association with the governments of each participating country. As General Manager Corporate Relations of Voltas Limited, a large Private Sector enterprise in India, she has had substantial experience in all aspects of public affairs. Her work experience is over 30 years. Zelma was assigned by the House of Tata to the Government of India to establish the first Impact Foundation in India. Based on Impact India’s experience, there are now 19 Impact Foundations in different countries worldwide.

Zelma was World President of the International Public Relations Association (IPRA) for the year 1998; the first Asian Woman to head this prestigious organisation. IPRA constitutes the most genuinely international group of Public Relations Practitioners in 90 countries. She is the Patron of Global Forum For Public Relations – an India International Association for Values and Ethics in Public Relations.

The basic prerequisite of Impact, which she leads successfully, is awareness. A nationwide communications package for India was therefore designed by her for a wide and diverse audience, from the slum dweller who is the potential beneficiary, to the industrialist who will financially support the programme.

Zelma was invited by the Government of India to become a member of the Planning Commissions Working Group on Health, Education and Communications for the preparation of the Seventh and Eighth Five-Year Plans for the country.

Zelma was commissioned by the Government of India to serve on the Film Censor Board.

Zelma has been on the world speakers’ circuit, delivering lectures at United Nations Headquarters, at various international seminars, universities and public platforms.       She has appeared on many live programmes on Television channels in many countries and several hundred articles have appeared about her in international dailies and journals including Newsweek, Chicago Tribune, Elle, The Times (London).

Zelma has completed a Senior Management Course on “Leadership” at the Ashridge Management College, U.K., and has edited several publications worldwide.

Zelma is a winner of several awards:

  • The United Nations Award for Excellence in Public Service for the “Lifeline Project”
  • The “Woman of the Year” Award from Zonta International
  • The Rotary Club Public Award for Leadership in creating India’s first mobile Hospital Train
  • The Distinguished Golden World Trophy for Excellence in Internal Communications from IPRA in London; IPRA’s Golden World Trophies for Excellence in Consumer Affairs and again, for Excellence in Public Service worldwide.
  • The prestigious Silver Bell Trophy at the PR World Congress for “The most outstanding PR Campaign in the country”
  • The PR Society of India’s National Award for the Gandhi Book Project
  • The Bombay Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Good Corporate Citizen Award
  • Gold Medal at the EXPO 2000 in Hanover, Germany
  • Lifetime Achievement Award for Public Relations and Corporate Social Responsibilities by Association of Business Communicators of India (ABCI) in 2005.
  • Lifetime Achievement Award for Public Relations by Public Relations Society of India (PRSI) in 2007.
  • The Dr. K.R.Singh Memorial Life Time Achievement Award (PRCI Chanakya Awards 2014) by the Public Relations Council of India.
  • Lifetime Achievement Award by Exchange4Media at the India PR & Corporate Communications Awards 2014, and many more…

Throughout her career, Zelma Lazarus has been involved in the cause of the disabled. She has been the focal point in several unique projects to raise funds for the handicapped and was instrumental in bringing out the first Braille typewriter to be manufactured in India.

Lifeline Express is not Zelma’s but one of the worlds most talked about projects since it involved co-operation of various people, organisations and bureaucrats. The Lifeline Express is a special rake of five railway coaches specially adapted to serve as a mobile hospital, and thus able to reach anywhere on the railway map of India.

It is staffed by volunteers comprising some of the best surgeons and physicians of India, and is dedicated to tackling Polio, Cataract, Hearing Disability and Clefts. It is supported by advance teams that organise gather patients from surrounding areas before the arrival of the Mobile Hospital at its remote wayside stop. The goodwill generated has astonished everyone. The Lifeline Express, with its mobility, and self-support capability, offers a unique opportunity to provide top quality medical services, free of cost, at any place in India.

This unique enterprise, with a commitment to offer relief to the suffering poor free of cost to fight preventable diseases, began its maiden voyage on its “Noble Venture”, in July 1991 from Victoria Station, Bombay (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai), with an enthusiastic send-off by its many well-wishers. Over the past several years it has served over a million disabled in rural India, restoring sight, hearing, movement, correction of facial deformities and treatment for epilepsy and dental problems, and 200,000 medical persons from India and abroad including a large number of volunteers have donated their skills on the train, without charge.

Zelma would be the first to say that it took the combined efforts of a large number of people to make this possible. But everyone associated with this project agrees that the essential organizational skills and strength of purpose was provided by her. In every endeavour of this nature, there are difficulties on the way. Zelma Lazarus, though a modest individual, has that indispensable determination to ensure success. She has a unique capacity to make a difference in someone else’s life, and is blessed by many patients, located all over India, who have benefited.

The relevance of the Lifeline Express became evident immediately after the earthquake at Latur, Maharashtra a few years back, when it was diverted from its operations at Shankarapalli, about 200 kms. from the epicenter, and made the journey overnight, collecting supplies and relief volunteers, to supplement the sadly damaged and inadequate hospitals of Latur. Again, in 2001, it rushed to Gujarat to offer medical support to the earthquake stricken victims at the specific request of the Government of Gujarat, and stayed on for a period of six months as the only active hospital since the rest had crumbled in the earthquake.


In recognition of Impact India Foundation’s humanitarian work for the disabled poor of our country, the Government of India released a National Postage Stamp honouring the Lifeline Express and also a book titled “Creating Rainbows” – the Inspirational Journey of Impact India Foundation, on May 12, 2009, by His Excellency Shri S.C. Jamir, Governor of Maharashtra. On this occasion a special message was received from the Prime Minister of India.

At the invitation of the Maharashtra Government, Impact India Foundation has launched a Community Health Initiative Project in the remote tribal areas of Thane district in the State of Maharashtra for the dramatic reduction in a number of disabilities affecting a population of one million persons. The aim is to reduce or reverse the number of disabilities, by one half, through preventive and curative measures, bringing enormous benefits to the people.