The British-Indian businessman’s story makes him the perfect example of a self-made man.
A name with a global presence and a special relationship with Bollywood – Raj Kundra is a famous man. However, his life hasn’t always been this way. Be it starting his entrepreneurial journey right from the scratch or marrying one of the most successful Bollywood divas – success didn’t come easy to the business maven.
Raj Kundra had humble beginnings. He was born to an Indian migrant family in London, UK. His mother, Usha Rani Kundra, worked as a shop assistant, while his father, Bal Krishan Kundra, worked as a bus conductor before starting a small business.
“I come from a humble background. My dad moved to London 51 years ago and worked as a bus conductor whereas my mother worked in a factory. We never had it easy. I’m a self-made man since I left college at the age of 18. My anger pushed me. I hated poverty so much that I wanted to become rich. And I did make a difference to my life,” Kundra revealed in an interview with Filmfare.
Making the first millions
Upon being asked by his father to start thinking about his career, Raj visited Nepal in his late teenage years. It was during his tour of the country that he found a way to take a leap towards entrepreneurship – Pashmina shawls.
In 1990s, he decided to set up a venture that could turn Pashmina shawls into a profitable business. Kundra imported the shawls by the container loads, and supplied them to all major fashion houses in London.
Expansion of the Empire
There was no looking back for Raj Kundra after that. Business opportunities in Ukraine, Russia, Antwerp and UAE propelled his business forward. He continued foraying into various arenas through strategic investments. From mining to realty and renewable energy to hospitality – Raj Kundra soon turned into an omnipresent entity. By 2004, he was named among the richest British Asians by Success, a leading magazine in UK.
Trouble in paradise
Raj Kundra was first married to Kavita. However, the marriage fell apart after three years. The couple divorced soon after the birth of their daughter, Deleena. Upon being asked about why they parted ways, Kundra said in a statement, “The reasons for the divorce are too personal for me to discuss and it would bring down my ex-wife. I do not wish to stoop down to that level as it’s quite degrading.”
A whirlwind romance
Despite being a popular name in the international business circles, Raj Kundra rose to fame in India due to his relationship with Bollywood beauty Shilpa Shetty. The two were introduced by the latter’s manager Farhath Hussain with a proposal to launch a perfume with her. Shilpa had become a global symbol of Indian culture after winning the British reality show Celebrity Big Brother in 2007.
This began Kundra’s professional association with the Bollywood star. Professional relations soon turned into friendship, and before the duo knew, love blossomed. “She was sitting with her mother in a hotel when I first met her. I realised how homely she actually was. It was apparent that she was cultured and had good values. It was love at first sight. From the moment I saw her, I knew I’d love her to be my life partner,” Kundra said while recollecting his first meeting with Shilpa.
Marriage to Shilpa Shetty
Raj Kundra married Shilpa Shetty in a fairy tale wedding in November 2009. About his wife, Kundra says, “What makes her different from other actors is that she doesn’t come with the baggage of being a celebrity. That impresses me the most. There’s more to her than meets the eye. She’s got an angelic side to her. Her homely side grew on me as I got to know her. I took her home to meet my parents and she was extremely warm. She touched their feet. I respect that. It was then that I thought this girl could be my wife.”
He adds, “Shilpa is a fantastic homemaker. Our house looks so good because Shilpa has worked on designing it the way it is. She has been picking up things from all over the world. My friends were taken by surprise when Shilpa cooked chicken curry for me. They couldn’t believe that an actress of her stature would ever indulge in household chores. She is what makes our house, home.”
Life partner turned business partner
Raj Kundra and wife Shilpa Shetty are not just life partners, they are business partners as well. They started Viaan Industries, named after their son. The company was started with a vision to drive a lifestyle change in the country through technology offerings. Today, the company has a strong and growing presence across several verticals, which include gaming, licensing, entertainment, animation, etc.
Serving innovation with Viaan Industries
Viaan Industries is known for path-breaking, tech-driven gaming solutions for the modern Indian. The company’s latest offering has been Housie Quiz game app. Available across Android and iOS platforms, Housie Quiz brings the good old Tambola to mobile devices, but with a unique twist. Kundra’s aim behind starting the game has been to provide families with a platform where everyone can play together.
“The last five to six years in India has seen a substantial amount of growth in the real money gaming (RMG) industry. Online gaming has a massive market opportunity that prolongs beyond interactive entertainment. I have always thrived on online gaming, and board games have been my absolute favorites. This is when I thought of creating a game where everyone can play together as a family, something that is nostalgic and enjoyable for all at the same time,” said Raj Kundra upon the launch of Housie Quiz game app.
Love for sports
Raj Kundra’s love for games is not limited to the online versions. The British-Indian businessman is an avid sports enthusiast as well. His various investments in the Indian sports industry bear witness to his ever- lasting interest in sports. Kundra, along with his wife, has formerly been the owner of Rajasthan Royals, one of the most popular teams in the Indian Premier League (IPL) .
Apart from his romance with cricket, Kundra is also accredited for the popularization of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in India. He partnered with Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt to launch India’s first professional MMA fighting league in 2012, named Super Fight League. Raj Kundra also worked towards developing MMA at the grassroots level while serving as the Chairman of the All India Mixed Martial Arts Association (AIMMAA).
A responsible global citizen
With great success comes great responsibility. Raj Kundra has made it his mission to do his bit in order to reduce the global carbon footprint. Along with his wife Shilpa Shetty, he has set up a unique initiative named ‘Verified Carbon Zero’, a mission to create a healthy, green and clean planet through the adoption of trees.
“The impact of global warming will soon be irreversible if we don’t come together and start doing something about it now. Through Verified Carbon Zero, we intend to create a convenient way for individuals and corporates to do their bit for the environment. With over a million trees adopted across India, our inventory is regularly updated. People adopting trees through VCZ receive a geotag of their tree, along with a certificate from us confirming the amount of carbon dioxide being offset through their contribution,” Raj Kundra said while explaining about his green initiative.
With his visionary approach towards his business verticals as well as environmental conservation, the British-Indian business maven has been constantly making positive strides towards success not only as an entrepreneur, but also as a human being.
Recently, as coronavirus outbreak brings the entire world to a standstill, the Government of India too has announced a 21-day lockdown across the country. India’s fight against coronavirus was taken up by a notch when PM Narendra Modi announced the CARES fund in a bid to raise capital to combat Covid-19. According to the reports, Raj Kundra and his wife Shilpa Shetty have donated Rs. 21 lakh to the PM-CARES fund as their contribution to the government’s efforts of aiding the people affected due to the outbreak.
Raj Kundra’s extraordinary journey is an inspiration to everyone who dreams to make it big through sheer determination and constant hard work. All one needs is unique ideas, and the perseverance and courage to turn those ideas into something that profits not only an individual, but the society as a whole.