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From a college dropout to multi millionaire: Raj Kundra’s voyage extraordinaire to success

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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.

 

The beginnings

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.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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