From being the son of a bus conductor to being named as one of the richest men, the journey has clearly not been easy for business tycoon Raj Kundra. Known for his sharp business acumen, Kundra - who is also the husband of Bollywood actor Shilpa Shetty - started his first business venture at the age of 17 by selling pashmina shawls.

“Everyone looks at one side of a mirror and makes their perception. It was a tough journey and self made,” says Kundra, who dropped out of college at 18 and entered the world of business with not much but the blessings of his parents. He is now a British citizen but “Indian at heart” who would never want to leave India.

Kundra says, “I was very clear in mind that I wanted to be a self-made millionaire.” Even in his first ‘job’, he was technically self-employed. How? The big business mind of today “washed dishes at my dad’s restaurant,  drove chauffeur-driven cars and taxis” to earn on his own.

The business tycoon, who has often been the controversy’s favourite child, after Super Fight League forayed into another business of passion with his company Viaan Gaming in 2019 and is now launching an application – Housie Quiz. Kundra feels it is the right time to expand one’s horizon of online gaming when the majority of the population is enjoying their time at home during the lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I have been very keen in the gaming space. We came across Housie, everyone knows the rules and it is played with the whole family. The only problem was as the current Housie rules stand – it makes it a game of chance and not of skills. We were clear that we wanted it to be a game of skill so we dug and got into research as to how to do this... We took a legal opinion on it and that was passed with all the laws and immediately all the payment gateways were set up  and the company was set up and that’s how we launched Housie Quiz, India’s first real money game of skill,” he said.

Kundra, who started his first business venture at the age of 17 by selling pashmina shawls, is now known as one of the richest men in India.  (Photo credit: Raj Kundra)

About the timing of the launch of his gaming venture, when the Centre has banned most chinese apps, he says, “I don’t know if the move is politically driven...If they have done for the benefit of Indians then I think it's great because there is no time like now to be in this social business and honestly speaking these (chinese) apps were making a lot of money from India and it was all going out ultimately to China, so if India has an opportunity and they can build apps to that scale, with that quality and that skill set then it's a great opportunity.”

“It's not about how India is going to do it but we have to do it right,” says Kundra, adding that India has a skill set but lacks on quality. The businessman, who was super active on TikTok,  a chinese app for short mobile videos, says the alternatives to the banned app are good enough. About his wife Shilpa he says she is like “a fresh air”. The couple got married in 2009 and have two children - Viaan (8) and 5-months-old  Samisha.

Raj Kundra says that wife Shilpa is like “a fresh air” and also their in-house nutritionist (Photo credit: Raj Kundra)

“Integrity is important for both of us...  We love India and we are very patriotic. Even when I was born in Britain and have a British passport, I am more Indian and this is what Shilpa told me when she married me...,” Kundra told Opoyi.

“It’s very easy for us to pick our bags and go to London when we hear about scandals but we never did that. We are going to stay here. We understand that chances for small things to become big gets more when you are a celebrity and unfortunately, Shilpa has to bear the brunt. If something goes wrong even if it is related to me, it’s Shilpa Shetty’s husband flashed everywhere so it’s the price you pay when you are a celebrity. But that’s a small price to pay for a wonderful person that I have in my life,” he added.

“She is our in-house nutritionist,” says Kundra about his wife Shilpa, a fitness guru. “I am a Punjabi and such a foodie... She has brought a lot of change to me and to my family and we love her for that.”

Kundra also says that Shilpa’s honesty is something that he appreciates the most and dislikes also sometimes. “She is blatantly honest and sometimes I also hate that. She will tell things as it is, without mincing her words in any way. She tells it to you as it is.”

For Kundra, the lockdown phase is “blessing in disguise” as he gets to enjoy with his daughter Samisha.

On a “very positive change” the couple opted for, Kundra says “she turned vegetarian and I turned vegan and we decided to move forward in our life with this change.”

On what’s next for him, the business tycoon says “I enjoy startups and if I am passionate about something, I would invest in it.” But for the next two years only “new games”, he says.

(Disclaimer: This interview was first published on July 28, 2020)