‘Shilpa is the wind beneath my wings’

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For a man who set up his first company at the age of 18 — emerging from a middle-class upbringing in London to being ranked the 198th richest British Asian — penning a book titled How Not to Make Money seems like a bit of an irony. But that’s perhaps the effect Raj Kundra was aiming for.

He’s made a fortune out of doing the unusual, and in his debut novel, he’s pumped in the lessons of a lifetime.
“So many non-fiction books preach how to make money. I thought let me take off from there and write this story,” said Raj Kundra.
How Not to Make Money follows the get-rich-quick adventures of Mike, Jai and Aziz, and is being published by Random House. “My experiences in business, in the boardroom, meeting people, that was what really helped me get this book together,” said Kundra.
What also helped with the book’s setting was his own childhood in London. “(There was) a little bit of racism,” Kundra said. “We lived in a multicultural area, but our skin was brown while that of the others was white. You learn to take things with a pinch of salt when you’re the ethnic minority. You have to be careful about the fights you pick.”
With his parents hard at work improving the family’s fortunes — his father moved up from a bus conductor’s job to investing in several small businesses — Kundra and his sisters learned the value of money early in life. He said, “In India, we’re spoiled to a certain degree. For instance, many people here can afford domestic help. (Over there) you’re the boss and you’re the employee. My sisters and I had to clean the car or the house to earn £1. If we wanted to make money, we had to work hard.”
Kundra’s first success, at the age of 18 and without any formal business education, is well known — he hit upon the idea of supplying Pashmina shawls to fashion houses in London. But over the years, along with the triumphs, there were a few troughs as well. And each taught him a lesson. “(With the Pashmina business) the margins were good, but once everyone jumped onto the bandwagon, the competition killed the market,” Kundra recounted. “(I learnt) the need to keep moving on to the next product. Every pound you lose pinches, makes you work harder.”
Today, financial difficulties no longer haunt him, but he continues to work hard at his diverse businesses, admitting that he’s “a workaholic, very hands-on and detail-oriented, probably because of being a Virgo”. However, he added that India (where he shifted after his marriage to actress Shilpa Shetty) was a tough place to do business. “Even investing in something like the Rajasthan Royals (the IPL cricket team)… it’s difficult being married to someone who’s part of Bollywood because you’re under spotlight at all times,” Kundra said.
He referred to the time when the IPL match-fixing controversy surfaced in a matter-of-fact tone. “The allegations were made by powerful people trying to hold on to their chairs. The police gave me a clean chit, but what was the point? For the regular person who didn’t know the facts, it was ‘Oh, Raj Kundra has been called for questioning!’ ‘Does he make his money from fixing?’ But the truth did prevail,” said Kundra, who has written about the turbulent time in two letters on his website.
The letters provide a small clue to the person he is. The other major “clue” comes from the way he’s worded his Twitter profile: “Husband of Shilpa Shetty, father of Viaan Raj Kundra, co- owner of Rajasthan Royals, founder of The Fight League and author of How Not to Make Money”. They’re listed in the order of importance, Kundra explained, adding, “Nothing comes before my wife. Shilpa is the wind beneath my wings. And I would die for my son.”
So, what makes Raj Kundra — the jetsetter who loves his frappuccinos, and prefers to spend his Sunday mornings watching videos with his son — tick? “I need a challenge,” says Kundra, after a pause. “I want to do what people say cannot be done. And if I can help people while doing it, help create jobs, then even better.”

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