Q You started off as an actress, but soon after your marriage with businessman Raj Kundra, we saw you venturing out in a lot of businesses. What caused the sudden shift of interest as today more than movies we see you delving into commerce?
Woh kehte hai na ‘sangat ka asar Hai’ (laughs). Well frankly it was Raj who opened my eyes and so I have to give him full credit for what I am today. He saw me endorse a lot of other brands and made me understand that instead of promoting other brands, why not come up with my own brands! This is when I thought about coming up with something of my own. So, for my first project I took to exploring my ‘love’, which for fitness and that is how I launched the yoga DVD (in 2008). After getting some confidence I delved into wellness and launched IOS is Spa from here on there was no looking back and I enjoyed the journey as a businesswoman.
If we talk about something more recent, I launched my own channel online (The Shilpa Shetty.com). In this day and age, I feel people have no time to buy DVDs or watch TV. The audience needs everything at a click of a button and on the phones, which is why I took to exploring the digital medium. Here, I have gone beyond yoga and I am concentrating on health as a whole.
Q How are women when it comes to numbers and finance?
Terrible! (Laughs) I don’t know about others, but I am really bad at it. My dad (Surendra Shetty) used to handle all the finances for me. After his death, it’s all suddenly thrust upon me. I am taking time to learn as I realized that I have to become a little more street smart and have to learn to do things on my own.
Q You have been an inspiration to many, name the women entrepreneurs who inspire you?
Vandana Luthra (founder of VLCC Health Club), I feel she’s a torch bearer. Kiran Shaw (chairman and managing director of Biocon Limited) she is brilliant. Even Shahnaz Husain (CEO of Shahnaz Herbals Inc.) I feel Shahnaz has really made an empire for herself and that too way before ‘women’ could even think of doing something as big as what she ventured into. Basically, I like women who are trend setters and do things before time.
Q Do you think actresses of the current generation are sharper and bolder as compared to the earlier generations? From exploring various ventures, to turning producers and even making a mark in Hollywood, they are going all out!
I think it’s a welcome change. Heroines today are no longer relegated to doing just song and dance in movies. Cinema is really coming of age. And it’s wonderful to see women now commanding as much as their male counterparts if not more than them at times (in terms of fees).
Q Times have changed in Bollywood for women, yet actresses are facing issues like the ‘gender pay gap’. You have been a film producer; how can the problem be curbed?
I made some mistakes in my life and film production was one of them (laughs). Frankly speaking, you can’t only look at one side and forget all the good stuff that is happening. It’s not about being man or a woman, but about making the right choices. Look at me, I must say, today I am making more money than what I made in my entire life. Look at Anushka (Sharma) or Deepika (Padukone), they are making much more money than all of us (actresses of her generation) put together in our times and it is because of the choices that they are making. Even Priyanka (Chopra) for that matter, I am sure she’s making much more than her male counterparts. But in the end, I feel that money and success is just subjective, it is all about the ‘happiness’ that you get from what you do.