Oh To Be Robin Raina!
Society explores the effervescent lifestyle of prominent high-flier Robin Raina, Chairman, CEO and President of Ebix Inc, who is defined not just by his success and opulent indulgences, but also by his philanthropic dreams and deeds
Fifty-year-old Robin Raina joined insurance software solutions and development company, Ebix Inc, in 1997 at a time when it was in a shambles. But Raina, with his solid business insight and years of experience in technology consulting, turned the company into a profit-making $350 million entity and the world’s largest insurance exchange with a presence in more than 40 countries, including Australia, Singapore, Canada, India, the US and the UK. However, being in the insurance industry by no means was Robin’s dream. As a child, when he was asked what he wanted to become when he grew up, little Robin would say he wanted to be famous. “On one side, I always wanted to be the best in the world in any field I ventured into, and on the other, I had this calming feeling
that told me not to confuse success with excelling in your work. So, my dreams also evolved over the years, as I understood what success meant to me,” says the go-getter. So, what does success mean to him, we ask. “Success is not defined by the wealth I have amassed, the business prowess I can boast of or the awards or accolades I might have received. Those, to me, are a part of a materialistic journey towards economic security and ego satisfaction. Success is a journey; it can never be a destination. If you perceive yourself as successful, then you stop growing intellectually and professionally. So, I prefer to perceive myself as far from being successful,” says the man, whose base compensation for his position at Ebix was a cool $ 2.5 million in the fiscal year 2016. And, to further contradict his statement of being far from successful, Raina lives in a 16,000-square foot plush designer home in Georgia, Atlanta, fully equipped with a swimming pool, sauna, steam, elevators, two gym rooms, a 500-bottle wine cellar, bar, theatre, et al. Talk about being modest!
Raina was a 32-year-old CEO of Indian origin, trying to turn the fortunes of an American company that had never made money in 23 years. It must have been a difficult task, considering people might have treated him like an outsider. “I ran into resistance on all fronts, ranging from my own Board to employees, investors and the industry. Soon, I figured that the one thing that erased all colour boundaries in the West was the colour of money. I thought if I could create a financial enterprise that actually generated cash like a machine, the colour of my skin would become immaterial to all concerned.” A typical day in the life of Ebix Inc’s CEO starts with him waking up at 6.20 am, followed by work out sessions six days a week with his physical trainers. He goes to office early, landing up in his gym gear most of the times and doesn’t end up changing until 11 am on any
given day. His breakfast and lunch both typically happen there between in-person meetings, video conferences and phone calls. He typically works till 7.30 pm. “In between, I find some time to get a game of table tennis at the office gym with the Ebix employees.” He takes an early dinner and either reads, writes or takes calls related to work or charity, before finally retiring to bed around 3 am. “I am travelling two-thirds of the time across the world. Ebix has 45-plus offices across the world and clients in 69-plus countries—so my schedule tends to be rather hectic, depending on what time zone I am in,” he adds with a sense of nonchalance. A globe-trotter in the true sense, Raina has travelled to more than 50 countries across five continents, earning a whopping three million plus miles on just Delta Airlines, giving him the Diamond Elite Sky Club Status, the highest level of travel status accorded by the airlines. He has accumulated substantial miles on other prominent airlines too.
Meanwhile, Ebix has generated 21,000 per cent shareholder return and has been in the Fortune magazine’s list of 100 Fastest Growing Companies five times in the last decade. We wonder what keeps this man motivated to wake up every single day and go to work. He says he would like to see Ebix grow to be the largest and the most profitable technology company in the insurance, finance and healthcare space in the world, and that by itself is a good goal that keeps his juices flowing.” He wishes to do the same for the company’s status in India by investing a staggering $200 million here, in the short term. Robin has won more than a hundred awards from Fortune, Forbes, AJC, Georgia Trends and Atlanta Business Chronicle, besides being accorded the Sony TV Man of the Year, Lifetime Achievement Award at the House of Commons besides CEO of the Year on one too many occasions. He has also been interviewed and featured on
numerous television channels and in business magazines. However, all these years of building a successful business empire didn’t guarantee happiness to Robin. He reminisces, “Back in 2003, one day, I walked up to the top floor of one of our office buildings in Delhi and looked absent mindedly at the outside view from there. I suddenly noticed sprawling slums at the back of
my office building, and that immediately brought tears to my eyes. I was crying not because I had never seen slums in my life, but because I had been coming to this building for two years and had never noticed them until then. I realised that I was just caught up in my materialistic pursuits, living in an illusionary world, and had no real purpose in my life. That was when I promised myself to be in the business of imparting and spreading happiness. And, the Robin Raina Foundation was born.” Robin has now spent the last 15 years trying to share what he has earnt, both in terms of wealth and love. “I have travelled across the world, and had time to reflect on what I saw on the streets and hospitals in Asia, Latin America and Africa— malnourished, sick and handicapped children, who had given up hope, and underprivileged children on the streets without any education,” says the passionate philanthropist, further adding, “In my eyes, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and Azim Premji have made it big because they have the ability to give generously— both in terms of their time as also their wealth. Those are my heroes. Giving is something that no one can take away from you. That’s what I want to do over the next few decades and hopefully leave behind an institution that continues to put smiles on the faces of millions of underprivileged people across the world.”
The Robin Raina Foundation is focused on providing free education to thousands of underprivileged kids across the country and helping them become doctors, engineers, lawyers, and educationists, while providing them medical care, breakfast, lunch, clothing, picnics and toys. “We are also targeting to build a total of 6,000 homes in Bawana, Delhi, to convert the Juggi Jhopri Colony (India’s second largest slum) into a slum free, clean civic area of residence without seeking any help from the government or any other private agency. It is expected
to be a $20 million project, and as of now, we have handed over 2,300 homes free of cost to the slum dwellers there,” says Raina with utter humility. He is widely known for his catchy statement about charity, “I want to make charity fashionable and cool.” So, is it all work and no play for Robin Raina? “I have always believed that age reflects your state of mind, and your mind can be as young as you want it to be. To that extent, I like to keep my horizons open and tend to dabble in a lot of different activities,” says the flamboyant personality, who had produced the documentary film, Dilli, a few years ago that won 25 international awards and beat Robert Redford’s film Buddha at the Las Vegas Film Festival. He also attended Cannes in 2016 with the versatile Nandita Das to promote her film, Manto. Raina has walked in many fashion shows from time to time, and graced the red carpet of several film festivals too. The master of all the trades you can think of, he has also been a publisher of a coffee table magazine in AtIanta! An avid sportsperson, besides being a sports lover, his company currently sponsors three top tennis players—John Isner, the US No. 1, Tomas Berdych, the Czech No. 1, and Coco Vandeghe, the US Open Women’s semifinalist in 2017.
Besides the ‘ regular’ luxury possessions like a Ferrari, Jaguar, Cadillac, BMW, Tesla, Lexus and a couple of Mercedes (phew!), it is Robin’s office in Atlanta that has led to some serious jaw-dropping! His love for architecture and design is reflected in all his company buildings. With its own artificial lake with a bar in the middle, along with a board walk and water stream, his Atlanta office property boasts of a 105-yard golf hole with its own concrete bridge, water canal, waterfalls, beach volleyball, basketball court, tennis courts, Italian hibachi ball court, soccer field, gym, cafeteria, theatre, and what have you! His office in India is no less; with an indoor swinging glass bridge with laser lights connecting two buildings, lighted glass steps to seat 300 people (like on Times Square), three other glass lighted bridges in tunnel form, a 90-person Broadway style Victorian theatre, a large gym with steam and sauna, a billiard table, table tennis tables, in-house gym trainers, a 300-bottle wine cellar, one 50 feet by 30 feet glass conference room hanging from the fifth floor with two lighted glass steps from two buildings— the only way to reach this conference room. A convertible red Mercedes Benz hanging from the roof is definitely an interior designing marvel, along with rooftop bonsai gardens, large gold domes on top of the building and a rooftop garden restaurant! “Luxury is a state of one’s own mind. For me, luxury is just to be myself and have lots of fun,” he rationalises. We ask the man, who has everything, about his most prized possession, “My most prized possessions are the relationships that I have formed with the countless slum dwellers in the slums of India. I wake up every morning and walk straight with my eyes closed to look at the picture of my Late Godmother from the slums of Bawana, who taught me the meaning of love. That experience of love is my most prized possession,” he smiles contentedly. Before we end our interview, I ask this humanitarian of his ultimate dream, to which he quickly responds, “My ultimate dream is to see India become an economic superpower, where everyone has their own home and not a single soul has to go to sleep hungry.” Amen to that!