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

Society - - SOCIETY SAYS SO - | By PAYAL ME­HTA|

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!

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