NAME: RK SHETTY
OCCUPATION: CHAIRMAN, ISSAR FINANCIAL SERVICES PVT. LTD
FATHER’S NAME: KRISHNA SHETTY
OCCUPATION: COFFEE PLANTATION WORKER
Radhakrishna K. Shetty’s financial and insurance firm in Mumbai today collects an insurance premium of Rs 15 crore a year and employs 26 people. When growing up, his family of six survived on Rs 60 a week.
His father Krishna Shetty worked at a coffee plantation in Chikmagalur district of Karnataka, supporting his wife and four children. The village government school provided education up to class IV; it required a 7km trek to another school to study up to class VII, and 15km to go to high school. Invariably, children from the village worked on the plantations after class IV. But the Shettys had a different plan.
Radhakrishna K. Shetty
After managing to send their first two sons to high school—Radhakrishna being the younger of the two—and paying for their hostels and study, Radhakrishna’s education became a challenge once his elder brother went to college. A visiting relative from Mumbai offered to take him to the city, which the family resisted. “I took the lead, told them to let me go. I could not see them struggle so much,” says Radhakrishna, then 15 years old.
His father, who died a decade ago, gave him Rs 200, making Radhakrishna promise that if he failed to manage in Mumbai, he would return home.
Radhakrishna found work at a canteen at Crawford market, and admission in BCom in the Kannada Bhavan Education Society, which catered to restaurant workers like him. He lived and ate at the canteen, making Rs 40 a month.
Even though he got a job in his second year of college with a chartered accountancy firm (Rs 300 a month as typist), he could not leave the canteen, which gave him food and shelter. His day would start at 5am, working at the canteen for three hours, then to office till 6pm, classes at 6.15pm and back to the canteen to sleep at 11pm. He completed his MCom, studied law from K.C. College, and worked with a few chartered accountants and a high court lawyer, before starting his own firm in 1990.
Radhakrishna says his biggest break came when he qualified for the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT), an association of financial professionals, in the US in 1997, which was a “life changing experience”.
“That gave me the confidence to dream, take risks,” he says.
The confidence led to an aggressive expansion of business—soon getting an office, with two employees and a computer in Dadar.
Today, Shetty is the divisional vice-president of MDRT, father to two children and owner of a bungalow in Kalina. His next dream: to own an airline.
“When I go to that canteen and see the same people working there, I am happy I decided to study,” he says.
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