Cover Kishore Samtani is taking his love for Bollywood to new heights (Photo: Affa Chan/Tatler Hong Kong)

Business magnate Kishore Samtani’s love for Indian cinema has entered another dimension. He talks about his new Web3 project, Bollyverse, and how he plans to take it global

When Kishore Samtani was a young boy living in Mumbai, the world’s most prolific centre for film production, the influence of Bollywood was all around him. The creative energy of the industry excited Samtani, and the magic of theatre and the possibilities of the worlds that could be created would inspire him as an adult to launch a new project to bring his beloved Bollywood into the Web3 era.

In March, Samtani launched Bollyverse, a one-stop source of entertainment for all Bollywood lovers in the metaverse, meeting a need in the space he felt was unfulfilled. “Indian representation is important. Now, everyone will get to experience the richness of Indian culture in the metaverse,” he says from New York in July, where he was attending NFT NYC, a Web3 symposium. In the Bollyverse, users can attend movie award shows and concerts from the comfort of their own homes, play virtual reality games with stars, buy from India’s biggest designer brands, and experience the glitzy world of Bollywood by interacting with celebrity avatars.

The idea has taken off. In June, Samtani flew to Abu Dhabi for the International Indian Film Academy Awards, for which Bollyverse was the official metaverse partner. His team captured content from the stage rehearsals, red carpet arrivals, award ceremony, backstage and after party. Using an avatar studio and 3D motion tracking, Bollyverse incorporated every angle of the event to create an interactive live performance experience that will eventually be available on the Bollyverse platform.

Samtani’s latest venture leverages his connections within the Indian film industry, achievements in business and prominent status within Hong Kong’s Indian community. After moving to the city in 1989, Samtani became a consumer goods entrepreneur, founding TV Products HK, a manufacturer and global distribution firm for products from hair straighteners to hoodie blankets and toys for children, now staffed by a team of 140 across Hong Kong and mainland China. While making his name within commerce, Samtani retained his love for Bollywood and passion for promoting his home country’s culture and heritage. Since 2003, he has brought Bollywood stars to Hong Kong as part of touring stage versions of hit films, including Diwali Dreams, Chandni Chowk to China and Da-bangg.

“Until 2019 [before Covid hit], I was putting on a show every year. I have a love for Bollywood, and put on these shows to keep our culture alive in Hong Kong, especially for the younger generations. When Indians go overseas, we sometimes forget our roots,” he says. Throughout his career, he has fostered close friendships with Bollywood stars: when his eldest son Kunal got married to Divya Vaswani in 2018, Bollywood icons Akshay Kumar and Salman Khan were among the 1,300 guests in attendance at a five-day extravaganza of epic proportions in Phuket, Thailand—billed as the largest wedding ever to be held in the country.

Samtani understands the value of community, a concept central to the metaverse, as well as how film, dance and music bring people together. “I chose Bollywood because that’s my strength. I want to get all of Bollywood together. We aim to eventually have partnerships that will give us access to 2.5 billion fans. We are bringing this revolution to the masses in India and beyond, connecting brands and consumers,” he says.

Beyond the Bollyverse, Samtani already has his sights set on a long list of new projects, one of them being an educational course on the world of Web3 to encourage younger generations to learn about the metaverse so they, too, can tap into its potential. He says, “The virtual world is moving in parallel with physical world. What the internet was 20 years ago is what the metaverse is today, and it’s important for [young people] to understand how our world is changing. I need to work fast.”

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