Five Questions For … Gaurav Khandelwal, Founder of Houston’s Chai One

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any of that. For two years, I visualized myself—I had seen this movie, “Bad Boys”—driving a Porsche in New York City and being Will Smith every single night for two years. I visualized myself getting in a plane, going to the States.

When the day came for the interview for the visa, there were two windows, one where you submit your passport and the second where you were called for the interview. There were three or four people in line in front of me and the person before me got denied. They called my name and I looked toward the visa interview guy and he’s not looking at me; the guy that I submitted my passport to is calling me. I was worried that I submitted something wrong. The guy hands me my passport and said the visa’s been granted … with no interview. That I can’t explain. That’s where the belief comes from.

X: What did you want to be when you were a kid?

GK: I wanted to be an air force fighter plane pilot. A lot of kids want to be astronauts; space was definitely something of interest [to me]. I think I had seen before that to be an astronaut you have to know how to fly. I really enjoy fast-moving things, speed. So flying was something that seemed really exciting.

When I was 16, I applied [to] the Indian National Defence Academy to start studying toward that. My parents were dead against me going into the military, so they called the application center and they pulled the application. They basically said, “There is just no way that you’re doing this.” So that’s pretty much how it ended.

X: Where do you think your drive comes from?

GK: I think the drive just kind of comes from getting a high from solving problems. I’m constantly energized and motivated when I find opportunities where there’s a lot of pain that other people haven’t solved or thought about. That is just a ton of fun.

When I came for undergrad to the States, I just had money for one semester’s tuition. I went to a small private school and working on campus wasn’t going to be enough to make money to pay for tuition. I had to find ways to make money. Over four years, I started six different companies, a catering company, a pizza company, a software company, an HR company. I did some advertising work for the college newspaper—wherever I could find the best use of my time.

As an international student on campus, I … Next Page »

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