Hailing from Karnataka, Vakawady Praveen Kumar Shetty is the Chairman and Managing Director of the Fortune Group of Hotels. It is his professional leadership qualities, passion and determination that made him the successful person he is today. He has received widespread recognition from his peers, well-wishers, and the corporate sector for his unwavering commitment to improve his community, business and this has garnered him praise from many.
Shetty is also well-known as a philanthropist and a social worker. He was born on July 6, 1967, and is an alumnus of Government Junior College, Koteshwera, and Bhandarkar’s College, Kundapur, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Science from Mangalore University.
He currently serves as the Vice President of The Business Chamber of Asian & Gulf Countries (BCAGC) Georgia, Director of Federation of World Bunts Association, President of Karnataka NRI Forum UAE, President and Advisor of Kannada Sangha Sharjah, Executive Member of UAE Bunts Association, President of Yaksha Dhruva Patla Foundation UAE Unit, President of Mahahlingeshwara Temple, Vakawady and Bharkur Math.
He is the recipient of Highest International Award from Business Chamber of Asian & Gulf Countries (BCAGC) in Tbilisi, Georgia, Successful Entrepreneur Award – Award of Foreign Entrepreneur of the Year, Bahrain, World Humanitarian Award – Kuvempu World Kannada Conference for Social Service in Abu Dhabi, Aryabhata International Award – Ravindra Arts for Social Services, Bangalore, Mayura Award for Social Service by UAE Karnataka Sangha, Sharjah, International Peace Award in Dubai (UAE) and so on.
Giving back to society
Shetty says that India hasn’t been his Karmabhumi (work place) but it is his Janmabhumi (birth place). Though he is away from his native for many years he is happy that he is connected to his roots. He is of the opinion that whatever food we eat and wherever we are, the one thing that unites everyone is the love for our motherland, India. Whether it’s a cricket match or raising awareness about a social issue, we always come together.
He has done many corporate social initiatives and charitable work in Karnataka. Since 2007, he has been a supporter of the Spoorthidhama Ashrama in Kundapur and Udupi district for orphan children and homeless elderly people. He also supports few rehabilitation programmes for the blinds, the Spastic Society and educational institutions such as the Government Higher Secondary School, Kavady in Barkur, where he has built a lunch hall dedicated to his father.
In 2012, he aided people by installing a drinking water supply at the Brahmavara Public Bus Stand. Later in 2013, he also constructed and donated a classroom/stage for orphan children in Spoorthidhama Kundapur, which he named Sarojini Sowdha after his mother.
“We came from a very low-income family, and it is only through hardwork that I have managed to get to this position. We worked like normal people when we first arrived here 30 years ago. If God has given you something, you should absolutely return the favour. Otherwise, what is the meaning of life? Even if it is a small or big charity, it can make a significant difference in the lives of many people, which, in turn, I believe, will assist us during a critical period of our lives,” said Shetty.
Shetty has played a key role in assisting families with the marriage of poor girls. He has also built Mahalingeshwara Temple and also contributed Pouli. One of the major contributions in the year 2013 was towards “Sarvodharma- Samuhik Vivah Sammelan” held at Gangolli, Kundapur. In addition, he has also built and donated a Post Office and bus stand office at Vakawady in 2014.
In 2015, Shetty constructed a stage at the Government Employee Association Building in Mangaluru and a dining hall at the Bunts Sangha Convention Centre in Brahmavara. He built Vakwady Dharmasthala Udhyoga Nigama Sangha under Milk Dairy building for villagers and dedicated to his grandmother – Kanaka.
It’s noteworthy that since 2014, Fortune Group has been organising camp in Dubai. In 2021, Shetty led a Blood Donation Camp in UAE at a time when all blood banks had an ongoing need for blood owing to pandemic. This initiative was supported by the members of Karnataka Non- Residents Indians Forum, International Kannadigas Federation and his employees.
In the first schedule of the Vande Bharat Mission, the UAE didn’t offer any flight to Karnataka. Shetty was able to make necessary arrangements for a private charter flight service from Dubai for the stranded workers to reach Mangaluru.
Today he runs 10 hotels in Dubai and Fujairah (UAE) and is now in charge of the Group’s major expansion plans. Despite his success as an entrepreneur, he has been constantly striving to bring his Kannadiga pride wherever he went. It is this contribution that aided him to bring positive changes in the life of thousands. Over the years, he was able to hire more than 2500 people, with 80 percent of the staff being from different parts of Karnataka and India.
Shetty said, “despite the fact that our industry has faced numerous challenges over the last year and a half, I have been able to pay my employees’ salaries and cover other business expenses. God has helped through all these difficult stages. There were number of hurdles when I first started this business. The first one was finance. With God’s mercy, we were able to overcome them one by one through the time.”
“When it came to support, I have to admit that my wife and children were quite supportive. From 1994 to 2000, I worked an average of 18 to 19 hours everyday. Things gradually improved, and I was able to expand my empire. I can feed almost 2000 families with what I earn now, and they are currently working for me. I’m thankful for being able to do so,” he added.
Shetty has also been contributing to the ‘Bearys’ Cultural Forum’ in UAE and also towards the BCF – Educational Scholarship programme at Mangaluru. In the last 15 years, he has made significant contributions to Kannada, Tulu, and Konkani cultural programmes in Dubai, Sharjah, and Abu Dhabi, particularly for the Kannada community in the UAE. He has accommodated them at his hotels on a complimentary basis.
He volunteered to organise the Kannadigas Sarvajanik Ganesh Utsav while serving as President in 2015, 2016 and 2017. He was also generous in providing financial assistance to students of Vidyaposhak, Yakshagana, and Kalaranga students in Udupi.
He is currently serving as the Advisor for Sharjah Karnataka Sangha and a member of the UAE Bunts Core Committee, where he supports the Karnataka Community’s cultural activities.
Future plans and message
In Udupi, Brahmavara and Kundapur, I have already started two properties. I would like to employ local people there. In Udupi and Byndoor, I intend to build four to five hotels.
In my village, I have arranged for a doctor and medical shop so that local people can make use of the service free of cost.
“When young people graduate, they want money right away. That is not a good thing to do. My message is to take things slowly and steadily, as this will lead to success,” he concluded.