The UK millionaire with Bollywood dreams

Jasbir Wouhra at a performance

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Mr Wouhra has loved singing since he was four

Jasbir Wouhra, a millionaire businessman in the United Kingdom, dreams of a different sort of success – he wants to be a Bollywood singer.

“I enjoy music very much,” says 66-year-old Mr Wouhra. “I also play the accordion and the harmonium. And I sing a number of ragas [Indian classical compositions].”

Mr Wouhra and his four bothers moved to the UK in 1968 and in 1972, they set up East End Foods.

Back then, it was a small company that sold pulses and rice to Indians living in the UK. Now, it’s one of the country’s largest Asian food companies, employing about 400 people. In 2013, it had a turnover of £180m ($243m).

Throughout, Mr Wouhra kept his passion for singing alive. ” I was recording on Saturdays or Sundays when I had a bit of time,” he told the BBC.

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He dreams of singing in a Bollywood film

“I have written dozens of songs. I have now released six albums and I am making my own singles.”

Mr Wouhra said he started singing when he was a four-year-old boy in Delhi. “My mother used to sing,” he recalled.

The brothers had initially planned to return to India once they earned enough money. But after their business became so successful, they continued living in the UK.

But Mr Wouhra continued to visit India often. He said he started to get serious about his singing career only in 1978 after he appeared on stage with some professional musicians. When they complimented his voice, he said, he got the confidence to chase his dream.

He kept meeting musicians from India so he could train with them and hone his skills as a singer.

Now he has a team in the western Indian city of Mumbai, the nerve centre of India’s film and music industry. The team is responsible for recording the music and producing his albums.

He still travels to India where he records or performs with his team as well as other Indian singers and composers.

He also records at his home in Birmingham, where he has built a studio for himself.

“It’s admirable that he can handle both his work and his passion,” said his son, Indi Wouhra, who is also a singer. “I have definitely got the talent to sing from my father.”

Mr Wouhra also uses social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube to share his music videos.

By his estimate, the videos have been watched by more than 50, 000 people across different social platforms.

Mr Wouhra admits that he is able to pursue his dream of singing because he can afford to spend money shuttling between India and the UK to produce his own music.

“It is tough if you are trying to make a name for yourself in this industry.”

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He often records in his studio at home

He once headlined a show that raised money for a hospital in the northern state of Punjab.

“If you listen to his voice, you’ll think it’s a young man (who is) singing – his voice never gets old,” said Dr. JS Sanghera who organised the event and has known Mr. Wouhra for several years.

“I don’t know how he manages to run a big business and sing at concerts. He really loves his music.”

Later, at the concert, Mr Wouhra burst on to stage with the energy of a 20-year-old, singing popular Bollywood covers and songs he had written himself.

So what’s next?

“One should do what god commands him to do,” he said.

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