Model-turned-actor Upen Patel makes an unlikely entrepreneur. But that's precisely the role he has assumed by starting a model management agency for his stepsister Erica.
"There is a very Gujarati business side to me. I was planning this venture for almost a year. I kept quiet because I didn't want someone to steal the idea. I'm trying to settle down my family members," Upen, who debuted with 36 China Town, told IANS.
"I also see an urgent need for more professionalism and integrity in modelling agencies. Modelling agencies in Mumbai exploit the models financially and emotionally. Why hasn't any new supermodel come up in the last 10 years? Because new models are not given a chance to grow," he added.<b1>
The fact that models cannot hone their skills spurred Upen into launching the ICE Model Management agency for Erica.
Upen has signed up some of the biggest models including Jesse Randhawa, Sheetal Malhar, Candice Pinto, Kavita Kharayat, Mridula Chandrashekhar, Alicia Raut, Anjali Raut, Viveka Babajee, Francesca Smith, Soma Chakraborty, Anjali Pandey, Shivani Tomar, Gunjan Bakshi, Pratichee Mohapatra and Nina Sarkar.
"My stepsister was working in London for a magazine. She wasn't getting paid much. So I set up the modelling agency for her in Mumbai and opened an office in Khar. There are 25 Indian girls and about 20 international models from Argentina and Brazil. Our agency will look after their careers."
Why ICE? "ICE means diamond. And diamonds are forever. I want my sister and her partner Nupur Sagar to be successful. I'll only sign the cheques. I want my sister to grow as a human being. I won't interfere with her business venture and it will be her baby completely."
The fact that Upen was a model himself helped him rope in the big names for his sister.
"Since I was a fashion model, I know how important it is to introduce a certain amount of professionalism, corporate and straight forward."
Suniel Shetty lent his business acumen to Upen. "He has been a pillar of strength. I also consulted a lot of other people in the business."
Upen keeps his fingers crossed.
"I'm the only male heir in my family and this is my first business venture. And I'm trying hard. My family is my world. I want to establish my sister and provide models with the right platform to grow. I want to my sister to handle the agency, while I focus on my acting career. I've got three releases coming up this year," Upen said.
Upen looks at his five years in London with some pride.
"Coming from London with no references, it feels unreal to be an actor and now an entrepreneur. I want to prove that I'm not some dumb male bimbo. From a super model I want to graduate into a super entrepreneur."
His forthcoming releases include One Two Three and Money Hai to Honey Hai