If you live in the United Kingdom, then there's a good chance you've heard of Paul Chowdhry. He's one of the country's leading stand-up comedians, having appeared on shows such as Live at the Apollo, 8 out of 10 Cats and Taskmaster, and in 2019, he became the first British Asian stand-up to fill the 10,000-seater Wembley Arena on his 'Live Innit' tour. He's also dabbled in acting and has hosted The Paul Chowdhry PudCast since 2021.
If you've seen any of Chowdhry's performances, then you'll know he's mentioned video games in them previously, singling out Street Fighter II as a personal favourite. However, his connection with gaming actually goes even deeper than that – he almost made it a career.
Speaking to Simon Parkin on the My Perfect Console Podcast, Chowdhry reveals that when he was younger, he established his own grey import business from his father's home in Edgware, Greater London. In case you weren't aware, the term 'grey import' applies to any products which have been sourced from outside of the manufacturer's authorised trading channels – and back in the early '90s, that covered a wide range of Japanese systems and games.
"When I was 17, I started a small business where I would import the Super Nintendo from Hong Kong, and would sell them on C&VG," Chowdhry tells Parkin. C&VG – or Computer & Video Games, to give it its full title – was the UK's leading multiformat video game magazine at the time.
"You'd pay £100 per advertisement. I knew that this console – and gaming – was potentially the next big thing. So I imported Super Nintendos and Sega Mega Drives from Hong Kong because they weren't readily available here; Hong Kong used to get consoles quite – well, I don't think it was years, but it was a considerable amount of time before England. So we were quite far behind in the gaming world. I'd spend all my money to import them and then sell them on at a slight profit. I couldn't really afford to even import maybe three consoles at the time, because there were the import duties and taxes."
Chowdhry's company was called Choice Consoles, and yes, we were sad enough to trawl through our archive and locate one of the advertisements, which you can see above.
While Chowdhry insists that his father was supportive of this entrepreneurial venture (and was even the person who got him into gaming by buying a ZX Spectrum), his uncle – the business brains of the family – quickly shot it down.
"My uncle found out I was doing this and said, 'What are you, what are you doing? Wasting your time and money on these games?' He shut the business down. 'Oh, no, just give it back. Sell it. What a waste of time.' My dad was quite supportive, but my uncle was like, 'No, this is rubbish,' but he was a businessman. He just thought I was just talking rubbish. He didn't realize I had this vision here, and now gaming is bigger than Hollywood films."
We have Chowdhry's uncle to thank for his remarkable career in comedy, then – but in some alternate reality, he's the owner of a successful video game import and export business.