He would have loved to call his company ‘Gone out for lunch’. Instead, deciding not to wear his chilled-out credentials on his sleeve, he went for the sober Gold Mark Inter Media and Star Entertainment.
Meet 28-year-old Rahul Agarrwal, whom people in the industry fondly call the ‘biggest loser’. He can afford to take the sobriquet on the chin because he’s anything but a loser. He produced one of India’s most popular television reality shows,
Biggest Loser Jeetega
, which aired on the Sahara channel last year.
He now earns Rs 12 lakh a month from selling television formats to channels, and pays Rs 25 to 30 lakh a year as income tax. And he also owns a Lexus Land Cruiser.
After completing his schooling in Delhi, where he grew up, Agarrwal went to Melbourne to do a double major in media and theatre at the Deakin University.
On returning to India he desultorily dabbled in his father’s film producing business, but actually wanted to strike out on his own. He tried to get into direction, just “like every other person in the industry”. But as usual, no one was willing to act in a movie when they heard he was directing it.
He began thinking small. At this time, television shows inspired by overseas formats, like Kaun Banega Crorepati and Indian Idol began catching on.
“Since I was getting nowhere with film direction, I decided to do something with reality television and started looking at what was happening across the world,” he says. “And I found The Biggest Loser.”
Agarrwal explains that he met Bollywood actor Suniel Shetty when he was about to acquire the format. Shetty saw all the episodes of The Biggest Loser in America, and said he would like to host the desi version.
The next logical step was to buy the rights to the format from NBC, the US network that aired the show. “My profit was actually marginal because my aim was to get a foothold in the television industry,” he says. “I know people who are standing in a queue with 100 pilot episodes shot and no one is buying their idea. I knew if I could pull this one off, it would be one of the biggest shows in television history.”
He admits that his family’s financial backing played a huge role, but adds that nothing had been served to him on a platter. “I could have been just a production manager in my father’s company, but I struck out on my own by becoming an entrepreneur. I always like to think out-of-the-box. I am just wired differently,” he says.