While occasions such as Start-up Jalsa provide opportunities to connect with entrepreneurs, it helps team like ours to get talking with people as inspiring as Arunabh Kumar, Founder of TVF. Finished with his part of speaking and meeting fellow entrepreneurs, fully exhausted Arunabh didn’t deny our request for a little chat. Team pixr8 and Arunabh sat in a glass-walled cabin, where Arunabh shared his sentiments over today’s digital world, Indian film industry, his gutsy attitude to work on a rejected TV show idea (Q-tiyapa), TVF’s team and how Shahrukh Khan and Farah Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment has been his learning school.
Below are the edited excerpts from the candid chat that team pixr8 had with Arunabh Kumar, Founder TVF media labs.
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/212928042″ params=”color=f02222&auto_play=true&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
How did the Qtiyapa start?
Arunabh: It all started when I decided to quit my job as a consultant in December 2006 and soon started working as an assistant Director to Farah khan for Red Chillies Entertainment in Om Shanti Om. Then on, in the next three years I tried doing new things and figuring out what I wanted to create. I realised people are market-minded, they speak of doing new things but nobody does that, that’s when I decided to start a small production house called The Viral Fever Media Labs. I took up whatever project came my way on the condition that I will do it my way. I kept the motto ‘Lights, Camera and Experiment’. I made videos right from corporate films to brand videos to music videos. Finally, after 2 years when I started making decent money and was being recognised by a few agencies and clients, by then The Viral Fever Media Labs had become a decent brand, I wanted to make TV shows, I went to create a couple of TV shows and they (TV Channel executives) rejected it saying it was too intelligent and their research showed that youth won’t like it. I told them that I didn’t believe in their logic and wasn’t convinced at all by what they said, I asked them to let me try. College Qtiyapa was a small show which I conceptualized for MTV and then I felt I should start my own online TV. So, I started The Viral Fever.com, “Viral Fever Media company ka naam tha to let’s start as a website. So, I started putting Qtiyapa videos which I had conceived for MTV, socha pehle isko hi daal te hai”.
Rowdies was the first thing that we put on website on 21st February 2012. We focussed on comedy because we knew comedy goes well along all sort of personalities in the youth group. So, Qtiyapa is our comedy genre of shows. And the first video went viral, it had around 1 million views, that’s when I realised,” ke yaar wo log galat hai aur mai sahi hu”. I put together a team of two people who would make shows just for TVF.
Our people in the industry have a very template-kind of a thought process and they don’t experiment. There’s no magic, it’s just that I experiment a lot and people have a very less tangent towards experimentation. Traditionally, either these experiments are a major failure or they turn into an unpredictable success.
We represented India in Global Creator Summit after 3 years. People call us the HBO of India, Permanent Roommates as the How I met your mother of India. Yash raj films considers us the Best Fiction shows maker ever.
How did you find Nidhi, Jitendra and everybody else we know are behind TVF videos?
Arunabh: They all are fantastic actors. Everybody in the team is someone whom I met at some point of time through my journey.
How do you identify these talents?
Arunabh: I believe I am lucky to have a knack of recognizing good talent and it’s visible through their dedication. It came naturally to TVF whomever I asked to do something, they did their best. Sumeet Vyas, lead actor of Permanent Roommates, who was somewhere (abroad) working with an established organization has given his best at TVF. I feel lucky to have created a culture at TVF where people can give their best.
Back in 2012, when you decided to put ‘Rowdies’ on Youtube what was your thought and why did you choose Youtube?
Arunabh: I didn’t have money for my own video server. Youtube is like a Tatasky’s set-up box, Youtube is a technology . As I said I wanted to make TV Shows and I couldn’t make like the ones I wanted to so I started an online TV which needed a player to run my shows on. So, it didn’t play any role other than the technology part. Apart from it was a medium that we chose for the show to reach a larger audience, Google itself reaches to millions of users, Youtube from Google promised that kind of a reach. It was never that we wanted to do something on Youtube. Whether it was ‘Rowdies’, 15 minutes video, or ‘Emotional Atya-charge’, 16 minutes video, we always intended to make shows.
What has TVF planned for its future, has it planned to make shows for TV?
Arunabh: We will make big shows and hopefully we’ll be the HBO of online content .We do not see ourselves making shows for TV ever. Nobody watches TV now days. It’s an outdated technology, people don’t even watch movies on TV. They watch it on their laptops. It’s not like whatever is being broadcasted on TV Channels people watch it, in the near future there might be something called as Cloud-TV where people would blink their eyes and would see shows in the air. We want put shows where people watch it.
Do you people follow any marketing strategy?
Arunabh: Whatever we make, we put it on our FB page. People watch it and share it.
We all know Arnuabh Kumar is the ‘Qtiyapa’ guy. How is he behind the scenes?
Arunabh: There’s nothing very specific to me. If you want to know how I am , go and ask my team. I like doing things and I keep doing those. It all started with Qtiyapa, I am not even in the Qtiyapa anymore. I moved to drama and now we are planning to a different thing so I moved into it. I love stories, different type of stories. I want to be like Walt Disney, at least I try to become. Walt Disney is my Idol.
You have achieved so much in the last three years, you’d definitely achieve more in the future.
Arunabh: A lot depends on your destiny. In order to become someone as Walt Disney you need luck.
What do you think is your lucky factor?
Arunabh: I hardly have luck at all.
Was there a day when they (brand) came and said make something on us? How do you connect with the brands?
Arunabh: They all are fans. They watch our shows and come to us. Our work is so popular that our clients come directly to us. We chose which brand we want to work with. We are very selective when it comes to working with brands.
How did Permanent Roommates happen?
Arunabh: Common floor wanted to make something with us. We decided on if we wanted to work with them or not, then we work on understanding the idea. Idea isn’t enough, idea is a one line statement, and a video isn’t a one-line statement. A video is a culmination of 100 pages. When the 100 pages are better than a good idea, then you make a good show.
Do you see AIB as a competitor?
Arunabh: We are completely different from each other. People see we both do things to make people laugh so they assume us as competitors. AIB and East India Comedians, they organize comedy shows and sell tickets for revenue. We don’t do that. So they are competitors we don’t qualify as competitors of any sort.
Are you planning to do something as AIB’s Roast?
Arunabh: OML is a company which runs AIB, it is one good company which I admire. AIB is a troupe of live comedians and we can’t do even one-tenth of as good as AIB did that. And is there film making involved in it, so why would we do it?
How many people are there in the team?
Arunabh: At present, we have 100 people in the team. Most of them are in Mumbai, we have 10 in Delhi and 10 in Bangalore. We also have a studio in Mumbai. So we have four offices in three cities, Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore.
What kind of a work process do you follow at TVF?
Arunabh: Everybody is involved, all 100 people who work at TVF. Everybody comes prepared, not with an idea. As I already said we want them to come with at least 25 pages written. A lot of people lose it then and there. Idea is a most abused word.
Do you offer salaries or do you give a percentage of share in the earning?
Arunabh: We offer salaries which are almost double than the industry standards. The amount that we pay to our writers even Yash Raj and MTV do not pay to their writers.
How many writers do you have in the team?
Arunabh: We have 25 writers, Biswapati Sarkar is one of the lead writers. Nidhi Bisht, Deepak Mishra, Vaibhav Bandu, Sambhav are some of the popular writers. Ours is not a wholly owned by man or a woman company. Our intention is to make it like Disney’s. We don’t want it to be like a Anurag Kashyap’s one. The idea is to make it a twenty thousand people company in 20 years.
After collaborating with Common Floor, is it that you’ve started getting lot of offers from other brands?
Arunabh: Common floor is the 35th brand we have worked with. Prior to collaborating with Commonfloor we had already done lot of videos with brands. People don’t because Permanent Roommates was one of a kind. We had done the same with Duracell. In Chai sutta chronicles, we had Colgate, P&G. It’s the clients demand what they want. Some ask for just a video there are other like Commonfloor who want to do a full –fledged series. The pitchers has Kingfisher.
From where did you find a real talent like Jitendra?
Arunabh: You and I consider him as a gem.Not only us, he is loved by all. But people in the film industry do praises his talent but are still unwilling to cast him in their films. Our film industry is plagued by nepotism. If I, in the next 20 years get to be in the industry, I’ll make sure this doesn’t happen and everybody gets a fair chance.