I was fascinated by the idea of IPL. The fact it changed so many lives. The aspiring cricketers who have a dream to represent India finally got a platform to showcase their true cricketing potential.
It not only recruited new cricketing talent but also paid them handsomely. And suddenly these young cricketers became the new stars of Indian cricket. Even though most of them, didn’t end up playing for India, but earned decent salary to support their family members. And most of these cricketers were from small town areas with dreams to play for India.
This idea of IPL inspired me!
And I wanted to replicate IPL to the Indian fitness industry. My goal was to convert fitness into a sport. A country like India, which has so much of talent, somehow gets unrecognised. It was time to tap into this fitness potential and give Indian fitness enthusiast a national platform to demonstrate their fitness charisma.
With this noble thought to recognise Indian athletes, I went to my mentor, Aditya Ghosh, the former President IndiGo. He liked the idea and backed me with his creative inputs to execute it. And within days, I had launched TG Connect, to recognise Indian athletes. John Abraham, Actor and Producer, also came on board to support this vision of mine.
Till date, we have done over 15 TG Connects in over ten cities including Mumbai, Delhi, Chandigarh, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Guwahati and Meerut. Recognised over 200 Indian athletes who are making India proud in different sports, which includes Bodybuilding, Running, Arm Wrestling, Football and Shooting.
Now the time had come to put fitness on a mainstream platform.
And what better platform than Television. And so the planning started to give India its first fitness TV reality show, the IFL, Indian Fitness League the toughest the fittest. With that theme in mind I launched, IFL, the Indian Fitness League, the toughest the fittest in 2017.
THINGS WONT BE EASY. I knew in executing IFL since this will be a TV show with nation wide auditions. The prize money I had thought of was also very big considering I had the support of some of my friends and companies who were my investors as well.
IFL started with a bang with auditions in ten different Indian cities. Since it was a reality show, we kept a participation fee of Rupees two thousand per participant. The fee was kept to filter the serious participants from non-serious ones.
But as we moved along, I realised something was not going right. I am a very intuitive person so I feel such things in no time. And before I could figure out anything, I lost my father. He was absolutely fine and healthy with no medical ailment. While me and my family was still grieving from this loss, I saw a video posted by someone claiming IFL is not happening along with many other false accusations.
THIS VIDEO WENT VIRAL. And overnight I became the most hated guy in the Indian fitness industry. The amount of hate messages I got was too overwhelming for anyone to take. Before I could take charge of this situation, I get a message from my investors, stating they cannot back IFL.
This meant I was now on my own. The whole fitness industry hating me, calling me names, some even threatening me to kill and destroy. I hadn’t even recovered from my father’s loss and I was put in this rigmarole.
After weeks of speculation, I finally decided to break all ties with people and focus on executing the IFL. I had no production experience. No one even wanted to talk to me let alone entertain me with my IFL proposition. And every time I approached someone, they would go online and find nothing but dirt against me. I had to find a production company, who could execute my vision. And I had to do this fast. But this required insane amount of funding. I had used all the funding and now all I had was my house, which I mortgaged to take a loan against it.
I even remember, my mother crying that night! She said to me. “This is the only thing we have got, hope you know what you are doing”. I convinced her with all my heart, but you know mothers will be mothers, always concerned about their kids. With that funding I signed the production company, who I knew for years. They were my only saviours. And they stood by me right from designing a task to creative discussions.
From production I now I had an uphill task to sign and lock a TV channel where IFL will be aired. I went to Discovery and pitched them this concept of IFL. They showed interest, but had doubt about me credibility given what was being said about me online.
I managed to convince them (I guess my conviction was the only thing working for me till now). And I got a contract with DSport to air the IFL. It was some respite but still I had a long way to go. I went back to my production team to zero down on the shoot dates along with the location, which will be our set. The shoot date was set in a few days. And before I could settle in, I get a call from DSport to meet them in their office.
THE CHANNEL WANTED TO DO THEIR DUE DILIGENCE. They started questioning me and my intent with the IFL given such negativity. I again manage to wiggle out of this situation. And then with the dates in place, we informed the selected participants to join us for the shoot. Luckily all the participants had faith in the IFL and almost all of them joined us in such short notice.
The shoot began in Delhi with heavy rains and I was asking myself, was IFL the right decision, even the mother-nature against me. But we managed to pull off this shoot as well. And then it stuck me to have a fitness mentor on the sets of IFL. I immediately called him and to my surprise he agreed to come to IFL. He was Suniel Shetty, Anna. We shot the last episode with him.
In no time, I fell short of money. And I didn’t know where to get this money from. Then my mother again to my rescue and gave me that amount which she had loaned from some of my relatives on interest.
Plus my mentor, Honey Katiyal came on board. I remember breaking down in his office and he like an elder brother stepped up and connected me to Gaursons. And in short time, I got Gaursons as our title sponsors.
And in few days, I also got Yoga bar as one of my supplement partners for IFL. Want to thank them for believing in IFL.
I paid that amount to all but still needed some more money for post-production edits. And then one person, who I call him my angel, helped me out of this situation. I would not name the person, but it was he who bailed me out.
And now the task was to choose a launch date. We shortlisted a date and invited all the contestants to be part of the first screening before the show gets aired on TV. The screening started and everyone was having a good time. But then suddenly, group of ten armed men entered the screening room and turned off the screen. Apparently they were some candidates who were not selected in the auditions and were looking for answers.
They cornered me! There I was all alone surrounded by ten big men looking for a an opportunity to get even with me. I had to be in control! I again managed to convince them in the middle of this family crowd and leave.
I don’t even know where I get this strength.
And the very next day, the show went on air on DSport with a six episode series. Wish I could explain the feeling. The only thing I felt, “ Wish Dad was here”
The look on my mother’s face on seeing the show was priceless. She said to me “ You did it”. I looked at my wife, and she as always was standing by my side as my greatest supporter.
We got accolades from across the country on the show. People went crazy with the concept and production. The participants who no one knew became overnight stars. Some of them even got brand endorsement deals.
Well for me. It was just a start.