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The Hot List 2016: Arunabh Kumar (Digital Entrepreneur)

If content is king, it’s about time we got acquainted with him

Nirmika Singh Dec 15, 2016
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“I was the first person to make a web series in India and sell it,” says Arunabh Kumar, the founder of online entertainment network The Viral Fever. Photo: Courtesy of The Viral Fever

When you’re single-handedly responsible for giving the average Internet-crazy Indian millennial something more than GoT to look forward to, there’s no point being modest about it. “I was the first person to make a web series in India and sell it,” says Kumar, the founder of online entertainment network The Viral Fever. With an enviable first-mover advantage, TVF has led India’s digital content revolution, one video at a time. And in less than three years since its launch, it has become the big daddy of online youth entertainment in the country, boasting numbers that now serve as benchmarks of online success.

TVF’s first original offering in 2012, Rowdies, went viral before the word viral dictated media agendas (one million views in five days). Their viewership game got stronger with the hugely popular branded series Permanent Roommates (17 million YouTube views) and Pitchers (ranked at 25 on IMDb’s List of Top 250 TV Shows). Not to mention the hilarious news show spoof Barely Speaking with Arnub which remains one of the most memorable Indian parodies on the web. Kumar says, “I felt that an entire generation below 30 had been alienated by the TV industry; no show bothered to see what these people wanted to really watch.”

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An IIT-Kharagpur alumnus, Kumar’s biggest goal while setting up TVF was to become “as big as MTV”””the channel had once rejected one of his TV show ideas when he had pitched it to them. Given TVF’s online oeuvre (six verticals that cover everything from original series to snippety videos), comparisons with MTV now only show the latter in bad light. His “ambition ego” aside, Kumar maintains that the key to his success has been to treat his ”˜creative’ role like any other occupation. “It’s a freaking job. My core team comprises engineers-turned-artists. So just like, say, coders work in a Google office, we writers do our job at TVF.”

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