Undettered by the Covid-19 challenges, here’s how Aakash Gupta launched two ventures

Aakash Gupta

His companies, United Brains Out and The Bullwark, have empowered storytellers and provided employment to many

By Mrini Devnani: Led by Aakash Gupta, United Brains Out (UBO) is a fast-growing media house.  As a content aggregator, the venture collates interesting stories from the nooks and corners of the country to pitch them to buyers and big names in the film industry.

An alumnus of Apeejay School Saket, Akash was also instrumental in launching ‘The Bullwark’, a shield for the film industry against Covid-19.

What looks all glossy and glamorous right now, wasn’t always so. It took Aakash several years of hard work and determination, during which he built a team of more than a hundred people to reach this stage.

In an interview, the Apeejay alumnus shares his journey, and talks about his objective to empower talents through his venture. Read On:

Please tell us about your educational background.

I completed my schooling from Apeejay School, Saket in 1997. After that, I pursued a degree in Bachelors of Commerce at Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, University of Delhi. I began working from a very young age and started my own business in travel and hospitality.

How did your travel and hospitality venture turn out?

I had a very successful business. I also own a hotel in Nainital called Dynasty Resort. My travel agency, Jasmine Travels Private Limited, has been running seamlessly and successfully for the past 25 years.

We had international clientele and were the logistics partner for a luxury Heritage River Cruise that operates from Kolkata to Varanasi on the Ganges.

Before Covid-19, we were packed with bookings till 2024. All was good. However, the pandemic changed it all for me.

The travel and hospitality industry massively suffered the consequences of the pandemic. And as soon as March 2019 started, the cancellations started to happen.

Soon, we got so many cancellations that the business suffered a massive loss of Rs 2 crore. It was a huge blow to me, and this was followed by the first Covid-19 imposed lockdown.

Still, I thought that the pandemic would subside and we would be able to open our business ventures soon. But by June 2019, the Covid-19 waves intensified and I started getting emails from my clientele about further cancellations.

They clearly stated that they are looking for business only by the year 2023. That is when it hit me. I was totally out of business for the coming years.

So, what was your strategy to revive business during Covid-19?

It became next to impossible to revive the same business. So, I tried to speak with a few people, re-connected with my friends and family to start on something new. It was around July 2019 – I was stressed, in debt, and totally a mess.

The lockdown rules were relaxed for a few days and some travel did happen. Nonetheless, it didn’t help me much because my clients were based in different parts of the world.

At that time, I noticed that most businessmen have started to mould their strategies due to the pandemic and were into the selling of sanitisers.

I, too, thought that I should try the same. Incidentally, my younger brother, Gaurav Gupta, a Bombay-based actor was producing movies and short-films at that time. 

I rang him up and discussed my personal challenges. Collectively, we came up with an idea to go ahead with sanitisation but to target celebrities, while doing so. 

Tell us more about the sanitisation initiative. How did you rope in celebrities?

Gaurav had a shoot in Pune. And, the Maharashtra government had put forward a set of guidelines for film shoots and sets. It included procedures, do’s and don’ts about activities on the set, health check-ups, etc.

And so, we decided to help people to maintain these protocols while shooting for these blockbuster films.

We prepared a whole business idea based on these government norms. Soon, we took our pitch to Netflix, and became the Health and Safety partners for their production.

We were the first company to be hired by them. Further, we collaborated with another US-based company to sharpen our knowledge and skill-set.

The second project we got was for the web series, ‘Delhi Crime 2’. And then we hit the jackpot. We began to get calls from celebrities as they wanted to sign us up for exclusivity.

From John Abraham, Ayushman Khurrana to Rajkumar Rao, and many more, you name it and we were there.

We did many projects for movies such as ‘Attack’, ‘Tejas’, ‘Badhaai Do’, etc. Till date, we have done 30 movies and about 2000+ advertisements. The business has been very lucrative.

Not only that, we collated concrete data through an app, where we have details of more than 20,000 technicians and staff employed by the movie industry.

Our app was called ‘The Bullwark Sanitisation’, and it became a hit. We also offered emergency ambulances services and oxygen cylinders on these sets.

Even during the second wave, our work didn’t stop. Delhi was still allowing shoots in remote areas such as in Chattarpur.

We were hired for two months by the entire crew of the popular television series, ‘Chhoti Sardarni’ which shifted there.

Post-pandemic, what’s next?

When mass vaccinations started resulting in the decline of the Covid-19 infection, the requirements for sanitisation also declined.

So, we revamped our business. While working closely with leaders in the film industry during our sanitisation assignment days, we realised the need to democratise certain processes in the industry.

And so, we launched the content start-up United Brains Out (UBO), an aggregator that collates stories and gives the storyteller a platform to access buyers.

This democratisation has empowered talents of storytellers who are at the grass root level. Our challenge now is to cover maximum portions of the country, so that we can bring to the world a golden treasury of stories.

All kinds of stories and scripts can be uploaded on our website. As aggregators, we then shortlist these scripts and pitch them.

In the current times, every content can be monetised. We aim to create the biggest library for content where creative persons could browse and eventually create new things.

My brother and I have divided operations region-wise. I take care of the north-side and he is doing it for the southern region. Going forward, I am looking to change my base to Mumbai from Delhi.

Your upcoming projects?

More than a dozen scripts have been pitched to various production houses. Among them, a web series and a movie might see a closure soon. In about a month or so, we will be ready for a press release too.

The biggest learning from your entrepreneurial journey?

Many people suffered losses during Covid-19. But, I was fortunate to be able to turn it around and succeed in my ventures.

For a boy from a middle-class home, it’s a lot. I could not have imagined it. My biggest learning is, ‘believe in your own power.’

What are your best memories of Apeejay School, Saket?

I married my school sweetheart, Pooja. We have been together since class 7, and that has been very special.

I learnt my basic lessons at school, my teachers were very supportive and they guided me throughout. They instilled in me the confidence to do things and never judged me for being an average student.

Your message for students?

Change is the biggest truth. Try to adapt with the situations life offers you, and if you don’t, you will lose the battle.

Source: https://apeejay.news

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