There is not a single cricket fan in this country who does not know Gaurav Kapur. Then there are others who mostly remember him as the very friendly VJ from Channel V. Recall him as you may, Gaurav Kapur is a household name, and his new series - Breakfast with Champions - just reinforces that familiarity.
Whether it is cricketer Ashish Nehra’s answering Gaurav’s question - How do you get the motivation to get up after err.. 12 injuries? With - Hamein kuch aur aata nahi Sir…. or when bowler Harbhajan Singh confessed how he ran away from the cricket academy in Chandigarh few times -- it’s these small nuggets of information you get about your favourite sportsperson that makes the show popular.
On why he chose the format of candid chats with cricketers over breakfast, Gaurav says, “I did so, because as a fan, I wasn’t getting any content that showed the true person behind the persona.”
A performer since his younger days, Gaurav says he would pick anything to keep him out of class - dramatics, debate and singing. “I was in school when FM radio came to India, and I remember getting obsessed with the clarity of the sound, and the voices on air.”
A meeting with RJ Roshan Abbas instilled the love for radio. “It made me hustle and get my first radio show around my 17th birthday. Soon, I was doing five shows a week, and it pretty much just rolled on from there. The mediums kept changing, but the performing monkey was hooked!”
Everything that Gaurav has ventured into stems from an early love. In the same vein, sports was almost an obsession from a very young age and though he’s played basketball and tennis, his special love has always been cricket.
“Added to that, my broadcasting experience with over 2,000 hours on radio - it was a marriage made in heaven. I got my first sport gig with Nike Football Locker room on ESPN- STAR in 2007. After that it was the 2007 T20 World Cup, Dream Job and Cricket Crazy.
“It was after those shows that I got the call to be on the IPL broadcast. Sports was something I really wanted to do, and have been lucky to be able to for over a decade. It doesn’t feel like work. This year, I’ve done shows for Hotstar, Jio, Cricbuzz, Sony and on my Oaktree Sports channel. I’m a free agent cricket mercenary.”
As a presenter, Gaurav spent a lot of time with players off the set, and saw that while most may not have been class toppers, they had high Emotional Quotient (EQ).
“They’ve been on the road since they were children, hanging off of buses and travelling unreserved in trains - to now being successful superstars. They’ve really seen it all - the dust and the glamour. I realised they couldn’t really express themselves fully on broadcast.”
His show, Breakfast with Champions – was set against a casual backdrop with no anchor links to the camera and no pre-prepared questionnaires. “We decided to make our guests comfortable and let them open up – like two people having a chat. We wanted to make the viewer feel like the third chair at the table. I funded the first 20 episodes myself. No investor, no sponsor. I decided to put it out online because no TV channel wanted it. Luckily, the viewers liked it and now we have syndication deals worldwide with the big networks.”
He adds that the show is free to air in India and to those trying to replicate the format, Gaurav says, “I wish them luck, but we have a secret sauce in our shoot and edit pattern that they might find hard to crack.”
When he set up Oaktree Sports, Gaurav’s had but one goal - to tell stories from the world of sport. On complaints that there weren’t enough multi-sport fans in India, Gaurav says fans came with context, and context came with stories.
“So, we dial it back and tell the stories that entertain and inspire. We do that for sporting leagues, teams and brands. And we create our own IP on our distribution network on YouTube, Facebook, twitter and Instagram,” he explains.
Gaurav hit a personal setback in 2004 when he was diagnosed with diabetes. “I’ve learned to live with four insulin shots a day and a certain amount of discipline. I use it as a challenge, not as an excuse,” he says.
Since then, he has also associated himself with the cause of raising awareness about the condition. Apart from tweeting about the condition and the discipline he follows, Gaurav has also been part of health awareness and care videos that help spread awareness.
Gaurav describes his journey as having been extremely lucky. Whether it was getting a break with radio when it started out, or with Channel V when it was an integral part of pop culture, or the IPL.
“Founding a sports content company when the online space was booming – it was all about being at the right place at the right time! I’m a talentless hack who got lucky. My biggest challenge is that I’m the laziest ambitious person you will ever meet. I get deep into things really soon, then get saturated of it equally quick. So, I have to keep moving, keep shifting mediums and narratives. I can’t do just one thing, and I don’t say that as a boast,” says Gaurav.
With Oaktree, Gaurav and his team want to create digital content for more teams in many more leagues. They are also creating original programming for multiple platforms and have a content slate for other channels. And of course, there are many episodes of Breakfast with Champions and India Plays.
On his take on entrepreneurship, Gaurav says, “The sheer quantity of decisions you have to make is tremendous. And despite the quantity, they have to be quality decisions, because there is so much at stake.”