The Apprentice Asia

Ningku Lachungpa from Sikkim participated in The Apprentice Asia, an Asian reality game show in which a group of aspiring young businessmen and women compete for the chance to work with Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes, who also serves as the host of the show. She spoke on her experience to OMI GURUNG. Excerpts from the interview:

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Tell us, what it was like to be a candidate of THE APPRENTICE Asia?

Being a candidate was certainly an experience of a lifetime. I have always loved the format of the Apprentice and used to religiously watch the U.K. and U.S versions. I was ecstatic when the Apprentice was announced for Asia albeit unlike the other shows where candidates from one country vie against each other, this one encompassed an entire continent. After I cleared the selection process and the final audition I was thrilled when the call came through that I was in the top twelve. The whole process was quite daunting especially as there were thousands of applicants from across Asia, but having made it, was the best feeling in the world. As a contestant, not only did I get to learn but I also made some great friends.

Is the boardroom as terrifying as it seems?

Absolutely, the boardroom is every contestant’s nemesis. It’s the place where all the gloss comes off and it’s each man for himself. As soon as a team’s victory is announced there is a palpable relief from the winning team and utter despair from the losing team who have to face their worst fears heads on. There are no friends in the boardroom and after each boardroom we would tell each other that whatever happens in the boardroom stays in the boardroom.

It’s said a lot can happen over a cup of coffee; in an episode about promotional campaign for Nescafe, you offered to quit the show. What was on your mind at that time?

This one is for the records, at no point did I actually offer to quit. I was extremely disappointed that we lost the task and said “maybe I am not ready”. It’s human to self doubt and I was basically being too hard on myself, taking full responsibility for the loss. Of course as project manager I am responsible for winning or losing, but in hindsight I probably should have kept my emotions in check and laid the blame squarely on the one who was actually responsible. It was quite sardonic that our tag line was ‘Coffee can be…an escape’.

If you have to select one name as your favourite candidate, who would that be and why?

My favourite is Andrea. She and I call each other soul sisters and really get on. We had a great chemistry right from the start and would always finish off each other’s sentences.

A candidate you love to hate and why?

Honestly, we are all good friends and there isn’t one I love to hate as such. Besides, I am a very black and white person, I either like someone or I don’t, there’s no ambiguity.

Any business icon you look upon as your inspiration?

Whilst there are several business leaders I admire. I really am in awe of Mr. Tony Fernandes’s achievements. The way he has succeeded in the south asian market is an inspiration. He gives hope to young people like myself that hard work and perseverance do pay rich dividends and that humble beginnings is not a liability.

Being stylish or being fashionable- which one is more essential business wise and why?

I believe stylish and fashionable are synonyms and thus essentially the same thing. Business wise one should be comfortable yet stylish. We live in a shallow world where one is judged on external appearances and being stylish in a business environment helps you stands out.

What’s your personal style?

My personal style is chic and comfortable

One thing no one knows about you…

I love being an agony aunt and advising people.

Two memorable moments from THE APPRENTICE Asia…

There were several memorable moments on the Apprentice but the two standouts for me were –

Our victory cocktails and dinner at Marini’s on 57. This was located on the 57th floor of the Petronas and we had a V.I.P area reserved for us from which we had the most impressive view of the Petronas Tower.

I also loved our victory dinner at Hilton’s Chynna Restaurant, especially our dessert which was served on beautiful fish shaped ice sculptures.

Three qualities a candidate of THE APPRENTICE Asia must have…

A contestant must have drive, business acumen and heart.

Has life really changed for you after THE APPRENTICE Asia? What are you up to these days, what’s keeping you busy?

Well, life has generally been kind to me but I am certainly enjoying the attention since I have been on the show. I am so grateful for all the encouragement and kind messages I have been receiving from complete strangers.  Honestly, it is extremely humbling that people from all walks of life, from all over Asia and beyond, have taken the time out to support me and write to me.

Because of the show Mr. Fernandes got to know me and he saw that I did have something special about me. I was overwhelmed when I went back for the final episode and Mr. Fernandes offered me an opportunity to work for him. I have recently accepted a job offer from AirAsia and will be joining as Analyst to the CEO AirAsia India. This is a new domestic carrier for India and will be based in Chennai. I am really excited to be a part of Mr. Tony Fernandes’s new venture in India. Since the show aired, I did receive several other job offers but with AirAsia India, I get to be part of a company from the very beginning, an opportunity I simply could not let go.

Describe yourself in one word.

Confident.

Omi Gurung

Omi Gurung

Omi Gurung is a well known green Indian fashion designer, writer and green activist. He describes himself as a dare devil with quicksilver tongue and maverick mind; who wears his heart on his sleeve. He is the founder of a social group Oh My India and owner of Sikkim's first eco boutique Green Gangtok. At a young age of 23, he worked as a fashion editor for a magazine run by Shakti Media Group in Bangalore. He enjoys writing on fashion and lifestyle and social issues. At present he also writes a regular column for Sikkim Insight.