The Times of India front page is usually a place for brands to launch their products, show off their deals, or announce their sales. But today, readers of Times of India and Economic Times were greeted with a picture of a beaming Donald Trump.
Except that the ad hadn’t been commissioned by the man who’s stated to become America’s 45th President today. It was commissioned by the woman next to him. Her name is Devita Saraf.
Devita Saraf isn’t a household name yet, but she’s doing her best to make sure that changes soon. Saraf is the founder of Vu Televisions, a fact that’s mentioned in the fine print in her TOI ad. Saraf comes from a family that’s involved in big business – her father, Rajkumar Saraf is the Chairman of Zenith Computers, and she’s also listed as one of the promoters of Zenith Computers. He company, VU, which makes televisions and LCD screens, is a subsidiary of Zenith.
Saraf had shot into prominence in January last year, by featuring in an ad for Vu televisions which had also appeared on the front page of Times of India. Forbes Asia had then done a story calling her a ‘model’ CEO, by virtue of modeling for her own brand. She mentions the fact prominently on her Twitter profile, representing it like a title. “India’s Model CEO (Forbes),” reads her bio. It also says that she’s a “Businesswoman, Techie, Fashionista.”
And Saraf seems to take her fashionista image seriously, walking the ramp and appearing in photoshoots. She’s also an aggressive conference speaker, and her website is littered with her appearances at conferences and social events. She seems to have her PR down pat, but not quite – her Wikipedia article appears to have been written by someone known to her, with a prominent warning saying that “a major contributor to this article appears to have a close connection with its subject,”, and that it “contains content that is written like an advertisement.”
Saraf’s companies, too, have had their share of controversy. In 2013, SEBI had prepared a detailed report about how Zenith’s promoters, including Saraf and her father, had siphoned off $33 million owed to creditors into their own subsidiary companies. In 2014, the Bombay High Court had severely reprimanded Vu Technologies for making “false statements” with regard to its office in Andheri and ordered the premises to be sealed. The court found that against the 200 people Vu claimed it employed, only 32 were on its rolls at the premises.
Vu Technologies appears to be doing fine though. These are hard times for startups, but Vu is clearly in the enviable position of being able to afford the Rs. 1.5 crore that’s required for a TOI front page ad to show off a picture of its founder.