There seems to be no end to the troubles faced by Arunabh Kumar, founder and creative experiment officer (CEO) of The Viral Fever (TVF), and creator of the fictional web series such as Permanent Roommates and Pitchers. On Monday, in a blog on Medium.com titled 'The Indian Uber - That is TVF', a 'former employee' (it cannot be independently verified) of the company with the username 'Indian Fowler' blamed him for sexual harassment. Since then, more women have come up and reported sexual harassment by Kumar on social media.
The ex-employee, widely believed to be a woman although she has not revealed her identity yet, alleges in the blog that just after 21 days of joining the company, Kumar started to harass her. She also alleges that when she reported it to her boss, he shrugged off the complaint and said that these things happen. (Read the letter here https://medium.com/@Indian.fowler/the-indian-uber-that-is-tvf-37f9cb73df31#.v7a8j3crg)
After the blog surfaced, two more women reported similar harassments while working for the company. Aayushi Agarwal, a former employee, wrote in the comments section of the blog that she had had a similar experience at TVF.
"I felt exploited and cheated and I left my job under very bad circumstances. I hope things have worked out for you. It is, indeed, no place for a woman. I would never recommend anybody to work there," Agarwal wrote. However, it is not clear whether she is blaming Kumar as she has not named anyone in her comment.
Another woman, Reema Sengupta, published a post on Facebook on Monday, in which she said that Indian Fowler isn't the only girl he (Kumar) has been a sleaze to. She alleged that Kumar has sexually harassed her during a 5-hour shoot she was directing for TVF, but she refrained from formally complaining about it at the time because it would have affected the agency she was working with and the client.
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TVF has refuted these claims so far and is said to be internally investing the matter.
"The article is completely ludicrous and defamatory against TVF and its team. All the allegations made against TVF and its team in the article are categorically false, baseless and unverified. We take a lot of pride in our team and in making TVF a safe workplace that is equally comfortable for women and men," TVF said in an official response on Medium.
Kumar's colleagues have also come out in his support on social media. TVF employees Nidhi Bisht and Aditi Singh posted personal statements on social media, saying the claims are baseless. Comedian Biswapati Sarkar tweeted, "It makes for a great fictional story. I'm sure more anonymous 'ex-TVF' employee stories will drop in."
Others in the fraternity, such as Tanmay Bhatt, have asked for a fair investigation.
We tried to get in touch with TVF for further information on the matter, but there has been no response so far. It is still unclear if TVF has in place a Vishakha committee, a complaints committee made mandatory by the government at all workplaces with 10 or more employees. In an interview with Business Today in November, Kumar had informed that the company, with offices in Delhi and Mumbai, has about 100 employees.
Kumar is a native of Muzaffarpur, Bihar. An IIT-Kharagpur alumnus, he founded TVF in 2010 as a production house. However, after constant rejection from TV networks, he started dabbling in YouTube and saw success. Today his channel has over two million subscribers on YouTube and is known for introducing mini-series such as Pitchers, Rowdies and Permanent Roommates on the channel.