Watch Niraj Puran Rao reunite with fellow contestants on Episode 12
HUMBLING was The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition experience for Niraj Puran Rao that he admitted that this truly brought out the best, and certainly the worst, in him.
"Definitely, it fundamentally changes you as you are," the 26-year-old entrepreneur from India looked back.
But that's the sacrifice one has got to do when you're in this high-stakes game of business competitions and physical challenges all for the prize of a $250,000 job offer as ONE Championship chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong's protégé and chief of staff at the ONE Championship Global Headquarters in Singapore.
Niraj, who made it to as far as week eight of the competition, could look back at two instances where he was pushed to his limit. The first was in week six where he worked as the project manager for Team Conquest and constantly butted heads with Clinton Tudor that led to their heated conversation outside of their war room.
"That was, in my head metaphorically, I was at the edge of a cliff, that if I'm not taking action right now, I'm gonna fall off," he said. "One of the reasons that the competition was so tough was because of how innately Clint is and his ability to get whatever it is out of you. It might be the good, it might be the bad, it might be the ugly, but he was a catalyst in so many ways, at least for me. He definitely has a lot of ideas and he is a man of ideas, but this is a competition."
"If this was normal times, I wouldn't think it would be a problem with somebody like me. But because it was a competition and so much was going on, we were very exhausted and the man-to-man thing really played in there. I don't know, maybe because you have two guys on the team, there might be some egos. But more than that, I felt that in many instances, the flow of the team has been broken by one individual. And it was a very objective decision that if there is an obstacle which is hindering the entire process. Let's get the obstacle out and there's nothing personal here."
That talk kept Tudor in check for Team Conquest, and after their loss in the business challenge where it was tasked to create a travel advertisement for Everise, Clinton was soon shown the door.
The other instance Niraj vividly talked about was in the physical task of episode eight where teams had to get out of a simulated helicopter crash. Puran Rao was recently shifted to Team Valor, but felt a lot of nerves going down underwater that he had to ask Paulina Purnomowati to keep tabs on him.
"Up to this point in the competition, I was the macho guy and kept myself that way, conducted myself that way. But I remember just before the physical challenge, I went up to Paulina and I said, 'Paulina, please take care of me if I don't come up in the helicopter.' And I felt like at that moment I felt like this small kid who has absolutely no strength," he reminisced.
The reason why Niraj was so terrified was a prior experience where he almost drowned, noting, "I was scared of water. I've drowned twice in my life before and the whole possibility of that happening again, that really shook me."
Those grueling tasks, Puran Rao noted, truly shatters whatever armor one holds.
"It really brings out the character because when all is good, you can behave and you can conduct yourself a certain way. But when the (expletive) is out of the window, then that is when your real character comes out," he said.
Nonetheless, Niraj said that aside from winning the competition, he wouldn't change his experience any other way, saying that he truly has learned a lot in his stint here -- one he could take in whatever future business ventures he sets his sights on.
"I feel that the entire experience of The Apprentice for me comes down to two words: one is passion and second is audacity," he said.
"Passion is your foundation and Chatri having built what he has, it wouldn't have happened if he was not passionate about it. And once you have found your passion, you have to be (expletive) audacious. It doesn't matter who's standing in front of you, it might be a billion dollar investor, it might be a weapon, but when you know your (expletive), you've done your research, then you have to be audacious. That is something that I really take away from the competition, and an extension of that is definitely being humbled at all times and having that attitude to keep learning."
Catch the episode 12 reunion show of The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition this Saturday at 10pm on Republic TV!