The first openly gay candidate for Sir Alan Sugar’s The Apprentice has been expelled, one week from the final, with the damning words “You’re fired.”
Lohit Kalburgi spoke to PinkNews about Sir Alan, his Steady Eddie reputation and being gay in business.
Speaking the morning after his dramatic exit from the competition, Lohit wasn’t fazed or disappointed. He seems to live his life by his chirpy demeanour.
Lohit specialised in telecommunications before going on to The Apprentice, and had lived in five different countries. He thinks his global experience and positive attitude are his most employable traits.
He says: “I’m feeling good about the fact that I didn’t win. I was disappointed, but you know what?
“Sir Alan is just not that into me, and that’s absolutely fine. This didn’t work out, I will find something and push on and forward with my business career.”
The computer technology mogul described Lohit as a “very nice, fine fellow” but said “I’m trying to search for what you would do for me in my business. I can’t visualise you working for me, or where you would fit in.”
Lohit says: “He felt that I was too nice, and not ruthless enough, but it’s important to be nice in business. No-one wants to work with someone they hate. But my credentials were better than just being a nice person.
“I won six of the ten tasks, coming second only to Tre. Given my age,” Lohit is just 25 years old, “and what I’ve achieved, it’s great to have made it to the final five.”
Lohit can talk for ten minutes at a time without pausing. There’s no doubt that he’s extremely articulate and knows how to present himself, but I’m beginning to understand how frustrated Sir Alan felt when he said that Lohit “just spews out a load of talk.”
What are his views on the formidable Sir Alan Sugar?
“I have a lot of respect for Sir Alan. He’s very successful, and very well off, but he’s not as gruff as he comes across. He’s a real sweetie and a real bear.”
That could come across as extremely camp on the written page, but one of the things that won Lohit respect throughout the series was that he did not play on the stereotypical image of gay men.
“I’ve received a lot of letters and e-mails from young gay people who are struggling with their sexuality, who have thanked me for showing that not all gay men have to be bitchy and catty. That was a real wake-up call to the effect I’ve had on people; it was very humbling.
“After The Apprentice I would love to do some charity work, and help young gay people with whatever they want to achieve. But because I’ve only been in the UK two years, I don’t know who to approach.
“If anyone out there would like me to lend a hand and get involved with your cause or your community, please, get in touch!”
And just one day after being kicked off the competition, Lohit already has more work lined up.
“I’ve started a new job as a management consultant at a telecommunications company, which will be a challenging role for me. I had that on the slow burner before The Apprentice, back in August.”
He’s also talking to some big fashion brands after his sharp dress sense got noticed in the series. He can’t admit who right now – “It’s a cliché, but we’re still in talks.”
It wasn’t something Lohit had ever thought about, but The Apprentice forum message boards and his own website were deluged with praise for the well-groomed charmer’s suits.
What are his thoughts on his fellow contestants, and Kristina and Simon, the finalists?
Lohit gives a world-weary laugh.
“How long have you got? They were a real mixed bunch. A lot of people went in and left either with mortal enemies or lifelong friends, but I try to focus on the good in people. My best friends were Katie and Jadine, we had a lot of fun working together.
“But I think Simon is a real maverick, and although he has the intelligence to run an organisation I don’t think he has got the background.
“I would still prefer Simon to win over Kristina. I only worked with her on one task, but what I’ve heard from other people is that she’s manipulative, conniving and desperate for the job.
Lohit says that he likes to think that being gay didn’t affect his performance in the competition – but when asked, hand on heart? He’s not sure.
“I would like to hope that being a gay man did not make any difference in the competition.
“Being gay is just one of my attributes. I’m 6’1″, I have black hair, I’m Indian and from New Zealand.”
He adds: “But unfortunately, we do live in a prejudiced world. When Sir Alan said to me, ‘I don’t see you fitting in to my company,’ I did wonder… what is that really about?”
He pauses to reflect on the matter, and seems troubled by it. Viewers could see a glimpse of his worries in last night’s show.
When Katie came out of her interview, Lohit asked her “Did they ask you anything personal?” His foot was twitching nervously, which was possibly the only time we saw a chink in his confident armour.
“Recently, there has been so much press coverage about Lord Brown at BP, you can’t deny that being gay does play a role in the business corporate world,” Lohit explains.
“But I do have a lot of respect for Sir Alan, and I wouldn’t want to think that he used that against me.”
When asked whether his charitable and understanding nature could be a drawback in the cut-throat business world, Lohit seems rather affronted.
“That’s quite an archaic view. In the 21st century, business has to be more holistic, and appreciative of the environment and their staff. It’s not all about the eighties power suit screw-them-all attitude any more.”
Which still doesn’t help us explain why Sir Alan ousted lovely Lohit before shifty Tre Azam, who lost his temper easily, argued too much and whose most memorable clip shows him sniffing his armpits.
If you would like to get in touch with Lohit about his charity work, please do so via his personal website, www.lohitkalburgi.com.