Sunday, Nov 18, 2018 | Last Update : 07:55 PM IST

Love for hire

THE ASIAN AGE. | VANESSA VIEGAS
Published : Aug 30, 2018, 12:09 am IST
Updated : Aug 30, 2018, 12:09 am IST

A city entrepreneur has come up with ‘Rent a Boyfriend’ app that claims to ‘eradicate depression’.

Model Suraj Dahiya on the RABF app
 Model Suraj Dahiya on the RABF app

In the last 36 hours alone, Kaushal Prakash's unique app —Rent a boyfriend (RABF) which was launched this month, has become a laughing stock on the internet for it's (noble?) intention to “eradicate depression”, and “strengthen women's safety”. But the 29-year-old entrepreneur is unperturbed by these misgivings and pays no heed to his dissidents. Strangely, he even sounds ecstatic with the “phenomenal responses” he has been receiving over the last couple of days and owes it all to the 1,500 odd men who now want to register as boyfriends on the RABF app.

What's in a name?

Right off the bat, Rent A Boyfriend might sound like a local escort service, but Kaushal says it is far from that, “Don't judge by the name, judge by the action. It's not a matrimonial website or a dating website. Here I'm providing friendship on a platter,” he clears. “People are misunderstanding my app because of the word ‘boyfriend’. If I named it rent a friend, I am very sure no one would call me or have a problem with the app,” he rues. The budding entrepreneur also stresses on the fine line between boy|friend that our presumptuous society fails to acknowledge. “There is a thin line between boy and friend and that line shows limitations. We don't allow physicality and private meetings, because we are providing pure friendship so people can only meet in public,” he informs.

All for a noble cause

The idea of the app stems from his own experience as a victim of depression, but it was only when he got hold of a WHO report on the growing cases of suicide by depression in India, that his resolve to do something for the society strengthened. “I want to eliminate depression from India and RABF is giving a platform for all the people suffering from depression and loneliness and that are looking out for advice or consultation.” The app allows women to rent a boy|friend on an hourly basis, from the three categories it offers — aam aadmi, models and celebrities. To rent an aam admi the price range is anywhere between Rs 300-1000, for models Rs 1000-3000 and for celebrities Rs 3000 onwards. “This will be a good platform for people to meet celebrities," says Kaushal.

The interior designer-turned-entrepreneur also mentions that the app has a toll free number, on which people can call and seek professional help. The website also has a team of depression experts — Dr. Sonali Prakkash, Dr. Subhash Bajaj and Dr. Rahul Khemani who are available for consultations on appointments. “Today a regular psychologist is charging Rs 1,500  for a 20 minutes consultation. We have cut it short to Rs 500 so there is no hole in the pocket,” says Kaushal who also wants to solve the issue of safety for those looking out for friendship, “We are unique from others since there are a lot of paedophiles and fake profiles on other apps and websites. Here we give full guarantee of the profiles, which no one else can give today,” asserts Kaushal.

But even if the app has the noblest of intentions, it is problematic on many levels. It assumes only females in India are depressed, “I have not started rent a girlfriend because we can't guarantee a women's safety in present day India. There are a lot of safety issues for women today,” he says.

Becoming a boyfriend

Men can either register as a member or as a boyfriend on the app. “If you register as a boyfriend, our backend system will connect to you and we'll do an audition to prove your identity through an online chat.” Some of the prerequisites of becoming a boyfriend as mentioned on the website are good communication skills, basic education i.e. 10th or 12th standard and good looks. “Once you go ahead as a boyfriend you have to pay an on-boarding fee of  Rs 5000. This fee is for grooming by the psychiatrists. But these men are not here for medical assistance; they are here only for providing companionship,” he mentions.

One of the highlights of the app is Model Suraj Dahiya, who was crowned the 2018 Rubaroo Mr India, besides a group of 25-year old models on the website. The app will also shortly reveal the list of celebrities and has received 1,500 registrations for the aam aadmi category in the last 48 hours.

Even though people are increasingly lambasting the app for exploiting mental illness and using it as a marketing gimmick, Kaushal sees it as only a bend in the road and not the end of the road, “The man who made the aeroplane was also laughed at. People wondered how could a vehicle fly. The same is in my case, it will take time for people to understand this concept,” he trails off.

Tags: aam aadmi, rabf, kaushal, suraj dahiya, kaushal prakash