As Seen on TV
As a boy, Ajit “A.J.” Khubani was fascinated by a commercial for the Ronco Pocket Fisherman – a product that was sold only on television.
“I ended up buying one in 1969, and it worked really well. I loved it,” he said. “Gadgets have always attracted me.”
Years later, he would end up making his living from the “As Seen on TV” gadgets of his company Telebrands Corp. – with big sellers like glare-cutting Ambervision sunglasses, the callous-shaving PedEgg, the battery-operated InstaBulb and the incredible shrinking Pocket Hose – turning Telebrands into a billion-dollar company and making Khubani known as the “Infomercial King.”
At Montclair State, Khubani majored in business administration and marketing. During school, he also worked for his father’s importing business. In 1983, using part of his life savings, Khubani took out an ad in the National Enquirer to sell a “Walkman-style” radio for $10, and broke even on the deal. A few years later, at only 25, Khubani hit it big with foot-massaging slippers, earning $200,000.
“That’s when I knew I had made it,” says Khubani whose work ethic was inspired by his father, an Indian immigrant. With the success of newspaper ads, Khubani decided to move into direct-to-consumer TV sales, then eventually, Telebrands products became available at top retailers throughout the country. “Now 90 percent of our sales is through retail distribution.”
Khubani has appeared on talk shows such as The Today Show, The View, Dr. Phil and the CBS Early Show, demonstrating a variety of “As Seen on TV” products and discussing his “Inventors Days,” where he often finds new gadgets.
Inspired by American Idol, his Inventors Days, which invite inventors to pitch products directly to him and other executives while they hunt for the “next big thing,” made him a natural guest on the Discovery Channel’s Pitchmen series. “Nothing gets me more excited than having a successful product,” he says. “Inventors Day works really well. You never know what you’ll find. We’ve seen some terrific products – and some duds.”
Khubani says his time at Montclair State prepared him well for business and led him into his career.
“I first got excited about marketing at Montclair State,” he says. “I thought, ‘Boy, this is really interesting.’ I went there like most kids – not knowing what I was going to do. But after I took my first marketing class, I was hooked.” Khubani advises students looking for success in business to work hard and never give up. “I would say there’s no silver bullet for success,” he says.
“It takes an idea you’re passionate about and a lot of hard work. You have to be prepared to fail. Failure comes with success – and you have to be prepared to come back.”
Khubani has done just that. His business struggled in the late ’90s and he filed Chapter 11 in 2000.
“It was no fun. I had a wife and kids to support and the bank foreclosed on my house,” he says. “But I didn’t crawl into a hole and go away. I bounced back. And that gave me the confidence I needed to rebuild and succeed.”
Today more than ever, he says, he enjoys what he does – and thrives on finding products he thinks will make life easier and save people money.
“I’m lucky I found my calling,” he says.