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TV Interview

Syed Ahmed

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Syed Ahmed
Believe it or not, but before we'd met tempestuous Tre Azam, catty Katie Hopkins and Simon 'posh totty' Ambrose, there were two previous series of The Apprentice. But how could we forget Syed Ahmed, the quick-thinking, fast-talking ladies' man from 2006? Shame on us! Now Syed's back on TV campaigning to make his new invention - an innovative, energy-efficient body dryer - a staple of hotel bathrooms and gym changing rooms across the land. But what is a body dryer? Why should you use one? Read on to find out...

So what's Syed Ahmed - Hot Air? all about then?
"Basically, I wanted to launch a body dryer that has no heating elements, that's unique, uses revolutionary technology, uses no fans, and is small, compact and sexy to look at. So when Sky One approached me and said, 'Here are a few business formats; let's do something', I said, 'Well listen, I'm currently working on something that's in its early stages. Why don't you come on board and film the whole journey of it?' They looked at the proposal and thought it would make great TV."

So why is the body dryer the way forward?
"I hate using towels that have been washed hundreds and hundreds of times over. I researched into that and I realised that the major cause of contamination in hotels and the NHS is through towels, because when you wash a towel more than four or five times, it loses its moisture and holds onto dirt. I don't know if you've been at a gym when it's packed and everyone's sweating - the things that guys do in the changing rooms is disgusting! Hundreds and thousands of towels in gyms have been washed over and over again, so they're holding onto dirt."

Why is your body dryer superior to other models on the market?
"We tried to focus on drying people in seconds, not minutes. One of our competitor's dryers costs £22,000 and looks like an execution box. You walk in there and you've got to be lucky not to suffocate. I walked out after six minutes and I really felt as if I was going to suffocate - it was a scary experience. There's a moment on the show that's TV gold: this little girl walks in with her mum, looks at this massive spacecraft of a body dryer and says, 'Mum, I don't want to go into that'. It just had no commercial appeal and it took up a huge amount of space. You know, I knew everything I did not want my dryer to look like. I wanted something that's tight, compact, slimline, retro and can fit in bathrooms on cruise lines and in hotels."

So why aren't body dryers commonplace at the moment?
"Because the manufacturers haven't found a way to bring the energy consumption down, but we've managed to do that. The progress has been phenomenal and not only that, but we've got patents on the whole thing. We've got copyrights, patents, attorneys, lawyers: it's all being done. I'm not going to go to that sort of length making sure this is a real company that operates and has technology that's revolutionary not to follow it right through. It's very nice to be in this position."

Should we expect a follow-up show six or twelve months down the line?
"Yeah, definitely. Sky One are very interested. We had dinner the other day and they said, 'We love the show and the way it's been constructed,' so I think there will be definitely be another show. I think it would be a great TV."

Now that you've had time to digest the experience, how do you feel about your time on The Apprentice?
"I think that the skills I learned on the show were second to none because I transferred them straight into my life. You can see that on this show! What I will say is that a lot of people recognise me now. It's left me open. There are so many silly stories out there - that I've been done for drink-driving four times - but it's all rubbish. We've all made mistakes, but nobody expects to be crucified. That was the only negative side. On the positive side, it gives you the edge. It's just easier to get through to people in business and you get invited to some fantastic parties, launches, premieres and stuff like that."

What moment from the show are you most proud of?
"For me, the most inspiring moment was actually after the show. The headteacher at my old primary school asked me to go back to take assembly. I was in tears! You know, when you're young and singing 'Kumbaya', you're not thinking that in 15, 20 years you'll be back in that room taking assembly. To go back and meet teachers there was really touching and to talk to 500 kids from incredible. By the way I was never in the choir - you need to be able to pull off the real sort of angel boy thing and I never had that!"

Did you watch The Apprentice this year?
"I did, I did. I saw the first episode and thought: 'What is this'? Last year we all had character and we were all young, so there was a lot of naiveté, but there was serious business too. This year it seemed like there was no spark, whereas last year had so much energy and it was fun. I think last year's series really did good things for The Apprentice. Now the programme is going down the Big Brother route - it's more TV. I swear to you I never went on The Apprentice - I know a lot of people say this - for a media career. Now I think this year the candidates haven't lived up to what I was expecting, but whatever, you know!"

What did you make of the infamous Katie?
"You know the surprising thing? If I was Sir Alan and I saw Katie in the boardroom doing what she did, I would have said that she was by far the strongest contestant. I actually think she was too strong for the role. That's not what The Apprentice is about. Sir Alan's apprentice should be exactly what it says on the tin - someone that's young, someone that's mouldable, someone that's not the finished article. Or else they would have named the show 'The Boss'? In that sense Simon will do well, but is he going to be working for Sir Alan long term? I doubt it."

Syed Ahmed - Hot Air? airs on June 19 at 10pm on Sky One. You can find out more about Syed's body dryer here.

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