Rakesh arrives in the village as the last in a few selected meetings of candidates for the arranged marriage of Priya Sharma. On his way to meet her, Rakesh's car breaks down on Main Street after passing through the Ford. Noticing a stranger in need of help, David and Alicia Metcalfe came out to offer their assistance. Unaware of who Rakesh was or why he was in the village, they help him to mend his car. Priya was surprised when Rakesh arrives at Holdgate Farm to meet her just as she was taking care of her daughter Amba and is covered in baby sick. When he realised he had not checked his phone messages and discovers she had cancelled the meeting, an embarrassed Priya turns him away stating she'd be in touch a later date.
Staying true to her word, Priya contacts Rakesh and the pair meet more conveniently the following day. Introducing him to her parents, Georgia and Rishi Sharma, proves an awkward affair as Rishi tries to make Rakesh welcome whilst Georgia continues to throw questions at Rakesh about his dead wife, Sana Kotecha and two children, Kirin and Rhoni Kotecha. Not being put off by Georgia, and eventually winning her around, Priya is ecstatic at finally discovering a candidate that she likes. The success is short-lived however when her brother Jai Sharma arrives to meet him and discovers he was a man who he had known when he was younger and had bad business dealings with but refuses to go into full detail. From this moment, Jai is determined that Priya and Rakesh would not marry but Priya ignores his warnings and is thrilled when Rakesh later proposes to her.
After vowing to split the pair up, Rakesh is delighted when he discovers Jai cheating on his girlfriend Megan Macey with her business partner, Leyla Harding. Using the knowledge to his advantage, Rakesh blackmails Jai into attending his and Priya's engagement party and to feign a new found companionship between the two. Ultimately Priya and Rakesh decide at the service to postpone their wedding and live together.
Rakesh has many conflicts with Kirin, who still resents Rakesh for his mother's death. Rakesh disapproves of Kirin's relationship with the much older Vanessa Woodfield, and is alarmed when she becomes pregnant. Seeing an opportunity when she is unsure of the paternity due to a one-night stand with Adam Barton, he doctors the paternity test results to give the impression Adam is the biological father. Kirin spends much of the year delving into drugs and lashing out over the loss of a child and the woman he loves. Several months after his son's birth, he learns the truth once Vanessa realises there is no way Adam can be the father. Kirin lashes out at Rakesh, but soon proves his father right by being unable to cope with fatherhood, leading to a drinking binge and a hit and run that claims the life of Tess Harris. With Rakesh's help, Kirin flees the country, relocating to South America. Rakesh continues to send him money, even as he loses his job to Pierce Harris, the embittered widower of Tess.
Desperate for funds, Rakesh tries to sell Mill Cottage, only to learn from Ronnie Hale that expensive renovation work is needed. He decides to burn it down in an insurance scam. This causes an explosion, with, unknown to him, an unconscious Nicola King trapped inside. Ronnie and Dan Spencer go in and get her out. Ronnie goes back into the burning house to see if there is anyone still inside but collapses unconscious in the kitchen. Rakesh and Carly Hope go in and get him out of the burning building. Ambulances and fire crew arrive. The ambulance crew try to wake Ronnie up. Ronnie recovers, as does Nicola, albeit with serious injuries in Nicola's case. Ronnie, who quickly works out the truth of Rakesh's involvement, forces him to pay out to Emma Barton and James Barton for the deposit they gave him on the Mill. Rakesh's problems worsen when the insurance investigator refuses to accept the claim, and when Rakesh protests, warns him that a case for arson can easily be proven.
Rakesh's former client Chrissie White learns of his problems and blackmails him into helping her get boyfriend Andy Sugden convicted for shooting her father Lawrence White. A guilt-ridden Rakesh instead helps Andy escape. Chrissie convinces him to have sex with her for cash, only to take a photo of the two of them as they begin to kiss, boasting that she will now have more to use against him. An enraged Rakesh throttles her, taking cash from her safe after she fearfully directs him to it so he'll leave. Rakesh is disgusted by his actions, but with his cash problems never-ending, he soon embezzles from wife Priya's family business.
Priya begins to believe Rakesh is having an affair, but when she confronts Chrissie, she soon sees more is going on. Rakesh guiltily confesses his actions. Priya tries to support him, but ultimately feels forced to separate from him for the sake of her health. Still wanting to give him a second chance, she convinces a furious Jai to not go to the cops, instead making Rakesh work as a packer to help repay the money he owes the family.
"Sold my soul to satellite navigation and now, look." (first line)
"I know you think I'm a terrible person." (final line to Priya Kotecha)