Bhargava was born in Lucknow (in the state of Uttar Pradesh), India in 1953, and in 1967, moved with his family to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. Bhargava's father attended the Wharton School of Business in pursuit of a doctorate degree, while his son won a math scholarship to an "elite private academy" called The Hill School. After high school graduation, Bhargava attended Princeton University for one year in 1972.
After college, Bhargava returned to India and spent the next 12 years traveling to and from a group of communal-like monasteries owned by the Hanslok Ashram. During this period, Bhargava moved back and forth between the US and India and worked a variety of middle-class office and construction jobs.
Bhargava returned to the US and joined his parents' PVC manufacturing company. In 1990, he purchased a company that produced parts for outdoor furniture. He sold Prime PVC Inc. in 2006. A subsequent company, Chemicalpartners.com, specialized in inventions and new ideas for business.
Bhargava created Innovations Ventures LLC (dba Living Essentials LLC), and launched 5-hour Energy in 2003. By 2012, retail sales had grown to an estimated $1 billion. Over time, Bhargava created additional entities or funds to support a variety of new ventures. These included the capital venture company MicroDose Life Sciences, a manufacturing venture laboratory called Stage 2 Innovations LLC, a private equity fund called ETC Capital LLC, Plymouth Real Estate Holdings LLC and Oakland Energy and Water Ventures. In 2014, he financed a New York City-based film distribution company, Bleecker Street.
Bhargava was interviewed on the ABC News show Nightline in September 2012. That year, an article in Forbes magazine said Bhargava and his company, Innovations Ventures, had participated in up to 90 court cases against competitors, suppliers and associates since 2003. As of 2012, fourteen of those cases had been settled or dismissed.
In 2013, Forbes reported Bhargava's net worth to be $1.5 billion, but he was dropped from its list of billionaires in 2014. Bhargava's 2015 documentary, Billions in Change, reports he has a net worth of over $4 billion, while some news articles report the $4 billion figure to be unverified.
Bhargava is a member of the Giving Pledge campaign. In 2015, he pledged to give 99% of his wealth to philanthropic causes. His foundations include the Hans Foundation and Rural India Supporting Trust. In 2016, Bhargava told National Geographic that he planned to distribute 10,000 of his stationary, power generating bikes to rural homes and villages in India.