Indian TV Show Shows Entrepreneurship Isn’t Just For The Rich

In October, Pashmi Shah, a 30-year-old senior marketing executive, received a phone call that changed her life.

At the other extreme was a producer of Shark Tank, the Emmy-nominated reality series where entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to seven “sharks” – or investors – who then decide whether or not to invest in them.

Ms. Pashmi was invited to host Get-A-Whey, a low-sugar, ketogenic ice cream brand that she runs with her brother Jash and mother Jimmy, on the Indian version of the show.

The brother-sister duo loved desserts and were always looking for healthy options. Then one day her mother experimented with ice cream with whey protein powder, a health supplement.

“When we tried it, we were surprised that it tasted so good,” said Ms Pashmi.

They tweaked the recipe for six months, got a food technologist on board, and launched Get-A-Whey in 2019.

This year on Shark Tank India, his brother and mother threw this ice cream, buttermilk and all, to the “sharks” and took home 10 million rupees ($131,110; £100,850) in exchange for a 15% stake in your company.

Get-A-Whey was one of 67 companies where Shark Tank investors pledged more than Rs 400 crore. The series reportedly received over 62,000 pitches for the first season itself, from startups across India.

In a blog post shortly after the show’s first season ended, Anupam Mittal, the founder of one of India’s largest matrimonial websites, wrote that he believed the show “has been the catalyst that will change the business landscape of the India forever.”

He went on to explain that of the 67 companies that received offers in the program, 59 had a founder under the age of 25 and 29 had at least one female co-founder.

Most importantly, the show highlighted a new generation of young risk-taking entrepreneurs and changing attitudes towards entrepreneurship in India.

Both Ms. Pashmi and her brother gave up well-paying jobs to start their businesses.

“It was hard to convince our father at first,” she says.

At the end of last year, the Shahs were selling 8,000 units of their product per month and making nearly Rs 1 million in revenue.

After its Shark Tank episode aired in January this year, sales in India skyrocketed. During the first quarter, they sold a whopping 65,000 units and earned close to Rs 8.5 crore.

Ankur Warikoo, internet entrepreneur and best-selling author, says Shark Tank has done a commendable job of bringing people like Pashmi Shah to the forefront.

“But the most important thing that has been done is to make them aware that their ambitions may be much bigger than what they set out to do, and if money is an obstacle, then here is the money.”

Mr. Warikoo says that India has always had this entrepreneurial drive, even far from the traditional, wealthy businesses that rode an early wave of entrepreneurial success in the early 1990s.

“Don’t ignore the element that there are millions of families in India where parents have worked as day laborers and now their children are saying, ‘You know what? I’ll set up a mobile repair shop or cloud kitchen or become a driver. from Uber and I’ll have a fleet of Uber cars that I can rent,'” he explains.

The show, he says, has successfully legitimized the career path of a self-made entrepreneur for a generation of parents who would previously be cynical or doubtful of such a risky move.

“Suddenly, when it’s prime time, your parents are proud of the fact that their son or daughter is now an entrepreneur. And that their son or daughter could one day be on Shark Tank,” says Mr. Warikoo .

The “sharks” of the program have cumulatively spent more than Rs 400 crore on 67 business plans.

Ashneer Grover, one of the show’s “sharks” and founder of one of India’s most prominent fintech companies, credits the internet for much of the change.

“Someone who is building a business now thinks of it in pan-Indian terms. They are not selling themselves as an expert in their local regions, but have bigger ambitions,” he says.

Writer and businesswoman Rashmi Bansal says that the Indian middle class once believed that a professional degree leading to a steady job was better than running a business. “That has changed: the idea of ​​’doing your thing’ has moved from the fringes to the mainstream.”

She gives the example of a start-up meeting she attended in the remote Bastar district of central Chhattisgarh state.

“To my surprise, six local entrepreneurs showed up. They all had plans to go national or international,” he says, adding that Shark Tank reflects this new aspiration of an India where you don’t need a rich father or godfather to succeed. . .

Grover attributes this to the hunger for success seen in smaller town and city entrepreneurs.

“They have fire in their stomachs,” he adds, citing the example of Revamp Motors, which launched an electric utility bike aimed at temporary workers on the show.

“The amount of engineering that went into building that e-bike with such a small amount of capital was mind-boggling. This gives me confidence that if we do the hard engineering ourselves, it’s a very good sign for India.” he says.

Surabhi Shah and Chetna Shah

The daughter-in-law and mother-in-law duo earned praise from the judges for breaking stereotypes.

“Shark Tank’s success is that it became a table conversation,” says Surabhi Shah, a second-generation entrepreneur.

She and her mother-in-law, Chetna Shah, pitched their business idea, Carrabox, an eco-friendly food packaging concept, on Shark Tank and took home Rs 5 million in exchange for a 20% stake.

Surabhi, who comes from a family of traditional entrepreneurs, says the idea of ​​taking someone else’s money for a piece of “my company was a very strange concept.”

But attitudes have changed and taking the risk of starting your own idea is no longer taboo, he adds.

“Terms like equity and investment existed in textbooks when we were kids. But now it’s on national TV. You can open your own Instagram store and expand it,” he explains.

But negotiating a successful deal wasn’t the only victory for Surabhi and her mother-in-law on Shark Tank.

“What I find interesting is that even now our soap operas show mother-in-law and daughter-in-law fighting,” said Aman Gupta, a “shark” and co-founder of one of India’s largest consumer electronics brands. in the representation of the mother-in-law as domineering and cunning.

“Seeing you both here today makes me very happy. India will be inspired that a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law can also do business together,” Gupta said, to applause from fellow investors.

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