My honest review of Shark Tank India
Disclaimer: Views are my own and do not represent the views of my employer/any organisation I am a part of. I write this review from the perspective of someone who absolutely loves good content and hopes to create something phenomenal someday. I do not write this review from the perspective of a finance professional (which I am), as the goal of my post is not to comment on the business advice given on the show.
I had hoped to finish watching the first 15 episodes of Shark Tank India before I shared my thoughts on the Internet, but as I reached the 4th episode and the nth temper tantrum, I realised that watching the show was an ultimate waste of my time. Here’s why.
I am a major fan of Shark Tank USA. I love Kevin O’Leary’s tough love and ultra-shrewdness, Barbara Corcoran’s uncanny ability to figure out who a person really is after listening to them speak for five minutes, Daymond John’s spirit of entrepreneurship and phenomenal mentoring, Robert Herjavec’s kind and encouraging demeanour, Mark Cuban’s infectious ambition and never-say-die attitude and Lori Greiner’s insane innovator’s and marketer’s mind. I feel like a life-long learner while watching Shark Tank USA. The basic concepts of average order values, customer lifetime value, customer acquisition cost were introduced and ingrained in my mind thanks to this show. The Sharks’ blunt and no-nonsense way of asking questions was always accompanied by a brief explanation of the concepts mentioned by them and a thirst to Google the concepts and learn some more. Apart from the lively banter among the Sharks, the detailed and exhaustive discussions and the rational business advice they shared with the entrepreneurs made this show entertaining and educational. There is no doubt that many young minds in India have been shaped by Shark Tank USA.
Whereas Shark Tank India… let’s just say I’m not going to be bingeing it ever, nor is it going to be my go-to place for learning something new. Products, yes. Looking at innovative products in India and the associated business stories is certainly a plus point of the show. However, the rest of the show tries to be informative (‘try’ being the operative word) but fails spectacularly. Randomly zooming in and explaining concepts like gross margin during the pitch is not enough. Real value addition is in the experience of listening to the conversations between investors and entrepreneurs. The questions asked by investors should show the thought process behind how they value a company, and how they make the decision of going in for a deal or staying out. The answers provided by the entrepreneur could help the audience learn to make an independent evaluation of whether the company is worth the valuation or not. In my humble opinion, this was missing in Shark Tank India. The questions in Shark Tank India seemed random. More often than not, the conclusions were not backed by a sound business rationale. The reasons for backing out seemed more like excuses than fact-based decisions.
Business relationships in India usually start off because of a shared history, background, community, etc and Shark Tank India does a good job of representing that. However, the aim of enlightening people all over India and encouraging entrepreneurship among people of all ages and communities would have been served better if the discussions were based more on financial metrics and operational challenges faced, and not facts like the person was born in the same place where someone’s nani lived or operates out of the same place where someone’s office is. Shark Tank USA also did have its own fair share of personal discussions, but that part of the conversation was not given undue importance and the deals remained majorly uninfluenced by it. For example, Mark Cuban did not favour entrepreneurs or invest in companies merely because they were based out of Dallas.
Other problems I had with the show include, but are not limited to: the excessive dramatization (is it necessary to show the audience stills of a Shark driving his sports car, or wearing Yves Saint Laurent heels, or receiving bouquets from their employees?), the unnecessary scenes where two Sharks were literally going behind the row of chairs to flesh out terms of a deal together when a fellow Shark is still having a conversation with the entrepreneur (rude much?), insufficient explanations for rejecting a deal (other than reasons like “Mai time nahi de paaunga” (I will not be able to give sufficient time) or “Mai pharma industry se hu toh mai relate nahi kar paa rahi hoon” (Since I am in a different industry (pharma), I cannot relate to the product).
Watching Shark Tank USA felt like I was getting a crash course on business. The Indian version seems like attending a class on aggression, egotism, unfiltered remarks and emotional drama.
In a post written by one of the Sharks on LinkedIn, it was stated that the show was made for an Indian audience. And that very statement is what triggered the content-lover in me. Dumbing down content just to suit the so-called “Indian audience” isn’t a permanent solution. It is a simple way to become popular by preferring to cater to people who are looking for drama-filled entertainment, at the cost of people who want to learn and improve themselves. A classic case of this “Indian audience” rationale is the content that Chetan Bhagat created while writing Half Girlfriend. For the purpose of learning and improving reading and writing skills in English, would you advise someone to read this ‘extraordinary’ book by Chetan Bhagat or ask them to start reading any elementary-level book? I do not buy the argument of riddling a book with grammatical mistakes just to appeal to an audience whose first language is not English. And by extension, I do not buy the argument that people need to watch dumbed-down content to understand more about entrepreneurship and to be inspired to start their own business.
Shark Tank India’s USP is the Chetan Bhagat-ification of content. While I am all for supporting young Indian entrepreneurs and making content accessible all over India in regional languages, I refuse to believe that any person with a business idea in India right now gained any tangible benefit from watching this show other than a brief feel-good emotion. Investopedia and YouTube have much more appropriate content that easily condenses key must-knows of business. There are so many Indian content creators out there who focus on entrepreneurship and imparting knowledge to people for free on LinkedIn. Real support could have been shown by the team of Shark Tank India by delving deeper into operational, financial and legal must-knows about running a business in India. Even the paid promotions for giving free business courses online to entrepreneurs after their pitch seemed useless to the larger audience because those free courses only help the specific entrepreneur and not the Indian audience at large. If the goal was to make information more accessible, discount codes to viewers who answer questions correctly would have been more appropriate.
For people who say that Shark Tank USA isn’t suitable for a typical “let’s watch this while having dinner” atmosphere in an Indian family, I would agree to an extent. It’s not content you can watch while unwinding after a long day. And that is a given for the genre. Shark Tank India, on the other hand, plans to place one leg in the boat of business jargon, and the other leg in the boat of being family-dinner-friendly. That does not make sense, because the “Indian audience” is majorly young, and we are currently at a stage where we can take giant strides in the global economy if we are provided with good and valuable information in an easily accessible format. I could have tolerated the candid nature of the conversations in the show, had it been accompanied by something that made me feel like I learned something new while watching the show. Right now, the only thing I can manage to watch is the memes on Shark Tank India that are flooding the internet.
As I wrap up this post, I am aware that I may come across as elitist and insensitive. This fear kept popping up in my mind while I was drafting my initial thoughts on the show. Hence, I hope I have put across my points in a logical and well-explained manner, and am always willing to discuss and improve on any points that I overlooked or misinterpreted.
The final review / tl;dr: If you’re serious about starting a business, Shark Tank India is not the place to learn. I sincerely hope that the show improves on these points mentioned in my review in the upcoming seasons (if there are any planned).