Shark Tank India is airing its second season, and it’s the only TV show I am actively watching these days.

I saw this tweet making the rounds last week. If you don’t want to visit Twitter I’ll describe what it says.

Harsh Goenka says:

I enjoy #SharkTankIndia as a program and I think it is a great platform for our budding entrepreneurs.

But whenever I think of sharks, I think of the movie ‘Jaws’ and bleeding 🩸!

There’s an image of a table like so:

Name Company FY22 profit (₹ crores)
Aman Gupta boAt 79
Amit Jain CarDekho -246
Anupam Mittal -27 (FY20)
Peyush Bansal Lenskart -102
Namita Thapar Emcure Pharma Not a startup
Vineeta Singh SUGAR cosmetics -75

The point is that all the sharks (with the exception of Aman Gupta’s boAt) are presiding over failing, unprofitable companies.

Thoughts on the first season

I quite enjoyed the first season last year. I had previously watched the UK show Dragon’s Den which seems to have inspired the string of Shark Tank productions around the world. I liked the Indian take on the subject matter and was honestly surprised at the variety of ideas and determination with which people are trying to realise them across the country.

What’s changed with season two

The show lost its most controversial shark, Ashneer Grover. Though they haven’t come out and said it, his disgraceful exit from his own company must have played a role in the decision to replace him.

Apart from this, I feel the show has changed its tone significantly. Sharks seem to be much more reluctant to partake in risky bets. They fail to ask pertinent questions, and seem to be eager only when presented with a perfect company which has almost no risk at all.

The core issue - lack of focus on what’s important

In the British Dragon’s Den, a very important question that every entrepreneur got asked was “What are you going to do with the money, if you were to get it today?” When someone is looking for an outside investment, they must have some plan in mind that they think will take the business to the next level, but they just don’t have enough cash to put the plan into action. Hence, the appeal to investors.

So if you can’t explain what you plan to do with the money infusion, it used to be a sure-shot failure to secure funding in Dragon’s Den.

This question is totally missing from the second season of Shark Tank. Not one shark bothered to make this all-important query of any pitcher.

Oh you want 50 lakhs? What is your sales last year? What is your profit margin? What is your projection for the next year? What are your qualifications?

Ahh, that’s a nicely running profitable growing business! I’d like me a piece of it. Here’s your money!

If someone has a business that’s already doing well, and they don’t have any plans to make it explode using a capital infusion, why would they ever come to you? They’re already running a profitable venture. They can continue doing whatever they are and collect their profits.

Another glaring factor that’s missing in the second season is the broke inventor who has a brilliant idea, has done basic market research and needs seed capital to get his company off the ground. Sharks in season two will laugh such a guy out of the show, telling him to come back when he has a business. That’s why he came to you for help! If he is able to prove his idea in the market and start making good money off it, why would he come back to you?

Not supposed to be a show about investment

What the sharks don’t seem to understand is that the point of this show was never to be an investment show. It was supposed to promote the spirit of entrepreneurship. It wanted to ensure that no good idea goes un-funded. If you have an idea and you can convince these industry stalwarts of its worth, you don’t need to worry about your first capital investment to get your venture started.

Intriguingly, the first season was much better in this regard. There were multiple lone inventors who appeared on the show and a few of them were also able to secure funds.

Is it because of the sharks not being profitable?

Now, we come back to the tweet. Are these problems in the season because the sharks are simply not good enough businessmen? Are they just incompetent as entrepreneurs? After all, their companies are bleeding money by the hundreds of crores. What do they know about running a profitable business?

I don’t know if that’s what the issue is, but it’s definitely something to think about.