The inaugural season of the popular television show Shark Tank India, which premiered on December 20, 2021, and concluded on February 4, 2022, captivated India. The show featured entrepreneurs pitching to sharks, a.k.a. investors, for funding in exchange for a share of the business. While the show has ended, there’s still quite a buzz about it not only because it was the first of its kind but also because the show highlighted many significant but often ignored aspects of a business. Some won and some lost, but everyone learned something from the show – including the viewers.
Here are the 10 most valuable lessons from the show for all entrepreneurs.
1. Know the Why of your business
The best business strategy can fail without clarity of thought. That’s one of the most important lessons the show brought to its participants and viewers. If you jump into entrepreneurship without a clear vision, you’ll not be able to sustain your business. Only when you know what value you bring to your consumer and pitch that value to prospective customers can you expand your reach. A clear mission and vision also give you a great brand story that will attract consumers to your brand.
In episode #21, for instance, there was this engineer who invented three different and unrelated products. The sharks opined that he was in the business of invention rather than problem-solving and had confused his education with business.
Clarity of thought is extremely important when going into business. “Why would people buy from you and not from others” and “if your product is easy to copy, then how will you differentiate” are two questions that sharks frequently ask prospects. Know the answer to these questions before you dive in.
2. People Management is Important for Business
The sharks have spoken a lot about valuing the founders and subordinates. This was exemplified in episode #11 when a father-son duo came with a third co-founder who was also the inventor of the pitched product. One of the sharks insisted that the equity for the inventor should be increased before he would invest. He felt that the inventor was being cut short by the father-son duo.
When you enter into entrepreneurship, you do so for yourself. But when you rope in others – be they co-founders or a team, you should respect them and the value they bring to the table. You should also give them what they deserve in terms of compensation and benefits.
If you hark back to episode 21, even though the sharks blasted the engineer for being confused, one of the sharks recognised his talent and made an offer, albeit conditional.
3. Be Cost Efficient
The brightest ideas never see the light of the day, simply because they are too expensive to launch. So apart from identifying a marketing gap or crafting a business strategy, you should also have enough capital to bootstrap your business or be innovative enough to launch a low-funding business. In episode #20 of Shark Tank India, for instance, a designer from Mathura revamped used footwear and apparel and sold them on social media, thus driving sales with almost no investment. That’s the kind of cost-efficiency you should be looking at. If your idea is unique enough and brings value to the consumer, it will sell – funding or not and eventually scale to become a brand.
4. SWOT Yourself
Many contestants across episodes faced heavy criticism from the sharks simply because they did not know where they stood and where they aimed to go. The question they were unable to answer was, “Where do you see yourself in the next 5/10/15 years?”
Answering that question is only possible when you know and understand your product and business well. Not only should you know the strengths and weaknesses of your business, but you should also know the market landscape and the opportunities that it offers. It is also important to be aware of the competition and the factors that can prove detrimental to your business.
The mother and son in episode 21, for instance, were aware that their product was not unique or patentable. So they decided to leverage rapid scaling and first-mover advantage to make a profit. They came to the show clearly looking for assistance with branding strategy, in which they lacked experience. Such clarity of thought comes from SWOT analysis.
5. Be Passionate and Agile
Of course, you are passionate about your invention or discovery. That’s why you went into business, right? Fair enough. But let’s say your idea does not take off for some reason. Then what? Do you give up? That’s where your passion kicks in. If you are passionate and confident enough about your idea, you’ll tweak it again until it meets your consumers’ needs and your business takes off.
The modern-day consumer has a short attention span and rapidly evolving tastes, desires, and preferences. As the sharks said time and again, a business cannot run or scale in branding strategy alone. You should be able to adapt to the market.
6. Master your pitch
As one of the sharks said to a contestant who pitched a 90% accurate non-invasive device for diabetes testing in episode #8, “Jo dikhta hai wo bikta hai” (it is the perception that sells). The shark went on to say that had I not known about the 90% accuracy, I may have invested, but now that I know it has created doubt in my mind about the viability of the project.
Lesson learned – sometimes, it’s better to be silent about certain facts rather than volunteer the information because some facts may be misinterpreted. Taking the above example, no medical testing device is ever 100% accurate. Therefore, a margin of 10% is presumably negligible. Yet, when the shark heard about it, he hesitated. Such marginal defects are often best concealed.
However, it’s a hard decision to make. A lot depends upon the investor and what he is interested in. Some investors will focus solely on your presentation, while others may want to dig deeper. So think twice before hiding or volunteering information.
7. Be an Opportunist
One of the entrepreneurs in episode #19 had quit his job to care for his ailing mother, who had been advised surgery as the last resource. The young lad began exploring options and, in the process, enrolled his mother in clinical trials for nutrition and supplement based approach to treatment. This turned out to be a great success, and his mother began recovering. He then turned the solution into a business idea and came to shark tank looking for funding.
Lesson learned – there are many opportunities around us to set up and grow our business. The only caveat is that you should be looking for them and be alert enough to leverage them.
8. Develop Listening Skills
Many contestants on the show were criticised to the extent of rudeness by some sharks. In episode #4, for instance, one of the sharks said that a contestant had double standards. In episode #19, one of the sharks called a contestant rigid. Yet others, like the farmer boy in episode #24, were lauded and rewarded for their candid approach, hard work, and perseverance.
Some contestants of Shark Tank took the criticism hard while others returned satisfied despite not scoring an investment chalking it up to a learning experience.
As a businessperson, you’ll do well to ignore the semantics – the words – and look for the reason behind any feedback you get. While feedback may sometimes seem harsh, it is usually intended to help you understand your shortcomings and improve yourself.
9. Be Confident
Jo Dikhta hai wo bikta hai said one of the sharks – meaning appearances sell. While the shark commented negatively, the show had many instances of sheer confidence winning show. The best ones were Juggadu Kamlesh of episode #24, who was praised for his courage in appearing on the show, and the two young sisters in episode #10, who triggered keen competition among the sharks and scored investment from three sharks.
Confidence can hide many flaws. If you know your business well and pitch confidently, you can and will win. Oh! We’re not advocating misrepresentation or dishonesty. But your confidence can carry you a long way.
10. Strong Foundation
Marketing is an important and undeniable need for every business. It’s also true, however, that without substance, your business won’t sustain long. For instance, the young entrepreneur and his mother in episode #21 were sure that their product was good and would add value to their consumers. On the other hand, an entrepreneur who came pitching investments for his “glass mask” in episode #30 was heavily criticised for a wahiyat (useless and worthless) product. Sharks asked him if he had ever heard of straws and sippers that served the same purpose.
Before entering into business, you should ensure that your product is salable and adds value for your consumer. Otherwise, your enterprise will never take off, let alone grow.
There’s a whole lot more to business than mere marketing, although that is an important component branding cannot be discounted. Having learned from the show, it is now time to build a strong brand and corporate identity. Litmus Branding, your branding agency in India, is here to offer end to end hand holding and help you through your journey. And, we are just a call or email away.