Shark Tank India is a popular reality television show that features aspiring entrepreneurs pitching their business ideas to a panel of investors or “sharks” in hopes of securing funding and support.
While the show has gained a significant following in India, it has also come under fire for being scripted, presenting unrealistic scenarios, exploiting sensational content, and exhibiting hypocrisy.
It’s not a new narrative around reality shows in India, and Shark Tank is no different reality show.
The recent episode aired on 10th March 2023 showcased Parul Gulati’s entrepreneurial side. If you are not familiar with her, Parul Gulati is an actress who has appeared in various Punjabi films, TV shows, and web series on OTT platforms. And if you’re my age, you know her from Zorawaar (with Yo Yo Honey Sign).
In short, she has no need to appear on Shark Tank. To me, this is derisive to all start-up founders with game-changing ideas but not as little as 5% of reach compared to her.
And also, too many friends and friends of friends have appeared in the Season 2 of Shark Tank India. What’s up with this?
Let me know if you have an answer.
Scripted nature of the show
The show, as it seems, is heavily scripted. Many viewers and former contestants have alleged that the interactions between the entrepreneurs and the sharks are often staged and that the pitches are heavily rehearsed.
This raises questions about the authenticity of the show, and whether the entrepreneurs are actually presenting their ideas in a genuine and unscripted manner. Moreover, the heavy scripting can be detrimental to the show’s credibility and undermine the trust that viewers have in the show and its format.
When Parul Gulati set foot on the show and was asked by Shark Aman whether she is doing full-time entrepreneurship or full-time acting, Parul responded that she is doing both full-time. That’s quite a mockery of time management, considering both these fields require substantial time devotion.
What a bunch of hypocrites. If anyone else, they would have responded in a completely brash manner.
When asked about the industry size, she wasn’t aware of the numbers, but just highlighted that it’s a big industry. The scripted element of the show was quite visible.
Unrealistic expectations from entrepreneurs
The show sets unrealistic expectations for entrepreneurs. While the show presents itself as a platform for innovative ideas and cutting-edge businesses, the reality is that very few deals made on the show actually come to fruition.
Moreover, many of the deals offered by the sharks come with unrealistic terms and conditions or require significant equity from the entrepreneurs. This can create an environment in which entrepreneurs are pressured to make unrealistic promises or accept deals that are not in their best interests, all in the name of securing funding and exposure for their businesses.
Further, Shark Tank India Season 2 saw the most debt funding this time whereby the sharks offered debt to the entrepreneurs. To simplify it, they wanted to secure their investments while also earning good interest. They came out more like loan sharks as every third deal of this season was a debt deal with interest going as high as 18%.
And the exploitative tendencies. The show is designed to showcase entrepreneurs and their ideas, but it is also a form of entertainment that relies on the drama and conflict between the sharks and the entrepreneurs.
This creates a harmful environment for entrepreneurs who may be portrayed as desperate or vulnerable.
It is overly sensationalized. The show relies heavily on shock value and emotional manipulation to create drama and hold the audience’s attention. This is in the way that the sharks often make grandiose claims and promises to the entrepreneurs, only to later backtrack or renege on their offers.
This kind of behavior is not only misleading but can also be damaging to the entrepreneurs who have put their trust in the sharks.
The emphasis on sensationalism detracts from the real-world challenges that entrepreneurs face and creates an unrealistic view of what it takes to succeed in business.
Also, while the sharks in Shark Tank India are the ones who have the entrepreneurial stint and know the struggle to create their own brands, Namita Thapar seems to be the odd one out.
Being an Executive Director in a company established by her father, she definitely missed out on experiencing the ground-level difficulty of building a business from scratch. Especially building a start-up that is different from a traditional business.
As Shark Tank focuses on entrepreneurship, it would have been better if the sharks were also the ones who have built their brands from scratch. Only then, they will know the challenges faced in the initial stage, how to tackle them and bring the best out of the business.
There’s a reason why someone like Sridhar Vembhu from Zoho or Nithin Kamath from Zerodha won’t appear on it.
Did the Deals Really Take Off?
Shark Tank India has also been accused of being hypocritical.
The show often promotes itself as a platform for ethical and socially responsible business practices, but some of the sharks on the show have been criticized for prioritizing profits over ethics.
Moreover, the show’s focus on profits and financial gain can overshadow other important aspects of entrepreneurship, such as social impact and ethical responsibility. It’s quite questionable whether the deals that sharks actually offered on-screen really took off off-screen.
Shark Tank US or Dragons Den Vs Shark Tank India
Shark Tank India has not been able to attract the same caliber of investors or entrepreneurs as the original show, i.e., Shark Tank US. The sharks on the original shows are often successful businesspeople with vast experience and knowledge of the market.
The sharks on Shark Tank India do not have the same level of expertise or investment capital, which does make the show less credible.
It’s quite a bad imitation of its US counterpart due to the lack of innovation and originality in the pitches. Entrepreneurs in the US often present unique and groundbreaking ideas that capture the attention of the sharks.
In contrast, the pitches on Shark Tank India lack the same level of creativity and originality, which makes the show seem like a poor imitation of the original.
While Shark Tank India may be entertaining to watch, it has several serious issues that cannot be ignored. From its scripted nature to its exploitative tendencies and hypocritical behavior, the show raises questions about the ethics of reality television and the role that it plays in shaping public opinion about business and entrepreneurship.
This decade is witnessing a massive spur in entrepreneurship, and it’s important that the Indians and youth are portrayed in the real image.
Getting aired on national television gives Shark Tank the power to shape public perception of entrepreneurship. It is important to recognize these criticisms and to work toward creating a more transparent and ethical environment for aspiring entrepreneurs to present their ideas and secure funding.
While there is certainly value in promoting innovation and supporting entrepreneurs, it is important to do so in a way that is ethical, transparent, and free from exploitation and sensationalism.