By Ahmad Pathan
The ever growing Indian middle-class is known for being a conservative and risk-averse investor. Financial investments in volatile markets like stocks, bonds and cryptocurrencies have been erroneously labelled as ‘taking a gamble’ on unpredictable outcomes by a large chunk of the older generation, who prefer to stick to the time-tested fixed deposits and tangible assets like gold. However, as the pandemic ravaged the world for the last 2 years or so, more than a crore stock trading accounts were opened in 2020 alone, double than the numbers of the preceding three years. The market saw an unprecedented bull run during the same year, with returns skyrocketing and above-average profits being reaped even by newbie investors. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum witnessed a cycle of rising and subsequent falling of prices, with roughly 7% of the Indian population owning some amount of decentralised currencies.
Although the stock market has gone into a freefall in the past few bearish weeks and the digital asset space is gripped by uncertainty and fear, esoteric financial terms like equity, IPO, D2C, branding, scalability, etc. have finally found their way to our dinner table and living room conservations due to a reality based television show, Shark Tank India.
The Indian version of the globally popular show, Shark Tank, its 7 week long first season was aired at the 9 pm timeslot and soon found acceptance and admiration by all members of the typical Indian family, right from 70 year old grandparents to 16 year old teenagers.
The format of the show is quite simple: Young entrepreneurs from all across India present their innovative ideas and businesses to a panel of judges, known as Sharks, who themselves are the magnates of their respective industries. The entrepreneurs ‘pitch’ the solutions that they have developed in response to any particular problem faced by the society to the Sharks, highlight the present achievements and sales figures of their companies and shed light on their future goals in terms of profitability and sustainability. In order to ‘scale’ their businesses, they ask for funding, i.e. financial support, from the Sharks in exchange for a percentage of stake in their company, known as equity. The Sharks, depending on their expertise, interest and trust in the founders of the company, then decide whether to invest their money or not.
Like any other Indian show, Shark Tank India too has some forms of emotional appeasement and melodrama. But in my opinion, our emotionally driven society needs an occasional dose of sentimental content in order to consume such a new concept of reality TV.
Such a nuisance therefore must be excused for the greater good. In a country where 261 million people are in their 20s, a massive workforce of this kind can only be effectively utilized through greater participation of the youth in the private sector of the Indian economy and the bustling start-up ecosystem.
Shark Tank has sparked the conservation in Indian families needed to bring a large-scale reform in the mentality of the common masses. The stigmatized entrepreneurial ventures are expected to gain more acceptance and support through such shows, when similar efforts are made to familiarize the society with the concept of gaining meaningful employment in newly found companies as opposed to deeming government jobs as the pinnacle of success in one’s profession.
As entrepreneurship is increasingly being talked about in mainstream discussions, entrepreneurship as an academic subject will gain more and more importance in all fields of higher education and will become an integral part of school and college curriculum.
India, historically a ‘prestige’ driven country, not only should encourage its youngsters to look beyond seeking salaried employment, but also should invest its money in the businesses that it truly understands. Money deposited in banks depreciates in value due to inflation and hence capital should be put to work in the economy by investing in established public companies through the stock market, as well as by financing small ventures, with the potential of solving real problems of the society, through angel investing. It is the only way to minimise the divide between the haves and have nots, as the benefits of capitalism can reach the common man only when he himself focuses on his finances, constantly educating himself about the market and investing his money for profitability and inflation beating returns. Only when India abandons its love for prestige and societal admiration, and instead dives deep into the realms of ‘wealth creation’ with a considerable risk appetite, can it truly become an economic giant in the international financial community. Investment decisions of today can decide the future of the coming generations.
Shark Tank USA has been televised for 13 straight years now. Its Indian adaptation has been a great success in its very first season. I do not claim that a TV show can transform an entire country, but the fact of the matter is that the Indian Sharks have become a household name; they are being portrayed as celebrities in the media; their middle class background is being romanticised by their fanbase, and people now find the once alien world of dark-suited businessmen to be within their reach, because the suited men seem to be like them, the only difference being that the men had the courage to dream big and to take the risk of being different from the crowd.
Being the founders of billion dollar companies like Lenskart, BharatPe, Mamaearth, Sugar, BoAt and Shaadi.com, their ‘self-made’ fortune of millions of dollars shatters the widely held perception of businesses being a monopoly of a few established elites and ‘outsiders’ being unwelcome in the market. However, such common perceptions are fairly untrue. What could be built in 50 years can now be done in 5 years. Technological awareness and problem-solving skills empowers the youth of today to be the disruptors and revolutionaries in various sectors and replace existing monopolies with new players in the market. Shark Tank and its Sharks teach us just that.
Entrepreneurship and high risk-to-reward investment mustn’t be frowned upon in our society as they are the cradle of innovation and economic growth. The addictive and engaging nature of Shark Tank despite being fairly technical for people of all backgrounds is the testament of the country’s readiness to secure its position in the ever-changing global village.
The author can be reached at [email protected].
- The article first appeared in Kashmir Observer