Vineeta Singh reveals Shark Tank India judges gave audition, shares details of what you don’t see on TV
SUGAR Cosmetics' Vineeta Singh, who is seen as one of the judges of Shark Tank India, talked about what does not make it to television, the audition process of the ‘sharks’ and whether she feels criticism can negatively impact the contestants.
Vineeta Singh, the CEO of SUGAR Cosmetics and one of the ‘sharks’ on Shark Tank India, revealed that they were auditioned for the show. In an interview with Hindustan Times, she talked about the success of Shark Tank India, what is edited out of the show and whether she feels criticism adversely affects the contestants.
“There was one round of, as they call it, an audition. The good thing about Shark Tank is, unlike any other thing that comes on television, we have to be ourselves. The only guidance we got from the showrunners was, ‘You just have to be there, be yourself and evaluate these businesses genuinely as investors.’ That was a very big motivation for me to want to do this as well. When the show team reached out, they got us a mock pitch where they said, ‘Here are the cameras and this is the pitch. Let us do a personal audition, where you just be yourself and react how you would to any other pitch’,” she said.
For the panel, the producers of Shark Tank India were looking for people who could bring different skill sets to the table, Vineeta said. “They were very clear that they wanted to see founders because a lot of the companies that came in were brands. They also wanted representation from women because the number of female entrepreneurs pitching at Shark Tank was almost 50% and they wanted similar representation in the panel. For various reasons, it just clicked,” she said, talking about how she came on board.
Shark Tank India has made its way to dinner-table conversations and Vineeta feels that it has had a ‘massive impact’ on the perception of entrepreneurship in India. “In the first couple of weeks itself, what I realised was that there was a massive interest in the show in the demographic which is 50+ and under 20. The 20-50 demographic probably got interested when the memes and all started. But for the younger kids and older people, it was such an eye-opener, learning about businesses. These were the two categories where there was a need for maximum awareness about entrepreneurship and the fact that it is a respectable career,” she said.
Vineeta, who has been an entrepreneur for a decade and a half, recalled a time when entrepreneurship was likened to ‘unemployment’. “My husband often jokes that he decided to take up a job just before he got married because everyone would ask, ‘Ladka karta kya hai (What does the guy do for a living)?’ Running your own company was practically considered unemployment. This show has really accelerated adoption of this as a respectable career choice,” she said.
Vineeta said that when they hear the contestants pitch their start-ups, they have ‘zero background’ and are not allowed to use their phones to look up the companies either. “We are basically making the decision on the spot, in the tank, then and there,” she said.
Talking about what gets edited out, Vineeta said, “Instead of the 10-15 minutes that gets aired, it is typically a 30-45 minute discussion. Some of the questions are very detailed, number-related stuff, which would be boring to the audience or repetitive things where you need to dig deeper, those are the parts that get edited out. The production team has done a fabulous job of keeping the most entertaining and easiest to understand bits and they have built the entire show around the most gripping 10-15 minutes of the pitch. That’s about it. Even if you say something embarrassing, I don’t think you can tell the team to edit it out. All of it goes on air, so the team has complete control on whatever will be useful for the audience and they air it as it is.”
Shark Tank India has a diverse panel not only in terms of domain expertise but also personalities, ranging from the brutal Ashneer Grover (BharatPe co-founder and managing director) to the more encouraging Namita Thapar (executive director of Emcure Pharmaceuticals). Vineeta is more inclined towards the latter’s style.
“Both have their own place where they are coming from. I think Ashneer has mentioned this a few times, that it is important to be very direct so that you save people a lot of time,” she said, adding that an entrepreneur’s journey is riddled with rejections and failures. “And the thing that you need the most in that lonely journey of running your own company is a cheerleader. I feel that even though sometimes, you can save somebody a bit of learning things the hard way by being direct and bluntly giving it to them, most times, the encouragement and cheerleading direction is what I prefer to take,” she said. Vineeta added that she may choose to not invest in a business but ‘would still want to respect the individual and what they have built’.
On being asked if the criticism could have an adverse effect on the contestants, Vineeta said, “Of course, everybody gets hurt by criticism and some people are more sensitive than others. But having said that, as a breed, what I have generally seen is that entrepreneurs are extremely resilient and they have high conviction. Of all the people, entrepreneurs can handle criticism and rejections the best because it is something that we learn day in and day out.” She also cited the example of some pitchers that were ‘very feisty’ and handled the criticism ‘with a lot of grace’.
Also read: Anupam Mittal admits ego was hurt when Ashneer Grover undermined him on Shark Tank saying ‘he built 1 brand, I built 3’
Vineeta also talked about her own entrepreneurial journey. At the age of 23, when she was a fresh graduate from IIM (Indian Institute of Management) Ahmedabad, she turned down a job offer worth ₹1 crore to start her own business. She called the first decade ‘very hard’.
“I was literally bootstrapping a company without any external fundraising. That whole hand-to-mouth existence where you are making far less than what you would have made if you had taken up a job was a harsh reality to come to terms with,” she said, adding that this phase ‘really shaped who (she was) as a person’ and helped her stay grounded.