New Delhi: In a bid to cash in on the start-up boom in the country, Colors Infinity has launched a comprehensive marketing campaign for its ongoing reality television series Shark Tank. Colors Infinity is the English entertainment channel of Viacom18 Media Pvt. Ltd which operates Colors, MTV and Nick, among others.
The show that came to India in January this year features aspiring entrepreneur contestants making business presentations to a panel of “shark” investors, who then decide whether they want to invest in any of the enterprises or not. Although the American show features only foreign contestants, the channel is going all out to promote the show in India.
“It’s very much in keeping with the mood of the entire country and the Start-Up India and Make in India initiatives launched by the Prime Minister,” said Ferzad Palia, executive vice-president, Viacom18, and head of its Youth and English entertainment. “The country has evolved from just being driven by the aspiration to work for a large corporate or get into the professional role of a doctor or a lawyer, to now reaching a point where start-ups are welcome and actually celebrated. The number of opportunities today have increased manifold, be it brick-and-mortar, digital, or anything else. It’s an extremely relevant show for us because it captures the mood of the country perfectly. There was no better time to launch this,” said Palia.
On 7 March, Mint had reported that over 600 investments were made in start-ups in 2015, with private equity and venture capital investments in the Indian market touching an all-time high of close to 1,049 deals, according to the fourth edition of Grant Thornton report, The Fourth Wheel 2016.
To promote the show, the English entertainment channel has partnered with several institutions across the country such as the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIM-B), Shri Ram College of Commerce, New Delhi, and Narsee Monjee College of Commerce and Economics, Mumbai, to conduct leading sessions where real venture capitalists (VCs) will interact with bright minds and potential entrepreneurs. Industry stalwarts at IIM-B will approve the ideas shortlisted from a nationwide contest inviting proposals for seed funding.
“We’re partnering with as many institutions as we can to fuel entrepreneurship and creativity,” Palia said. “Somewhere down the line, we might expand this into our own competition where there is a great possibility of us funding start-ups ourselves, though that is a more medium- to long-term plan.”
A consumer outreach programme has also been planned across 200 Café Coffee Day outlets and 75 premium outlets, including bars, pubs, food and beverage hangouts, salons, bookstores and gyms that will activate contextualized Shark Tank branding. There are plans for an outdoor campaign in Mumbai, DTH (direct-to-home) campaigns through spots and EPG (electronic programme guide) banners across Tata Sky, Dish TV and Airtel DTH, print advertisements and a radio campaign in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore.
“For example, 94.3 FM in Mumbai is interviewing some start-ups which have already made it big. So the entire set of listeners can gain from that,” Palia said. “We’re just trying to use every possible touch-point to create awareness and excitement about entrepreneurship and, of course, the show itself.”
The other elaborate plan is for “shark rides”, an adaptation of the “elevator pitch” idea, where an entrepreneur will get a few traffic lights to make an impression on a real VC. Around 900 cabs in Mumbai and Delhi will be branded during this campaign.
“The biggest barrier for start-ups today is inertia. A lot of people have great ideas but they don’t know how to take it to fruition. In fact, most of the guys that actually want to start a company are not very business-minded,” Palia said. “The idea is to get them to talk to ‘sharks’, essentially people who have gone through the red-tape, taken a few hits in life and been through struggle. So this is almost a kind of semi-mentorship. But it is done in a very casual way because we want to encourage more youth towards entrepreneurship.”
To be sure, this isn’t the first phase of marketing investment in Shark Tank, nor is it the first show to take to a marketing campaign to amplify its impact. Earlier, shows like Top Chef and Game of Thrones did the same.
“It has become sort of fashionable for niche television programmes to carry out marketing campaigns,” said Vimal Parthasarathy, senior principal partner, South and West, Media – Dentsu Media, the media arm of integrated advertising agency Dentsu India Group. “They will have to compete with series such as the Indian Premier League and the Twenty20 World Cup which have also invested serious amounts of money. But I don’t think shows like Shark Tank are driven by numbers. It would be more interesting to see, for example, the kind of conversations it inspires on social media.”
Parthasarathy said Shark Tank is timed right and is spot-on in terms of content, even though it hasn’t done extraordinarily well yet. But that is true for the English entertainment genre in India as a whole where a bunch of middling shows exist as a beehive and only a couple like Desperate Housewives and The Big Bang Theory stand out, he added.
“The challenge for such shows lies not in securing advertiser backing but in gaining audience approval,” Parthasarathy said.