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MUMBAI : Judges, or so-called ‘Sharks’, who are part of the Indian version of the global Shark Tank show, have already funded close to 100 entrepreneurs from smaller towns in India, many of whom are women. The show will be telecast on weekdays, beginning 20 December.

Sony Pictures Networks India has acquired the rights to the Indian version of the global business reality format Shark Tank, which allows budding entrepreneurs to make pitches to judges who, in turn, cut cheques for a stake in the company if impressed with the business models and founders. Shark Tank India has seven judges.

“Over the past three months of shooting, the judges have collectively funded close to 100 such entrepreneurs," said Anupam Mittal, one of the ‘Sharks’ on the Indian show, in an interaction with VCCircle. The judges are putting their own money, and the average ticket size ranges from a few lakh rupees to a crore, Mittal added.

Mittal, also the founder of Shaadi.com, pointed out that while most of the funding into the ecosystem typically goes to founders who have come out of elite universities, the entrepreneurs who appear in Shark Tank India are “people who are not coming from IITs and IIMs".

“These people are coming from tier-2 and 3 towns with very big dreams and aspirations. They just don’t have the sort of ‘pedigree’—if you want to call it that—from an educational standpoint. They didn’t have the access until now because they would never be able to reach a VC themselves," he said.

The judges have screened “thousands of entrepreneurs" till date, Sony Entertainment Television network executives told mediapersons on Thursday. And these comprise a very diverse group, the judges told the media.

“It is really heartening to see the diversity and the kind of entrepreneurs that are coming on the show. The kind of entrepreneurs that are getting funded, I can guarantee you that 95% of these wouldn’t have gotten funding if they had chased mainstream sources of funding," said Vineeta Singh, co-founder of SUGAR Cosmetics. She, too, is a judge on the show.

Singh recalled that when she started out as an entrepreneur 15 years ago, “if you were not a male engineer with the last name Bansal, then you couldn’t really get funding". But the judges on the show had invested in a diverse set of founders including one started by “a 60-year-old woman", she added.

Another judge, Namita Thapar, who is executive director at IPO-bound Emcure Pharmaceuticals, cited a Harvard Business Review figure, which said that only 2.3% of female founders get startup funding.

“The number of women that have come on Shark Tank as founders, co-founders and who have pitched, and walked away with deals, is a very high percentage," Thapar said.

Peeyush Bansal, co-founder at unicorn Lenskart and one of the judges of on the show, said that the audience will see how businesses are getting developed at “every nook and corner of the country".

“You hear news only about the startups that manage to make it big, or about the internet businesses. But these businesses (who make news) need not always be good. One takeaway for me was the kind of problems that people are solving... with so little resources. This should be something new for the audience as well," he said.

Shanti Mohan, co-founder of angel network Lets Venture, added: “I believe that Shark Tank India will not only inspire more entrepreneurs and investors but also lead to a cultural shift in how Indian households perceive entrepreneurship as a viable career opportunity."

ranjani.raghavan@livemint.com

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