Shark Tank India: No Fishy Business

11 Feb,2022



By Shailesh Kapoor


Shailesh KapoorLast week saw the end of a seven-week first season of Sony’s new show Shark Tank India. The show, a worthy adaptation of the successful international format that goes by the same name, managed to get the social media buzzing. Through memes, reviews and other ancillary content, Shark Tank India has become a favourite among digital content creators in India. The Sony LIV app even has a separate Shark Tank tab, which is tell-tale sign that the show has been a digital success.


The television performance, however, has been less-than-flattering. In a tough weekday 9pm slot, the show didn’t find much traction in the mass television audience, touching only the 0.5% rating mark in urban Hindi-speaking markets. One hopes that the show’s economics are good enough for a next season, and a few more. Because Shark Tank India is arguably the best new show that may have come up in the Hindi non-fiction space in a while.


The Hindi non-fiction market is almost entirely driven by franchise shows, some of which are in their double-digited seasons now. While they make for comfort viewing and enjoy a loyal fan base, they certainly do not provide freshness. Before Shark Tank, Color’s live singing reality show Rising Star (first season in 2017) was the last successful new non-fiction format to be introduced in India. That show has not returned post-pandemic.


But Rising Star was also a talent show, a genre that now has so many shows that it’s difficult to keep track. There are at least half a dozen Hindi shows with Dance or Dancer in their names. Then there are the singing shows, and the those on talent in general, like the recently-launched India’s Got Talent and Hunarbaaz. Many talent shows rate fairly well, and have good reasons to be on TV. But they do not raise the bar. They are the safe, low-risk options, even at their high costs. Even on streaming, the non-fiction experimentation has been stilted. Most attempts have been in the comedy talent space.


I have to say I was a bit surprised when I first heard that Shark Tank will get a Hindi GEC adaptation. To use the show’s terminology, the TAM (Total Addressable Market) is only a small fraction of the Hindi GEC audience universe in urban India, given how little the weightage of the metro cities is in the mix. And how much can you ‘mass-ify’ the Shark Tank format anyway, when its essence is rooted in the idea that it caters to a niche? But then, you add the streaming factor to the mix, and the decision to do the show begins to make more sense.


But for the dull Rannvijay interludes, designed only to cater to monetisation demands, the show makes for engaging viewing. The sharks have their individual and distinctive personalities, and the unmistakable Delhi vibe in some of them provides the entertainment quotient without taking away from the purposeful idea of the show. The pitches ranged from banal to interesting to inspiring, and will only get better with subsequent seasons.


Corporate India has been poorly represented in our entertainment. Except some online shows, mostly produced by TVF, authentic portrayal of the corporate world in mainstream media has been conspicuous by its absence. And on the rare occasion when it’s done, it’s generally been broadstroked and lame (“I have an important presentation today”).


I’m not entirely sure if Shark Tank India can fuel the entrepreneurial culture in India in the short run. But it can build awareness in that direction, over a few seasons. But what the show has done already, in just one season, is to push the envelope in the stagnating Hindi non-fiction space on Hindi television and streaming categories. And that’s no mean achievement.

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