Bharat ki betiyan on Shark Tank India

This is the second from a series to be published every week where Namita Thapar, Executive Director – Emcure Pharmaceuticals relives her ‘moments’ as a Shark on Shark Tank India. Here, she talks of the incredible women entrepreneurs she met on the show.

In a country where the female workforce participation has come down from 37 percent to 27 percent to as low as 16.1 percent during the pandemic, what irks me more than this shocking statistic is ‘Indians in denial mode’.

When a country has such dismal statistics, what is needed is for more women to speak up, for their voices to be heard, their opinions, and biases to be highlighted and most importantly, a non-judgmental society that doesn’t instantly label their "speaking up” as ‘self-victimising feminist behaviour’.

Well, if things were that much in the past, we would not have such workforce participation numbers nor would we have global numbers like the fact that only 2.3 percent women-led ventures got funded in 2020.

So, can we get out of denial mode and into action mode?

Do women still get judged sometimes directly, sometimes in hushed tones on:

Will she come back after her maternity leave or get too attached to the baby?

Will she relocate if her husband does?

Will she be able to put in the long hours and travel the job demands?

Will she be able to handle harsh feedback?

All of the above and more are harsh realities even today and not just things of the past.

The good thing about Shark Tank India is that many of these issues were addressed head on and the show gave a platform to feisty women entrepreneurs to showcase their talent, drive, and resilience and get funded.

Namita with Aishwarya Biswas, founder of skincare brand, Auli

Here are the feisty women I loved interacting with on the show -

·     Rakhi Pal of Eventbeep who shared that she was okay with her family disowning her but she would not give up on her dreams.

·     Aishwarya Biswas of skincare brand Auli who refused to accept the feedback that she needed a co-founder and could not go solo – her comeback was, of course she could go solo.

·     Jayanti Bhattacharya of India Hemp and Company who was upset when she was told her venture seemed like a hobby. If the Sharks could be blunt and ask tough questions, why couldn’t she? After all, it’s her equity she was taking a call on.

·     Aditi Gupta of Menstrupedia talking about how she would break taboos around periods, no matter what it took.

·     Purva Aggarwal of Good Good Piggy who did not shed a single tear and kept smiling even after over 20 minutes of the harshest feedback I have personally witnessed in a long time!

·     Rubal Chib of QZense who took offence on being told she was wasting the Sharks’ time and spoke up in clear terms of how her eight months pregnant co-founder Srishti Batra would not drive all the way from Bengaluru, if they didn’t believe in the venture. Yes, the valuation asked for was unrealistic but they were not here to waste the Sharks’ time.

·     Anushree and Ananya Maloo of Nuutjob, two young girls from Ahmedabad who spoke openly on national television about their business venture focused on male intimate hygiene not just inspired by but fully supported by their fathers!

It wasn’t just limited to these stories of women speaking up but there were so many others who broke stereotypes by sharing their stories and journeys…. my favourite ones being the sisters-in-law from Darbhanga making JhaJi pickles, the way the women rattled off MBA buzzwords would put even seasoned investors to shame.

Sanskriti Dawle, CEO of Thinkerbell Labs was incredible in the way she stood her ground and negotiated with five fierce sharks and got her desired valuation, was pure joy to watch. At Shark Tank India 49 percent ventures that got funded had women co-founders and 15 percent ventures funded had solo woman founders.

Not just the three women Sharks, but all the male sharks sincerely funded the women entrepreneurs who showed potential on the show.

But what needs to change is – firstly, stop being in denial and accept that these dismal statistics needed to change; secondly, stop labelling and judging, have a more accepting support system for women and most importantly, speak up, and have more women role models.

Let’s pledge to change these statistics and mindsets. I am proud to be part of a show that truly showcased stories of courage and candour that touched our hearts and hopefully busted stereotypes and changed many mindsets along the way.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)