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My leadership learnings and regrets: Shark Tank India tested every ounce of my inner strength

This is the third article in a series published every week, where Namita Thapar, Executive Director, Emcure Pharmaceuticals relives her experiences as a Shark on Shark Tank India. Here, she points out why it’s important to stay kind and grounded and invest only if one believes in the cause.

My leadership learnings and regrets: Shark Tank India tested every ounce of my inner strength

Tuesday February 08, 2022 , 5 min Read

It’s not easy to step out of your comfort zone and put yourself in the public eye just for supporting a cause.

It’s not easy to put in 14-hour shoots and stay away from your family for several weekends in a row. It’s not easy to stay thick-skinned when you are brutally and mercilessly trolled, but can you stay true to your conviction, keep reminding yourself of why you took this up and continue to stay authentic? Shark Tank India tested every ounce of my inner strength both during the shoot and during the airing of the show!

The Renal Project

Namita Thapar

I learned that it is always important to stay kind and grounded, to invest only if you believe in the cause and can add value, to stay humble and keep learning. Did I make my share of mistakes and judgement errors? At times did I play it safe rather than take risky bets? Of course, I did, but as we evolve as leaders it’s important to learn to show our vulnerability, accept our regrets graciously, and keep improving and growing.

The entire shoot ended by December 12, 2021, and the show launched on December 20. I saw around 170 pitches and invested Rs 10 crore in 25 companies that touched my heart. I invested Rs 7 crore during the show and Rs 3 crore post the show in deals I had lost out on and in a few existing deals to increase my stake.

I invested based on a well-thought framework:

Below are the criteria I look at while deciding where to invest:

1. Founder - I should see that fire in the belly, drive, sincerity, and humility in the founders and feel excited to join their journey.

2. Cause – It should solve a deep-rooted problem.

3. Proof of Concept – I like companies that have at least Rs 1-2 crore in sales so that they have established credibility and gained customer insights. Founders who have had their share of hard knocks through launching their business will rarely fumble when asked questions. They will always be on top of their numbers on market size and competition.

4. Expertise - I should be able to help in terms of my expertise of manufacturing, global distribution, marketing and finance.

5. Networks - I should feel the founder can benefit from my immense network in terms of investors (for future fund raise) and business leaders across diverse industries who can collaborate with the founders of my portfolio companies.

6. Fun factor - I should find the product fun and trendy and feel excited to be a part of that industry.

Of course, I have a special interest in healthcare deals and ventures with women founders.

My deepest gratitude goes to a mentor like Sanjeev Bikhchandani (Info Edge Ltd) and a friend like Sandeep Murthy (Lightbox Ventures) who guided me on my investment framework.

Deals where the causes touched my heart include Altor helmet (a smart helmet that helps to avoid accidents, reports accidents and gives a driving risk score to its users), Thinkerbell Labs (a teaching aid/ device for the visually impaired), AAS Vidyalaya (a tech platform for increasing literacy rate in sixth to 10th graders), Brainwired (a device and app to manage livestock health and help farmers), Rare Planet (a platform that promotes Indian handicrafts), Watt Technologies (a super smart teen who wants to keep innovating and solving problems), and Kabaddi Adda (promotes the sport kabaddi).

Deals where my expertise, specifically in healthcare would help - Menstrupedia (breaking taboos around periods, which can be expanded to include women's health issues), The Renal Project (making dialysis affordable in Tier II and III cities), Spandan (a portable home care ECG device that can screen for heart ailments), Beyond Water (mix in water and fortified with vitamins and electrolytes), TagZ Foods (healthy snacking options) and Colour Me Mad (insoles to help with foot problems).

Deals that involved fun products where my networks would help them scale - Auli Lifestyle (luxury skincare), Skippi IcePops (cool ice pops), Wakao Foods (jackfruit non-meat food alternative), Nuutjob (male hygiene products), Bummer (inner wear brand), Nomad (gourmet food spreads) In a can (alcohol mixer drinks), Find Your Kicks (sneaker reseller platform), Storage Company (a pan India storage service), Cocofitc (coconut concentrate franchise), Sneakare (sneaker storage and accessories) and Farda (streetwear brand).

For all my deals, I definitely don’t plan on being a passive investor. I want to be their mentor, sounding board, help them with my business acumen and networks, celebrate their journeys and help them scale.

But what about the missed opportunities?? As future leaders we need to champion not just founders who can scale and make money for us but also those who have tremendous potential, are working on a real problem but don’t have the right mentorship to gain traction in their business. Jugaadu Kamlesh and Pandurang of Agro Tourism were both Maharashtrian farmers out to solve real problems but due to lack of right guidance hadn’t made sales.

Leaders like me need to be bold, back such founders and ensure they become a success so that entrepreneurship doesn’t just become the dream of the ones with the right education and resources but even of the common man. This is one of our core responsibilities as business leaders who have been blessed with power and privilege, who people look up to... and not investing in Kamlesh and Pandurang remain my biggest regrets at Shark Tank India.

As John Ruskin says, “The highest reward for man’s toil is not what he gets for it, but what he becomes by it.” I hope I have become a stronger and a more evolved leader thanks to this gratifying and memorable experience.

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