Anupam Mittal: The Sutradhar

Shark Tank India Judge and Founder and CEO, Shaadi.com - People Group

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By Punita Sabharwal

Shot by Subi Samuel for Entrepreneur India

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The founder of Shaadi.com and the angel investor in hundreds of startups suddenly got the celeb mode on when he entered Shark Tank. Anupam Mittal has been one of the most sought-after investors in the startup ecosystem in India and that's the image he has been able to carry forward while being one of the sharks on Shark Tank India, the reality TV show aired on Sony Channel. The entrepreneur-investor found the experience truly an eye-opener as he connected with the founders of real Bharat rather than just being reached out for investment by people who were privileged to get access to him. Talking about the same and the fame he earned as a shark, Mittal mentions, "For me, that was a great reminder of the sort of staying close to the ground. Prior to Shark Tank Season One, people knew my name already but we were not celebrities. We wouldn't ever get mobbed on the streets and we wouldn't have people trembling when they came to us to take photos. But after season one, that's what started to happen. I'm not going to run away from it, I enjoyed it."

The first-time innocent, second-time prepared pitchers this season came from all across India. They saw pitchers from Raipur, Aurangabad, Ahmadabad, and many such cities. Talking about the investment world, which is going through a crisis globally, Mittal says, "Early-stage funding has dropped by 70-75% by some estimates even in India. In this situation, during season two, we invested in 102 companies, which is 50% more than what we invested last year. I think that sends a very strong signal to founders and to the world that India is open for business."

Talking about the world of social media, wherein content is built in an entertaining fashion and the same goes for reality TV shows wherein business plans were discussed in an entertaining and educating manner. According to Mittal, "Being boring is the biggest crime in the 21st century. We have a way of making it entertaining for people while we still do the in-depth analysis. So you still get the substance but in a lot of styles."

As a shark, Mittal would have listened to almost 400 pitches and at times gets amazed by their marketing skills, wherein social media plays an important role. He finds it amazing how people market products there without spending much money. As per him, "We have been spending a lot on traditional media as a brand. We have spent on television and digital media for performance marketing. But I see people running 20-30 crore businesses with just social media marketing, without spending money. It made us rethink our entire strategy and we've doubled up massively in the last few months on social media. Not on the performance side, but on the social media engagement side." Some 20-year-olds are running the social media game for Shaadi.com.

A lot of bootstrapped small businesses with sizable turnover have come to Shark Tank in Season 2. On what makes it the popular platform, Mittal acknowledges, "They're not going to VCs because they're scared of them. They're coming to us because first of all, they're getting a national platform. And secondly, because they think we can provide them the guidance and mentorship to take them to the next level without actually digging our claws into them." Anupam Mittal has so far invested in close to 270 odd startups. Out of which about 40-50 would be of Shark Tank in two seasons.

Being an investor, Mittal further utilized his social media presence to reach the startup community in a bigger way. He launched 'Dream Deal' on Instagram and got about 200 entries, and later picked three of them and gave them a grant without any equity. The money was given to create a proof of concept of the idea. Interestingly, one of them further built it in the form of a sizable business and came to pitch on Shark Tank Season 2.

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Punita Sabharwal

Deputy Editor, Entrepreneur India Magazine

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