After a massively successful Season 1 of Shark Tank India, we’re definitely expecting a host of energetic new entrepreneurs to give the show’s iconic Sharks a run for their money, quite literally. However, with the blueprint in place, it’s important to ask one question: What exactly goes through a Shark’s head during a pitch? What kind of attributes are they looking for, and what kind of mistakes will they detect?

Fortunately, we’ve asked these questions for you in a conversation with Shaadi.com CEO and practised investor Anupam Mittal. With a keen eye for good businesses and a level-headed approach to investing, the Shark shared his insights on how he decides the worth of a startup pitch—and whether it deserves funding or a visit back to the drawing board.

“I’ve been doing this for a while, so I can give you a very long answer,” contemplates Mittal. “I like to use a framework called the T5 model, and it really depends on which stage the company is in.”

In simple terms, Mittal’s T5 model condenses the entire worth of the startup into five key fields—three for smaller companies with less-developed ideas. This turns the overwhelming task of business valuation into a simplified, stage-by-stage process, one that has guided Mittal through 24 successful deals across the length of Shark Tank India, Season 1.

Let’s go through each of his parameters, ranked by importance as per the show’s format:

 

1. Total Market

Card Transaction
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“How big can the potential market be for this product?” asks Mittal. “Meaning, if I put in 10 lakhs today, am I one day going to make 10 crores?”

Mittal’s point here elucidates the basic concept all investors need to understand: a product or service is only as good as its scalability across a wide market of potential customers. Whether we’re talking about low-cost internet startups, high-cost niche goods, or even modern DTC brand ideas, Mittal realizes that in a business as risky as capital investment, a highly marketable product is exceedingly important to include in an investment portfolio.

“I want to see a company that can return at least 100x, because 90 percent of my companies are going to fail. So if I need 510x of my capital, then I need ten companies to return me 100x, right?

That’s the startup game,” he concludes.

2. Team

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While a marketable idea is worth considering, no business plan, no matter how good, can function without human intuitiveness and willpower to back it up.

“Does the team have the perseverance?” asks Mittal. “Have they done something exceptional in their life which demonstrates this? They could have gone to a very tough college and been very good at competitive exams or sports, or taken up a project that delivered very well.  I’m looking for some evidence of that.”

3. Timing

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Is the market ready for a product like that?” muses Mittal. He does have a point here—much of Mittal’s own success with Shaadi.com was a byproduct of the dot-com boom of the 2000s, despite the founder registering his business way back in the 1990s.

To further illustrate his point, he calls upon one of his own Shark Tank investments, Nuutjob,which we also interviewed at length.

“If you think about Nuutjob, most certainly you’re seeing a lot of attention towards beauty and personal care [these days], with men getting more and more conscious.”

This is a fact highlighted by the startup’s founders as well. The Maloo sisters realized that the time was right to launch their business idea and make a men’s intimate hygiene product after other startups laid down the foundations of male grooming culture in India across the 2010s.

“I think this is a hygiene-slash-grooming product that has an opportunity because there are not a lot of players in this space, but the BPC space (Beauty and Personal Care) is certainly growing by leaps and bounds,” shares Mittal.

4. Technology

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While tech can vary heavily between different startup models, it does serve as a metric that’s well worth considering. Especially in the pandemic, several startups have risen that took new spins on web-based tech solutions for healthcare, education, logistics, and more.

 “I want to see what differentiator they are creating using technology,” he explains.

 

5. Traction

Trending Charts
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Finally, traction. This refers to the various metrics and market figures that when trending, indicate the potential a product has in its target market’s public consciousness. “When I’m evaluating if a company is beyond sort of the very early stage, then I want to see how their metrics are trending.”

While Mittal emphasizes the importance of the first three ‘Ts’ of his investment model, he admits that ‘traction’ and ‘technology’ aren’t as important—at least for startups looking to appear on Shark Tank. “It’s harder for us to figure that out in the tank because on average we spend just about 45 minutes and that too, you’re competing with four other sharks. So it’s not that easy.”

“That’s sort of my T5 model,” concludes Mittal with a smile. “At least that’s how I look at investments.”

 

(Featured Image Credit: Sony Pictures Networks)