There’s a new Shark in town. Fresh off Shark Tank India’s successful season one run and ahead of season two, it was announced that Bharat Pe’s Ashneer Grover will be making way for CarDekho group’s (formerly Girnarsoft) Amit Jain.
The head honcho of publications such as CarDekho, ZigWheels and PowerDrift, Jain is a titan in the auto industry, with his company gaining unicorn status back in 2021. Hailing from a conservative household and humble beginnings — his father worked in a bank and grandfather, as a government servant — Jain now sits atop a net worth of Rs 2,900 crore. From having a family-owned ice cream parlour, to pivoting to a gemstone business, entrepreneurship has always been a part of Jain’s upbringing and blood. We sat down with the new shark to understand his love for cars and to get a peek inside the popular competitive show’s much-awaited second season. Excerpts:
What made you get into the automotive sector?
I’ve always liked cars and dreamed about building a billion-dollar company. So, back in 2008, we decided to visit the Auto Expo. While I liked what I saw, there wasn’t much information about the showcased products online. This is where the idea for CarDekho was born. We started by collecting brochures of different cars and then built a site. At the time, we had multiple websites, but this one became more popular than the others in no time.
There are around 100 unicorns in India, but only 18 of them have made a profit. Why is that?
You have to have a strong foundation to build things on top. We at CarDekho, for example, are also not married to a particular idea. We’re married to creating experiences that are sustainable and profit pools, eventually. So, the goal is to build a large organisation and then have profit pools in them. For instance, our auto insurance business is nearing break-even. Even though I am a risk taker, I take very calculated risks because I don’t want to risk my employees. Just following on this foundation, the algorithm suggests that we’re going to grow 70 per cent this year. This should help us in breaking even by next March.
When you started your business, it was a different time economically. If you had to start again today with all your learning, what business would you choose to get into and how will you get started?
I am happy with what I have done; I wouldn’t want to shift. I liked the pace of building it up. I’ve liked learning each year and according to me, that is more exciting. There are a lot of ideas in different segments/sectors but one needs to pick and choose what one wants to do because when you do too many things at the same time, you will only scratch the surface. To cut the cake you have to insert the knife.
What was your reaction when Shark Tank approached you for season two?
I was very excited. I live in Jaipur and meet a lot of people, ranging from 10-year-olds to 50-year-olds, and I realised that everybody is watching Shark Tank and talking about entrepreneurship. Children are pitching among themselves. Earlier we were taught job security, but now, all of a sudden, entrepreneurship has become a new stream and reaching every household. It’s a new India. I thought I can create an impact through this show by reaching millions. I see so many founders coming on the show who are like me. Coming from a small town, I have learned business the hard way and all of my 15 years of wisdom can be passed on. I feel, I got a voice through this show, from where I can reach out to the country, and I think this platform is great.
What, according to you, made the Indian audience so receptive towards Shark Tank?
People can relate to the show. In Shark Tank, people like us present a business pitch and get funds from the sharks so it becomes very relatable and people feel that they can also do it. We don’t get that relatability in soap operas. It also provides a great learning experience. Parents’ acceptability with their children getting into startups also increases. Earlier, parents used would hide it if their children were involved in any startup business, but now, they proudly accept it. A lot has changed in India. I think the show plays a very meaningful role in changing the mindsets of people. Anybody who goes on Shark Tank gets a voice in front of the entire country. But I think the show is bigger than any individual –– right now, it’s just a platform for me to convey my thoughts.
If an entrepreneur has to pitch you something, what should they keep in mind?
First, the vision of the idea — how big is the market and how big is their vision. Second, how is the value system in the company structured? The value system is what keeps you intact, it should reflect hard work, persistence, and resilience.
Who was your favourite Shark from the first season and why?
I liked all the Sharks, but if I had to pick it would be Peyush (Bansal). He is sorted, structured and a techie like me. I liked the investments he made last year. They were cause-driven and will help the nation move forward.
Any piece of advice for the young entrepreneurs out there, who are aspiring to become a big name like you?
I have two pieces of advice. Solve something that you closely relate to, and solve a problem that you have personally faced. By doing this, your passion to solve it will be much higher. Second, don’t get into a startup just for the sake of it. Most startups are just concerned about the valuation. Like I said before, identify and understand the issues in the market and then try to solve them. There are tons of opportunities available. Don’t chase valuation. Create the playbook, make it work, and then raise money to expand rather than expand something and then run after money to survive.