Prime Video’s new reality show Mission Start Ab premieres on December 19. Conceptualised in collaboration with the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, the series features 10 early-stage entrepreneurs who go through several challenging tasks over 7 episodes to win ‘the deal of a lifetime.’ Participants will find rooted solutions to problems specific to the Indian market, all while receiving mentorship from three of India’s leading investors Kunal Bahl (co-founder, Snapdeal and Titan Capital), Anisha Singh (founder, She Capital, and founder/former CEO, MyDala), and Manish Chowdhary (co-founder, WOW Skin Science).
We caught up with Singh and Chowdhary to learn more about their journey in India’s startup ecosystem and what entrepreneurs can expect from the show.
Anisha, She Capital aims to change the bias against women entrepreneurs. Can you tell us how the gender gap affects women-led ventures?
I started She Capital because there is a huge disparity in the funding that goes to female founders. No matter what is said and done, at the end of the day, there is a bias and it shows. So She Capital was formed to solve for that. Being the optimist that I am, I really do believe that the startup ecosystem in India is more conducive to building more diversely than any other place in the world. We’re seeing that happen actively. At She Capital, we only invest in diverse, women-led or women-focused businesses; that's been our goal – to help balance out what is not balanced.
Only 2% of funding globally goes to female founders. In India, we saw it increase to 17% last year, which is very heartening to see.
What are some common challenges that women entrepreneurs face in India?
Singh: I don't want to talk about the challenges, I want to talk about the positives. As women, we need to change that narrative. Today, we have more female founders than ever before. Focusing on the positives is what’s going to get us to closer to bridging the gap. Never before have we had such strong support networks for founders. If you as a female founder and are looking to startup, now is the best time; there are government grants, networks, venture funds, and so much more. I started over a decade ago and the difference I’m seeing in the startup ecosystem is stark and very positive, not just for female founders but founders in general.
Manish, WOW Skin Science was one of the earliest seller partners in the beauty space on Amazon.in. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey?
We were among the first new age health and beauty brand to launch on Amazon.in when it launched in India in 2013. A decade later, I'm on Amazon Prime Video’s first startup business show. I recognise how inspirational this could potentially be to sellers, new age brands, or businesses who rely on Amazon.in to reach customers. Amazon has positively impacted the livelihoods of many entrepreneurs and small businesses in India over the last decade. For WOW Skin Science, we’ve seen success not just in India but in markets like the U.S. as well thanks to Amazon. I am glad to now be on this show to give back to the ecosystem. The best part about Mission Start Ab is the focus on tier 2 and tier 3 entrepreneurs, who will be the heroes of the show.
What advice would you give budding entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
Chowdhary: I love this quote: All we need is that one person who says, ‘I'm watching your back’. Gen Z entrepreneurs are very different from millennial ones. They were born in the golden age of the internet where instant gratification is the norm, and so they are sometimes impatient to ‘make it’ superfast. To them I will say, starting up is all about the long game and how resilient you can be. Being an entrepreneur, you have to accept that there will be situations where you will have to embrace failure. It's all about being strong mentally.
Gen Z entrepreneurs, remember that you are at an age where you have a license to fail and only if you fail, will you have an opportunity to know what you can do better.
Singh: I think it's great to have role models to look up to
What was your overall experience on the show and what are you most excited about?
Singh: You can tell when a good show is being made, and more importantly, being made with heart. The journey of the founders on the show comes through in a very beautiful and real way. Many of them are from small towns and have so much grit and determination; they are from Bharat, building for Bharat and the world. It’s been very inspiring and I'm grateful to have been a part of the show. All three of the us (the investors), as well as the hosts (Masaba Gupta and Cyrus Broacha) have deep respect for the founders and I hope this comes through. It's not easy to do what they are doing, and I hope everybody can see that when they watch the show.
Chowdhary: I'm a camera-shy guy, and having 26 cameras pointing at me every day made me feel like a celebrity. I wasn’t used to it but the teams at Prime Video and Endemol did a top-notch job of getting the best out of everyone. I'm really excited for people to watch it.
What is on your Prime Video watch list?
Chowdhary: I want to see the next season of Farzi and Family Man.
Singh: I'm a big fan of Family Man too. I've also downloaded Four More Shots, Please! so I'm going to get to that soon.