Prime Video’s new reality show Mission Start Ab, conceptualised in collaboration with the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, features 10 early-stage entrepreneurs who go through several challenging tasks over 7 episodes to win ‘the deal of a lifetime' - mentorship and funding from industry stalwarts Kunal Bahl, Anisha Singh, and Manish Chowdhary.
However, for Aparna Purohit, Head of Originals, India and SEA, Prime Video, the series is rooted in following the humane journey of the founders, their challenges and rise to the obstacles. In an interview with SheThePeople, Purohit delves more into the conceptualisation of the show while discovering entrepreneurs from diverse parts of our country.
She adds, "India has one of the world’s largest start-up ecosystems and is one of the fastest-growing entrepreneurial ecosystems in the world. Millions in our country are dreaming of being entrepreneurs, making it so much more aspirational. But it makes a special kind of entrepreneur to create a unicorn. When we were conceptualising Mission Start, we were very clear that we wanted to have a diverse group of people who have a good idea, are early-stage founders and are seeking funding to scale up.
We wanted to design a show that could put some of these founders through a rigorous process, and craft the challenges to stimulate real-life entrepreneurial scenarios, their ability to communicate their vision correctly, and how they work within their team. Hence, the series follows a human journey, their conviction, their determination and how they finally go about securing their funding."
In a way Mission Start Ab serves as a window into the harsh realities faced by founders, offering viewers a realistic portrayal of their entrepreneurial journey. The series also features special cameos from industry leaders such as Ritesh Agarwal, Rohit Shetty, Riyaaz Amlani, Zeenah Vilcassim, Nilesh Kothari, and Saikiran Krishnamurthy. Masaba Gupta and Cyrus Sahukar host the show.
Anisha Singh, Founder of She Capital, believes the founder ecosystem has changed drastically over the years. Entrepreneurial minds have become more robust and 'want to do much more for Bharat'. 'Shows like this show you the grit and the passion, years of hard work to get to where they are and you can see the behind-the-scenes. There's so much passion that goes into the startup industry. What I also love about the show is ab tak you only heard success stories so at some point the narrative shifted from Bollywood where people often looked up to actors like Aamir Khan or Shahrukh Khan, but now suddenly they are looking up to Vijay Shekhar or Sachin Bansal.'
Singh, who is also on the dias as one of the investors-judges of Mission Start Ab, says the most striking quality of a founder is their courage. Hence, that is what she looked up while hearing the pitches. "The founder has to be building something that's needed, that is the need of the hour. But I think more than anything when you are looking at this stage which is an earlier phase, you are looking at the founder and you believe in their passion and courage because this journey is very hard. It is never going to be linear, there will be highs and downs. We are looking for someone who can keep getting up and make it through."
Tackling workplace stereotypes
Tech is for boys, and women are good at secretarial jobs -- we all have heard such gendered notions at workplaces. The notion that women often aren’t taken as seriously in workplaces is more than a casual observation and there’s no need to explain why this is harmful for women from crossing gender barriers. While we are gradually crossing many blockades, there's still a long way to go.
Sharing her thoughts on getting away with stereotypes, Aparna says, "A stereotype that I want people to forget now is that 'women are not good with finance, they can't run businesses they just don't know how to manage money.' I want everyone to know that women are now running Fortune 500 companies, we understand money as well as anybody else in the room. The second is that you have to 'be aggressive' to get your work done otherwise it won't happen. I mean it is passe. Women, you can be your authentic self, you can be just yourself and get your work done."
Designer-actor Masaba Gupta shared an anecdote about stereotypes and how she had to tackle gender biases during a corporate talk. She recalled how in a room full of men and women together, the head of the company spewed how women are emotional decision-makers and have softer work ethics. "The thing that women are emotional and are not thinking practically or come from a vulnerability really upsets me. I believe my capability to be sensitive and to feel has saved me in business way more times than it has harmed me. I have been a founder now for 15 years and I have never seen my emotion come in the way of my work; it has only always fuelled my work and helped me."
Women in leadership
There is no definite answer to what great leadership looks like and in an ideal world, we must not draw any gendered lens to it either. However, things are never so easy. Gupta believes everyone carves their own approach when it comes to leadership. "I think that your style of leadership keeps changing as you keep growing because at one point you have to be slightly softer, nurturing the team, building the tribe and then you slightly become a figure in the office that comes and goes but there is an overarching sort of inspiring image you can give as a leader. And there is another kind of leader who is just passive -- you will have to find your style and your rhythm but I have never thought about being less vocal or more vocal in a room full of other people. I just come as I am."
"I think persistence is the key", adds Aparna, "There have been instances where I have been in conference rooms and I haven't even had the opportunity to speak my mind because most of the time I am rustling with my own self-doubts on wondering if it is a silly question? Will I be perceived as somebody who doesn't even understand this? After much deliberation I decided that I would enter that room, I will find a seat at that table and till I make my point no matter what people think about it I'm not leaving that room so I have just persisted. I now understand women are very patient leaders."