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Prime Video’s New Reality Series Answers What Grassroots Innovators Can Do To Become India’s Next Unicorns

‘Mission Start Ab’ a competitive reality series on Prime Video will inspire and guide innovators and entrepreneurs across India, as 10 entrepreneurs will be mentored by industry figures like Kunal Bahl, Anisha Singh and Manish Chowdhary.

Prime Video’s New Reality Series Answers What Grassroots Innovators Can Do To Become India’s Next Unicorns

This article is in collaboration with Prime Video

Prime Video’s Mission Start Ab is a competitive reality series that evaluates 10 early-stage founders and entrepreneurs under the mentorship of three distinguished investors — Kunal Bahl (co-founder Snapdeal and Titan Capital), Anisha Singh (founder She Capital, founder and ex-CEO MyDala), and Manish Chowdhary (co-founder WOW Skin Science). Starting 19 December, the show aims to discover who has the potential to become India’s next unicorn.

During the course of this competition, the competing founders also face challenges featuring prominent faces from the business and entertainment world — such as Ritesh Agarwal (OYO), Rohit Shetty (Filmmaker), Riyaaz Amlani (Impresario Entertainment Hospitality), Zeenah Vilcassim (Zomato Live Entertainment), Nilesh Kothari (Trifecta Capital) and Saikiran Krishnamurthy (xto10x Technologies).

Sushant Sreeram, Country Director, Prime Video India, says Mission Start Ab stemmed from observing the evolution of entrepreneurship in the country. “While there’s a lot of conversation around financial milestones in entertainment, we wanted to create a show that not only highlights these milestones but also showcases the inspiring journeys of entrepreneurs.”

With challenging tasks and mentorship, the show aims to guide and support aspiring innovators nationwide. We decided to pick the brains of Kunal Bahl, a seasoned entrepreneur and investor on the show.

Reflecting on his entrepreneurial journey and how the startup landscape has evolved in India, Kunal tells The Better India, “The landscape for entrepreneurship has drastically changed in the last 16 years. Back then, startups weren’t really a thing — it was either running a business or having a job. But around 2015, the Startup India movement was kickstarted, putting startups on the map. Now, they’re everywhere, changing how we live, from digital payments to home services and shopping.”

Navigating the highs, lows, and realities of startup success

Right from the moment you get up to the moment you sleep, one can see how startups have made life more efficient and convenient. They’ve amped up productivity and, importantly, instilled a sense of pride by showing that Indian startups can serve the world.

Sushant Sreeram, Country Director, Prime Video India.

“It’s not just big cities like Delhi or Bangalore anymore; startups are popping up in the tiniest towns, proving that passion and knowledge have no geographical boundaries,” says Kunal adding that his goal with the Mission Start Ab journey is to democratise this entrepreneurial knowledge.

“The tools for starting a business are available to everyone, so why limit the know-how?” he asks. “I want to showcase the real founder’s journey — the highs, lows, victories, insecurities, and the fact that success isn’t a straight path. It’s meant to inspire those on the fence about starting something of their own.”

For grassroots entrepreneurs, it’s about creating a roadmap, sharing the ups and downs, and demonstrating that success doesn’t always follow a linear path. “And that’s okay,” Kunal adds. He emphasises that in the first couple of years, new businesses face serious resource limitations. That means they often have to pick and choose what to focus on.

But there are a few crucial things they really shouldn’t overlook early on.

Firstly, he says, rushing into an idea without solid research isn’t wise. “Spending a bit of time, maybe around five percent of the total time you plan to invest to thoroughly understand and analyse the idea, is crucial. It might still not work out due to various factors, but having that strong conviction through objective research is key.”

Secondly, staying focused is super important, he adds. “Some founders try juggling multiple projects, hoping one will take off. But spreading yourself thin like that often means you can’t give any single idea the attention it deserves. Focus and discipline are crucial in the early stages.”

Lastly, building a small but highly aligned team that resonates with your values, culture, and vision is vital, he emphasises. “You can’t do everything alone as a founder or even with a small team of two. Having a cohesive team that’s aligned with your researched idea and giving it intense focus is what ultimately leads to a lasting and successful business.”

Kunal opines that when it comes to helping grassroots entrepreneurs, it’s crucial to think beyond just providing capital. Mentorship and knowledge-sharing are key resources that can make a significant difference in addressing their challenges.

Kunal Bahl - co-founder Snapdeal and Tital Capital
Kunal Bahl – co-founder of Snapdeal and Tital Capital

Having supported over 250 startups in the past 12 years, he shares that he has noticed similar patterns of mistakes across different sectors in the startup world.

“By providing mentorship and sharing tribal knowledge, we can boost the likelihood of success for upcoming entrepreneurs. This means more startups succeeding faster, requiring less funding and allowing founders to retain more ownership of their businesses,” he says.

What can India do to help grassroots innovators become its next unicorns

Streaming services like Prime Video, with their vast reach, can play a role in this by using digital media to entertain while also imparting valuable knowledge, Kunal opines. This can inspire and motivate aspiring founders, even those in remote areas, showing them that they don’t need to come from prestigious backgrounds or attend specific meetups to build successful businesses.

Talking about the contestants in Mission Start Ab, he shares that the startup teams are brilliant and well-vetted. However, when faced with tough challenges, their weaknesses often surface. Yet, these challenges serve as invaluable learning experiences, reflecting real-life situations.

“I’ve encountered similar challenges myself as a founder, like getting stuck in traffic and being late for meetings or dealing with unexpected tech glitches during presentations. It’s these kinds of crises that founders experience — including personal hurdles like being introverted and struggling with presentations. But over time, I realised I had to overcome these shortcomings for the sake of my company, team, and investors. I turned my weaknesses into strengths by pushing myself to improve,” he says.

Kunal also calls on founders to shift their focus away from obsessing over Unicorns. In today’s context, being a unicorn, he says, often signifies high valuation. “Instead, what our country truly needs are ‘Indicorns’ — startups designed for India, where success isn’t solely measured by valuation but by the impact they make within our nation,” he remarks.

The key should be the impact these startups create within the country, not just their valuation. Valuation should simply be a result of their revenues and profits, not the ultimate goal. By releasing founders from the pressure of achieving specific valuations within certain timeframes, we can encourage them to build businesses patiently and in a way that ensures their longevity and enduring success, he reveals.

Prime Video’s Mission Start Ab is a competitive reality series that evaluates 10 early-stage founders and entrepreneurs

Prime Video’s “Mission Start Ab” is a competitive reality series that assesses 10 early-stage founders and entrepreneurs.

He adds that this opportunity is especially exciting for energetic, visionary aspiring founders. “Across all sectors, I’m really optimistic about what lies ahead. Lessons have been learned by both investors and founders through various cycles, leading to a sense of maturity, composure, and discipline in the ecosystem. This means we’re now building businesses more patiently, with less capital, aiming to create companies that will last for decades and even generations.”

Catalysts of Change: Mission Start Ab and the Entrepreneurial Mindset

As Prime Video, Sushant says their focus has always been on offering a diverse range of entertainment. Over the last seven years, especially this year, he says they have expanded their slate with an unprecedented number of around 25 originals, showcasing a remarkable diversity in content.

“This philosophy extends to our unscripted programming too. This year, we’ve had a busy run with documentaries and shows that delve into different realms, including the entrepreneurial ecosystem,” he informs.

For the show’s success, we aimed to bring on board investors who not only have a strong financial background but are also passionate about nurturing the ecosystem, he adds. Mission Start Ab focuses on simulations that address pitching products, convincing sceptics about business models, building talented teams, and more. It’s not just about financial input but also about mentorship, says Sushant.

He further emphasises that collaborating with the Principal Scientific Advisor’s office was pivotal for Mission Start Ab. Initially, they aimed to create something fresh, celebrating the entrepreneurial journey in our country. So this collaboration guided the team through various iterations of the show’s format, exploring what aspects to focus on — be it fundraising or a day-in-the-life format — to best showcase entrepreneurship, informs Sushant.

“Their support was crucial in identifying grassroots entrepreneurs for the show. These aren’t just innovators working on minor improvements; they’re creating foundational solutions with broad-reaching impact. We scouted around 1,500 to 2,000 ventures and directly engaged with nearly 200 before finalising the selection of 10 diverse ventures for the show,” he says.

The three investors of Mission Start Ab – Manish Chowdhary, Kunal Bahl and Anisha Singh.

Sushant informs that their goal was twofold — offer great entertainment, but also trigger something deeper within the audience.

“Like any impactful entertainment, we aim for the show to inspire, provoke thoughts, and instigate action. Our measure of success for Mission Start Ab is not only delivering entertaining content but also inspiring the creators and entrepreneurs of tomorrow. If we achieve that, we’d consider our concept a success,” he says.

When asked how Mission Start Ab is different from other shows championing entrepreneurs, Sushant says, “There’s been a surge in support systems like incubators, a stronger financial ecosystem, and mentoring platforms, all contributing to nurturing entrepreneurship in the country. There are other shows also contributing to this cause. But what sets our show apart is its focus on celebrating the entire entrepreneurial journey, not just the milestones.”

Kunal chimes in, “With the show, we aim to broaden the perspective for Indian founders. We want to show them the startup journey, and the challenges it entails, and ask if they’re ready for it or what steps they need to take to prepare.”

It’s about opening up the view for aspiring founders who might be sitting on the fence, not lacking in intelligence, hard work, or integrity, but just needing that extra push, that spark to kickstart their mission.

“It’s an amazing time to be alive here in India. From being a top global economy centuries ago to now on the brink of reclaiming that position after 350 years, it’s exciting because this is not something we are anticipating for future generations, but it is happening right now!” he remarks.

(Edited by Padmashree Pande)

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