Shark Tank's Anupam Mittal Shocked by Startup's Wellness Offerings
Calls Out Startup's Wellness Offerings as 'Sinful'
23 February 2023
While many businesses claim to offer a healthier lifestyle with novel diet plans, few are able to back up their claims. Zoe Nutrition for Life (Zoe), the latest startup to appear on Shark Tank India S2, is one such business, according to the panel. Based in Gurgaon, Zoe was founded by the husband-wife duo Karan Jindal and Taniya Dhirasaria, and is branding itself as a health and wellness brand that provides diet programmes and wellness products such as detox kits and wellness teas.
The sharks were left unimpressed with their products, with Anupam Mittal (founder, Shaadi.com), going so far as to call their business “a sin”.
“I believe you know very little about health and human anatomy. I consider what you’re doing akin to a kind of sin… it’s a heavy word (but) it’s true,” said Mittal.
Before starting Zoe, Jindal and Dhirasaria had no prior educational background or work experience in the field of diet and nutrition. Dhirasaria managed growth and revenue for the e-commerce platform Myntra while Jindal ran Indians Realty Exchange, a real estate social network for brokers. However, in the six years of running their business, the couple undertook international courses on human anatomy, wellness, and interacted with doctors and nutritionists to gain expertise. Currently, Zoe has a nutritionist and a doctor on its team, as shared by the founders.
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The founders of Zoe shared on the show that the start-up had recorded lifetime sales of ₹43 crore in six years, with ₹10 crore in sales during Covid in FY21. However, sales plummeted in FY22 to just ₹3 crore, which they attributed to parenthood - having two children in a short period of time and taking a break from the business to raise them. This led to the startup's team shrinking from 40 people to just 7. However, boAt co-founder Aman Gupta backed out from investing, citing that he believed they had abandoned their first child - their business.
“When I had my first child, my wife looked after one baby and I looked after the other baby — which was boAt. You did injustice with your business. You said, let it (the business) slack,” commented Gupta.
Amit Jain, co-founder of CarDekho.com, believed that Zoe's sales decline was due to increased competition after Covid rather than the pressures of parenthood. He advised the founders to shut down the product, stating that it lacked depth due to their lack of experience in the field. On the other hand, Mittal was the most skeptical about the product and claimed that it was failing due to a lack of repeat customers. She added that Zoe's detox diet plans included drinks that were high in sugar and caused instant spikes and drops in glucose levels, which increased the urge to eat.
“Anything is being sold in the market in the name of health. People think it (a plan or product) worked on them, so they can package and sell it. That’s not business, that’s cheating in my books,” remarked Mittal.
Namita Thapar, executive director of Emcure Pharmaceuticals, backed out of the deal, citing a different philosophy of detox compared to what the founders were selling. Thapar believed in fresh produce for detox rather than packaged products. On the other hand, Peyush Bansal, co-founder of Lenskart, also withdrew from the deal but praised the founders, calling them an "amazing combo" and advising them to learn from their mistakes and move forward.