A Bangalore entrepreneur who broke down in tears and turned down Rs 75 lakh funding while acknowledging his startup’s shortcomings on a TV show says he is now experiencing an ‘afterlife’.
Ganesh Balakrishnan sold out all of India’s inventory of his innovative casual sneakers within 48 hours after his speech aired on business reality show ‘Shark Tank India’ on January 9, and became a talking point on
LinkedIn and Twitter. There were about 450 pieces, priced between 3,500 and 4,000 rupees, and they were made of banana fiber and flax.
Spurred on by a suggestion made on LinkedIn, the Flatheads founder announced a limited run of 900 sneakers for India on Monday. An ode to entrepreneurship, he calls it ‘The Not Out Edition’.
“We are only taking orders now. We will start production after receiving 600 pre-orders,” she shares. The Flatheads website had logged 418 pre-orders as of Tuesday night when the story went to print. “Even our inventories in the US and the United Arab Emirates have started to move,” he reports.
This raises the question everyone who watched the episode wants to know: Are you shutting down your startup and taking a job instead?
His presentation started on a promising note, but as the gaps in his business became apparent later, he admitted that he and his co-founder (who resigned) had spent Rs 35 lakhs from their pockets each to keep the startup afloat. .
His wife, a software engineer, has been supporting the family. Moved by her honesty and tenacity, investors advised her to get a job, learn new skills, build financial security, and rebound in the world of start-ups.
“The episode was filmed last August when Flatheads was finished for all practical purposes. It got a second life after the episode recently aired and I’m trying to figure out the right way to go. Should someone take over and run it under a larger portfolio of brands? Should someone buy it as an innovative mid-range garment as an extension of their brand? I haven’t finished Flatheads yet,” says the Bellandur resident.
Had the episode aired much earlier, the IIT-IIM grad would have tried to revive Flatheads, which began in 2019. “In this five-month span, we’ve laid off our employees and even placed some at other companies. I started to undertake consultancy projects,” shares the 44-year-old.
Balakrishnan is currently pondering “four or five interesting job offers,” including the one made by investor Anupam Mittal on the show. “I’ve gotten about a lakh invites on LinkedIn since then,” he spoke of the unexpected response from his fellow startups.
“The founders of The Souled Store (a clothing brand) said that my episode took them back to their difficult days. I had a lot of traffic on my website but no products left to sell, I told them. We spoke at 8am and 6:30pm that day, they launched a ‘Down, But Not Out’ t-shirt line on their website and agreed to give the proceeds to the Flatheads. They sold more than a thousand T-shirts in three days and are still selling.”
Balakrishnan explains why the episode resonated with many: “This past April, our startup was doing pretty well. But four months later, in August, when the pandemic had dissipated and people were buying shoes, we ran out of money. ‘Shark Tank India’ became our latest fundraising effort. The journey of a startup is about blood, sweat and tears on a daily basis (sic). I think that story was well understood.”
And, organically. “At some point during the shoot, the focus shifted from me to the investors, to the investors, to the investors and me talking about the failures we’ve faced. Entrepreneurs often feel lonely. But they were helping me show where I was lacking and what I could do in the future. That’s why I got excited,” says Balakrishnan.