Amazon MiniTV had left the topic of entrepreneurship uncovered up until this point, but now they too have a show to cater to those bright-eyed youngsters who want to enter the field. Hustlers is a 5-episode miniseries that tells the story of Sanjay Sharma, a middle-class young lad who faces constant rejection but ultimately takes the decision to put his startup idea to the test, risking immense ridicule from his father. The series has its ups and downs, but it is clear that it doesn’t have anything new to say. The idea of hustling your way to the top has been explored before, but in a much more authentic way. The series does try to add its own flavor to the same idea, but the trouble is that in doing so, it crushes any novelty that could have emerged, at least in the performances. Everything is too on the nose, and there are only a few moments that surprise the viewer. Here is a recap of Hustlers Season 1.
How does Sanjay impress Baba?
Sanjay’s father had three rules for success: study hard, get a degree, and get a job. Then life would be smooth sailing, and Sanjay’s elder brother was following all the rules and actually succeeding. But Sanjay just couldn’t follow all the rules because his definition of success was different from his father’s. Manoj had to go to America for an internship, while Sanjay somehow managed to get admission to the Indian College of Engineering, one of the toughest and most prestigious colleges in the country. Sanjay couldn’t relax as there was pressure on him to do as well in academics as his brother Manoj. Sanjay knew that if he didn’t succeed in making a name for himself in college, the constant comparisons with Manoj wouldn’t ever stop. He was trying to sketch out his own identity. He found the Bahubali competition a good way to do so. The competitions were some absurd games to be played where the participants had the chance to impress Baba, a man who mentored the freshmen but had not cleared his final year exams. Sanjay tried his best but couldn’t get into the Bahubali hostel, where he could meet Baba. Baba’s logic was simple: he needed leaders who did something new and unique. Sanjay’s uniqueness was that whenever he was cornered, his mind worked the best, and he came up with a solution. He made his question paper based on the previous year’s examinations and posted it online. He was almost expelled for the ‘leak,’ but he hadn’t cheated. He had used the method of probability to calculate which questions had the best chance of getting repeated. Baba took notice of this and got him a seat in his hostel.
Why did Sanjay quit engineering?
When Sanjay got the news that Manoj had been placed at Macrasoft in America, his victory of having scored a 9.5 CGPA in midterms took a backseat. Sanjay’s father had always given importance to Manoj’s achievements, but Sanjay was left to be consoled by his mother. Sanjay had enough of it, and he wanted to do something so great that he would make his father pay attention to him for a change instead of Manoj. Sanjay asked Baba to mentor him, but Baba understood where his anxiety was coming from. Baba had his fair share of problems with his own dad, which is why he was unwilling to get out of college and do something constructive. And Sanjay was just in his first year, on the verge of becoming a sophomore. There was no way he could do something to outshine Manoj. Well, the idea of a startup was one thing that seized Sanjay’s mind, and this happened because of Mihir Jain, a venture capitalist who gave a speech at the college. Baba explained to Sanjay what a startup truly was, and how he had to have a problem-solving idea to get funding from Mihir. Sanjay came up with the idea of ‘Raatrani,’ a delivery service that would get food, groceries, medicine, and everything one needed in the night right to your doorstep. The show is set in 2010, and such an idea interested Mihir, but the situation demanded Sanjay choose between engineering and startup. Sanjay chose the latter, but in the end, Mihir rejected his idea as there wasn’t a large user base for that kind of service. Sanjay was left high and dry, having nothing to fall back on. He was pushed to his limit, and that’s when his mind worked wonders.
How did Sanjay get to work with Mihir?
Sanjay’s father was livid that Sanjay had left ICE to pursue a stupid idea. Sanjay had to come up with something truly unique, and he decided to hack into Mihir’s website, BillNext, to get his attention. Sanjay landed up in jail for this little stunt, but Mihir was impressed with his audacity and got him out of jail. He was slated to pitch him another idea, but there was the issue of finding a room for rent in Mumbai. The city is known for its high rents and ultra-small rooms, analogous to New York. This gave Sanjay his next idea—that of a site that lets you scout rooms to stay in without leaving your home! The idea was to take the brokers out of the equation, but it wasn’t so easy. Mihir gave him the amount for seed testing, which was to test if he could get the site up and running at all. Sanjay was smart enough to get Baba on board, as his designing skills could come in handy. It was using Baba’s goodwill that he got students to visit all the rented rooms in Mumbai’s Powai and get a whole database of available rooms to be put on the website. Sanjay wouldn’t have been able to do this without a team, but he had no money to pay anyone. Mihir had given him a million to make it all work, but Baba told him it wasn’t enough. It is why Sanjay had smart individuals on board as partners, as that way Sanjay wouldn’t have to pay them salaries. The website was up and running, and Mihir gave him 50 million rupees for the next level of operations. Sanjay returned the one million Mihir had offered earlier, implying that he was going to showcase his idea to Mihir’s rivals. This was a ploy to get Mihir to offer him 100 million rupees, which was the required amount to take the startup to the next level. Sanjay succeeded in his plan as Mihir understood that the idea had a lot of potential, and he didn’t want to miss out on the profits.
How did Sanjay succeed?
The stakes were at an all-time high for Sanjay. Manoj had been interviewed on national television as the wunderkind who had gotten a placement in Macrasoft with the highest package. Sanjay was very close to getting funding from Loft Bank, but that wouldn’t happen if the site didn’t have everything sorted out, whether it was related to tech or marketing. The site was named ‘ApnaPG, ‘ and it was getting a lot of clicks but had a very low conversion rate. There weren’t too many people finding their rooms on the site. Sanjay had spent all of Mihir’s money on getting a lavish office near Kartik’s office. Kartik chided him for trying to act like an amateur, trying to get his funds, but he didn’t know Sanjay’s real plan. Kartik was Loft Bank’s rival, and Sanjay’s plan was to make it seem like he was Kartik’s close friend. That way, he would get Loft Bank interested in his startup. Mihir was impressed, but there was a bit of resentment as well. Sanjay had sidelined Mihir’s advice and approached Kartik. His gamble had paid off, and Loft Bank was indeed interested, but there was the issue of tech vs. marketing. The team had to decide which sector needed more looking into, and Sanjay was the only one who was in the opinion of spending more on marketing. Even Baba wanted to work on tech, but Sanjay took the harsh decision to put the last bit of remaining money on marketing. The site crashed on the day they had to show it to the Loft Bank, but the reason saved Sanjay’s reputation as well as his startup. The marketing had worked, and the site had crashed not because of tech failure but because of too much traffic.
During Hustlers‘ ending, Loft Bank finally decided to trust Sanjay to work on the technology and gave him the funding. Sanjay’s true success came when his father appreciated him for having made it despite not following his three golden rules.