Food and beverage marketing whiz Rohan Oza joined ABC's Shark Tank as a guest shark in season 9

By Dana Rose Falcone
December 14, 2018 03:45 PM
Advertisement

From over-the-top products to million-dollar deals, Shark Tank has changed hundreds of peoples’ lives since the show debuted in 2009.

Each week on ABC, business tycoons Barbara Corcoran, Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner, Robert Herjavec, Daymond John and Kevin O’Leary hear multiple pitches from hopeful founders trying to launch their product or service to nationwide fame. Some walk away with the funds and guidance of a shark — or two — to help them on the way to achieving the American dream, while others leave the tank with nothing but a bruised ego.

Recent seasons have invited guest sharks like Bethenny Frankel, Ashton Kutcher and Alex Rodriguez to provide another set of expertise to budding entrepreneurs. Beverage titan Rohan Oza joined the ranks in season 9 and appeared on the latest episode, where he closed the deal on his favorite Shark Tank bid to date: Mother apple cider vinegar beverage.

Oza on Shark Tank.
| Credit: Eddy Chen/ABC

“People wanted to see what I was thinking, if they could partner with me,” Oza, the marketing genius behind popularizing brands like Smart Water, Bai and Vitamin Water, tells PEOPLE of how he acquired the deal. “Bethenny looks at me and goes, ‘Hey, do you want to partner?’ And if I was unsure, you partner. But I was pretty damn sure. But I played it and I waited for the other sharks to drop out, so now they’re left only with me.”

Playing it cool when you’re excited about a product is just one of Oza’s tricks for getting his way in the tank.

“If you really like the deal, you can’t show you do,” he says. “Because then others start bidding. Once there’s others and we’re in a heated debate, then you’re going to have to convince them that they have to go with you.”

Oza, 47, reveals more of exactly what goes on in the tank, including what founders do to squander their chances at a deal, which sharks act differently when the cameras turn off and how the sharks are actually involved with a product they bid on after the show ends.

This Is How Many Pitches the Sharks Hear in a Day — and How Long They Really Have to Decide If They Want to Invest

When viewers watch Shark Tank, they only see each pitch for approximately eight minutes. But the sharks have about 40 minutes to hear from founders on why they should offer up thousands of dollars. And typically 8-10 pitches come in during one day of filming.

“It gets tiring,” Oza confesses. “I’ve got to listen to the company, I’ve got to figure out do I want it or do I not? I’ve got to fight off the other sharks if I do want it, and then I’ve got to put a bid in that makes sense to me economically. So at no point am I just going to kick back for the next 10 minutes. And if ever I start to slow down, someone’s in my ear: ‘Ro, you didn’t engage. Engage.’ So there’s no napping. I’m thinking through numbers the whole time.”

And producers don’t give the sharks any background on the incoming companies, although they are screened before they get in front of Oza and Co. “They’re vetted,” he says. “But when you’re writing a seven-figure check, you’ve got to go a couple levels deeper.”

Oza negotiating.
| Credit: ABC

The entrepreneurs get those same 40 minutes, and, “Everything is one take,” Oza says. “So if you start to cry, you keep going. There’s no take 2. So if you start crying, If you want to propose to someone, keep going. High pressure. When the dude’s crying at the end, you’re like, ‘Why’s he crying?’ But there’s a pressure built up.”

Before the sharks actually sign on the dotted line, they have a chance to dig into the hopeful company — and sometimes those findings cause the deal to fall through.

“There’s one deal that I bid on and I was excited about, and it just didn’t close because when I dug deeper into the money, they weren’t really doing as much as they were saying from the stores,” Oza reveals. “I liked the people, I loved the concept, but it was like, those numbers don’t line up.”

RELATED VIDEO: Kym Johnson and Robert Herjavec’s Twins Make Their Shark Tank Debut

When to Skip the Tank

“Never go onto Shark Tank if you’ve raised real money before with no money left,” Oza insists. “You’ll get eviscerated. Especially by Kevin.”

Case in point: Bolly X founder Shahil Patel, who pitched his Bollywood-inspired fitness class in Sunday’s episode. Patel’s family and friends had already invested $1.7 million, which lost $600,000 last year and left him with only $75,000 in the bank.

”I almost had a coronary on hearing that,” says Oza, who hosts Bollywood dance parties at his L.A. home. “I felt bad for the guy but I couldn’t jump in. If anybody has that little money, they’ve done something wrong. Or they’re just bad operators.”

Sharks (from left) Herjavec, Corcoran, Cuban, Greiner and Oza.
| Credit: Eddy Chen/ABC/Getty

How Much the Sharks Really Help the Owners After Sealing the Deal

Some pitches don’t land with the sharks, while other deals fall apart after the cameras stop rolling. For those founders who do close the deal, they have access to not only a shark’s money, but their decades of business experience. But how much time do America’s top businessmen and women have to commit to working on these startups, in addition to their dozens of other multi-million dollar projects?

“A lot,” Oza assures. “For me, it’s really important that I engage with the founders.”

Oza took a trip to Dallas to touch base with the Mother founders and offer his feedback. But he admits that going forward, other members of his team will also be jumping in to help grow Mother.

“I have people,” he says. “I spend a lot of time in the early days because it’s important, but for ongoing management, I have an amazing team.”

Mr. Wonderful Lives Up to His Name

Not all of the sharks have the same bite when it comes to grilling founders and negotiating the best deal.

“The most savage perspective is between Kevin and Mark, depending on the day,” Oza says. “Mark called someone a golddigger! He might’ve had a bad morning, who knows. But I think Kevin is generally savage. That’s why his name works so great. He’s Mr. Not Wonderful, but he goes by Mr. Wonderful.”

O’Leary, a.k.a. Mr. Wonderful.
| Credit: Larry Busacca/Getty

Those On-Screen Fights Are Real

When more than one shark wants in on a product or service, they’re willing to go to bat for it. The fighting can get ugly — and personal — and Oza insists that they five billionaires aren’t just putting on a show with their outrage.

“I’m actually mad when we shoot,” he says. “Like legitimately, Robert trashes me and I will have to trash him back. And I’m kind of annoyed that he’s bringing up that all I did was X, Y and Z because those are big ‘all I dids.’ “

Oza likens the tank feuds to game day — when the clock runs out, the opposing sides can shake hands and prepare for the next match.

“The minute the cameras go off, everyone’s back to grabbing lunch, hugging it out,” the businessman says. “We have a celebratory drink at the end of shooting every day. It gets personal sometimes, but it doesn’t last. We don’t trash talk afterwards. It’s a gameday fight and then everyone’s friends afterward.”

Shark Tanks airs Sundays on ABC at 9 p.m. ET.