AD­VEN­TURE PULSE hopes to get peo­ple from across the world to love the great out­doors

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In­te­grat­ing the text­book ap­proach of what they learned dur­ing their MBA course with their pas­sion for trekking and moun­taineer­ing, two young Puneites have launched a startup called AD­VEN­TURE PULSE that hopes to get peo­ple from across the world to love the great out­doors, writes Huned Con­trac­tor.

At a ti me when t he youth not only have sur­plus cash to spend, but are also keen to push some adren­a­line into their lives, it makes busi­ness sense to get into a ven­ture that of­fers the joy of trekking and moun­taineer­ing. That’s the thought be­hind Pune’s start-up called Ad­ven­ture Pulse, which re­cently made news by suc­cess­fully lead­ing the largest con­tin­gent of In­di­ans to the sum­mit of Mount Kil­i­man­jaro, the high­est point on the con­ti­nent of Africa. As many as 17 climbers made it to the height of 19,341 feet. “For us, it spelt an as­tound­ing 95 per cent suc­cess ra­tio, where the av­er­age sum­mit rate is no more than 50 per cent on a moun­tain like Kil­i­man­jaro. Our team had 18 mem­bers and only one of them had to turn back just short of the sum­mit,” says Samir Patham, the ex­pe­di­tion leader. In­ci­den­tally, the team also had 10-year-old Aryaa Bha­tia, who was ac­com­pa­nied by his mother. “He is now the youngest In­dian-Amer­i­can to have reached the sum­mit of Kil­i­man­jaro,” Patham in­forms. In this interview, the founders of Ad­ven­ture Pulse, Samir Patham and Sau­raj Jhin­gan, re­count their ex­pe­ri­ence of hav­ing flagged off such a unique start-up.

Could you give a back­ground of Ad­ven­ture Pulse?

We started Ad­ven­ture Pulse pri­mar­ily look­ing at the in­cred­i­ble po­ten­tial the out­door ad­ven­ture seg­ment had to of­fer, and at the same time pur­su­ing our pas­sion for climb­ing as a nat­u­ral ex­ten­sion of what we loved do­ing. We met in 2005, when we were both pur­su­ing our MBA from Sym­bio­sis In­sti­tute of Man­age­ment Stud­ies, Pune, and dis­cov­ered a mu­tual in­cli­na­tion to­wards spend­ing less time in class and more time out­side. As a busi­ness project, while other stu­dent man­agers were study­ing the 5P’s of mar­ket­ing or play­ing the ‘stock mar­ket’, we found our­selves com­ing up with busi­ness plans for an ad­ven­ture com­pany, much to our teacher’s shock. In fact, we set up the first ad­ven­ture club of its kind in the in­sti­tute and reg­u­larly took our batch mates for treks to the hills and forts of the Sahyadri moun­tain range sur­round­ing Pune. To be bru­tally hon­est, at the time, any thought of set­ting up an ad­ven­ture com­pany was a fan­tasy. Like the rest of our batch, we got caught up in the place­ment process and picked up cor­po­rate jobs. Sau­raj even­tu­ally ended up at Stan­dard Char­tered Bank as a re­gional man­ager and I was work­ing with In­fosys BPO as a busi­ness hu­man re­source man­ager. In­ter­est­ingly, our cor­po­rate ca­reers were short-lived, as after a short stint of about five years, we were over­whelmed by the sheer monotony of it all. On a leap of faith, and in­cred­i­ble amount of sup­port from fam­ily and friends, we quit our re­spec­tive jobs and bravely set forth to set up Ad­ven­ture Pulse, our very own ad­ven­ture com­pany in 2011. To­day, it’s a private lim­ited ad­ven­ture and train­ing com­pany that spe­cial­izes in trekking

and moun­taineer­ing ex­pe­di­tions across the world from In­dia, Nepal, Africa, Russia and France. In ad­di­tion, we have also es­tab­lished our cre­den­tials in the cor­po­rate de­vel­op­ment train­ing space in the form of Out­door Man­age­ment De­vel­op­ment Pro­grams (OMDP) for cor­po­rates and ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions. We fo­cus on tak­ing ad­ven­ture sports to a com­pletely new level by not just pro­mot­ing ad­ven­ture sports in In­dia but also com­bin­ing it with the ba­sic prin­ci­ples of man­age­ment such as lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment and team man­age­ment.

What prompted you to start a com­pany with a spe­cific fo­cus on moun­taineer­ing?

Both of us, hav­ing been brought up in mil­i­tary fam­i­lies, had the op­por­tu­nity and ex­po­sure to ad­ven­ture sports from a very young age. From trekking though the In­dian Hi­malayas to rap­pelling down steep cliff faces, we not only en­joyed the thrill of be­ing out­doors, but be­gan to ap­pre­ci­ate the role ad­ven­ture sports can play in in­di­vid­ual de­vel­op­ment. At the time, there was a ma­jor par­a­digm shift tak­ing place in In­dia’s cor­po­rate sec­tor, where the fo­cus on em­ployee de­vel­op­ment was shift­ing from the tra­di­tional class­room for­mat to a more ex­pe­ri­en­tial method­ol­ogy of train­ing. This pro­vided us with a unique op­por­tu­nity of not just spe­cial­iz­ing in moun­taineer­ing, but com­bin­ing our pas­sion with our ed­u­ca­tional qual­i­fi­ca­tion, to es­tab­lish our­selves in this new cor­po­rate train­ing space.

What were the ini­tial chal­lenges in start­ing the com­pany?

Tak­ing that leap of faith and hav­ing the courage to leave a monthly salary and a well-pay­ing job, to branch out and start up our own busi­ness ven­ture, re­quired tremen­dous amount of guts. In ad­di­tion, when we launched Ad­ven­ture Pulse in 2011, this was in the midst of an eco­nomic re­ces­sion. The pop­u­lar opin­ion, es­pe­cially of our erst­while col­leagues, was to wait, take our time and then look at it. This of course was from the few that ac­tu­ally un­der­stood why we were look­ing at leav­ing a cushy job.

What was the cap­i­tal re­quired? And how was it ar­ranged?

The start-up cap­i­tal re­quired was 1 lakh, but we were look­ing at reg­is­ter­ing a private lim­ited com­pany with a to­tal in­vest­ment re­quire­ment of 5 lakhs. The fi­nance came through in equal part con­tri­bu­tion from the prin­ci­pal di­rec­tors, on ac­count of the money we had saved up dur­ing our short ca­reer stints. We in­ten­tion­ally set up Ad­ven­ture Pulse as a private lim­ited firm, de­spite the ad­di­tional statu­tory re­quire­ments and as­so­ci­ated fees, as we be­lieved that by es­tab­lish­ing a strong foun­da­tion we would be able to grow, in­cor­po­rat­ing ad­di­tional mem­bers on the board who would be able to add in­trin­sic value to the start-up.

How many ex­cur­sions have been suc­cess­fully com­pleted so far?

In the last eight years, we have con­ducted ex­pe­di­tions to some ex­tremely niche des­ti­na­tions in the seg­ment of trekking and moun­taineer­ing, in­clud­ing over a dozen treks in the Ladakh re­gion. We have led six ex­pe­di­tions to the sum­mit of Mount Kil­i­man­jaro, as well as ex­pe­di­tions to Mount El­brus in Russia and Mount Blanc in France. We have or­gan­ised over 38 trekking ex­pe­di­tions to Ever­est Base Camp in Nepal, in­clud­ing tak­ing the largest school con­tin­gent from In­dia, as well as fa­cil­i­tated the Ever­est Base Camp trek

for one of the youngest trekkers from In­dia at the age of six years. One of our achieve­ments is that in the last three years, we have been one of the few com­pa­nies in In­dia to have con­ducted our own Mount Ever­est climb­ing ex­pe­di­tion, in 2015 and 2017. Though we were un­suc­cess­ful in reach­ing the sum­mit, the learn­ing from this ex­pe­ri­ence has been in­cred­i­ble. In 2018, we will be em­bark­ing on our third ex­pe­di­tion to Mount Ever­est and have got the sup­port and back­ing of one of the largest au­to­mo­bile in­dus­tries in In­dia, Force Mo­tors Ltd.

What is your tar­get plan to be able to grow in this sec­tor?

Un­like other sec­tors, the travel and tourism in­dus­try in In­dia is largely fo­cused on cul­tural tourism. Ad­ven­ture travel and tourism, which is a sub­sec­tion of this in­dus­try, is ex­tremely un­or­ga­nized, and as a re­sult, one finds it very dif­fi­cult to es­tab­lish or con­form to clas­sic text­book def­i­ni­tions of sec­tor growth in this par­tic­u­lar in­dus­try. Per­son­ally, for Ad­ven­ture Pulse, our en­deav­our is to not only create op­por­tu­nity for out­bound tourism, but es­tab­lish our cre­den­tials in order to at­tract ad­ven­ture thrill-seek­ers from across the world for in­bound ad­ven­ture ex­pe­di­tions.

How do you get peo­ple to sign up for any ex­cur­sion? Is it through so­cial me­dia or per­sonal con­tacts?

There is a tremen­dous amount of in­vest­ment done with re­spect to en­sur­ing our cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence and de­light. Each one of our ad­ven­ture pro­grammes in­volves a large com­mit­ment to en­sur­ing the physical and men­tal prepa­ra­tion of the trekkers/moun­taineers, so that when they em­bark on an ad­ven­ture, they are not dis­ap­pointed. Our com­mit­ment to safety gives us a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage, thus en­sur­ing that we get enough fol­low on busi­ness through per­sonal ref­er­ences and rec­om­men­da­tions. How­ever, brand-build­ing ex­er­cises are es­sen­tial in order to pro­mote these achieve­ments, which there­fore must be reg­u­larly pro­moted on our so­cial me­dia plat­forms, pre­dom­i­nantly through our web­site, Face­book and In­sta­gram. This also chal­lenges us to come up with more cre­ative vi­su­als. The old adage, ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover’, does not hold true in to­day’s day and age. It is cru­cially im­por­tant to not just do bril­liant work, but to show­case it to its max­i­mum po­ten­tial.

What kind of in­vest­ments are you look­ing at for growth?

We are def­i­nitely look­ing at in­vest­ment at this point to be able to grow our dig­i­tal pres­ence and pri­mar­ily our sales and mar­ket­ing ef­forts. We are also very keen to add a few new niche des­ti­na­tions to our port­fo­lio. We have some num­bers in mind, which we have dis­cussed with a cou­ple of po­ten­tial in­vestors. How­ever, we are not in a po­si­tion right now to share those num­bers.

What is the com­pe­ti­tion that you face in this niche sec­tor?

Un­like tra­di­tional sec­tors, the fun­da­men­tals of eco­nom­ics in a highly com­pet­i­tive mar­ket do not ex­ist yet. As I mentioned be­fore, the ad­ven­ture travel in­dus­try is still in its in­fancy, with tremen­dous po­ten­tial for growth and de­vel­op­ment. Hav­ing said that, there is a fair amount of com­pe­ti­tion that has come up in this space, pri­mar­ily be­cause of tech­nol­ogy, which has made it eas­ier to reach peo­ple, and we only see the com­pe­ti­tion grow­ing in the next few years.

What are the fac­tors that give you an edge over other such com­pa­nies?

In the last few years, quite a few lo­cal bud­get ad­ven­ture op­er­a­tors have come up, op­er­at­ing in their own small re­gions like the Gar­whals, Manali, Ku­maon, etc. How­ever, for us, we fo­cus on a range of ad­ven­tures world­wide, in­clud­ing Nepal, Ladakh, Russia, Africa, France and of course the In­dian Hi­malayas, thus not re­strict­ing our­selves to a par­tic­u­lar re­gion or sea­son. In ad­di­tion, the clear dis­tinc­tion be­tween two prod­uct lines – one be­ing high-al­ti­tude trekking and moun­taineer­ing ex­pe­di­tions and the other be­ing the out­door cor­po­rate team-build­ing pro­grammes – helps us bal­ance our rev­enue well. We also feel that our qual­i­fi­ca­tions and ex­pe­ri­ence in the cor­po­rate world en­able us to deal with clients in a bet­ter way, and as a re­sult our ref­er­ence rate is very high. We also have good pen­e­tra­tion in the HNI seg­ment in In­dia.

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