Iitian who skipped campus placement to start an adventure sp

Vivek (CA ) (2368 Points)

30 October 2011  

Prashant Singh: IITian who skipped campus placement to start an adventure sports company Elan Adventures

My workplace is the great outdoors, from mountain peaks to valleys and rivers, and everything in between. Like many of my fellow IITians, after bagging my degree (masters in Physics from IIT Kanpur), I decided to become a consultant, but where others take the tried-and-tested business consultant route, my area of specialisation is adventure sports. And as the co-founder and director of Elan Adventures, a Delhi-based adventure tour facilitator, my agenda is to make adventure sports popular among the Indian youth. I chose to become an entrepreneur because as an IITian I believe it's my duty to create opportunities rather than consume what's there in the market.

How it Began
In 2004, I went for a 5-km trek to Roopkund in Uttaranchal but had to turn back just 500 m short of the glacial lake due to a snowstorm. This was when my romance with the mountains began. Though I conquered Roopkund this year, that unfinished journey seven years ago made me a regular adrenaline junkie, moving on to freelancing as an adventure tour consultant in 2008.

But on every subsequent trip, I was aghast to see the way adventure tourism is treated in India. The sector is unorganised, lacks standards, and the few players that in the sector seem to cater mainly to foreign tourists. Making matters worse is the high ignorance levels about the field at home.

All this urged me to start Elan Adventures in 2010, along with my classmate, Ritesh Bhatt. Along the way, I took a skiing course at Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports, Manali. It's difficult to master more than one adventure sports but I have tried to extensively practice many of them - from mountaineering to rafting (short runs as well as expeditions), mountain cycling and trekking (I have more than 15 trekking routes of varying grades under my belt).

Adventure and More
The popular sentiment is that adventures sports only exist in foreign countries. We at Elan try to break this myth and showcase that India is an exciting adventure sports destination. The market for this niche tourism sector is estimated at Rs 600-700 crore but I believe it is more than that. And the potential is immense. Spiti and several areas in Himachal Pradesh are made for mountain cycling; Rishikesh is perfect for rafting (ditto Zanskar Valley in Ladakh) and bungee jumping; for rock climbing, there's Dhauj, Mukteshwar; novices can try treks like Pindari/Kafni and Dodita in Uttaranchal. There are also some easy treks in Himachal like Bhabha pass.

My target customers are the youth. They are the ones ready to try their hand at adventure sports but are unable to do so in the absence of trained personnel. There is nobody to teach them and the current market makes these activities far-off from their reach. So, we at Elan started with schools and colleges. We directly contact institutes with planned adventure itineraries. We educate students, provide all the details, and take it from there. In addition, we also float trips on the online media, where interested candidates can register. Once we have more than five people showing interest, we organise the trip.

The average cost for a trek of five-six days is Rs5,500. In the case of rafting, one-day trips cost Rs1,800, two-day tours cost Rs 2,400, and expeditions fall in the Rs 8,000-10,000 range. Keen on a mountain cycling tour? A six-day trip will cost around Rs 7,000 (including bikes). For all kind of trips, we provide the equipment and gears. Depending on the kind and size of the tour group, if asked, we also provide cooks, personal help etc.

Through this venture we also hope to make a socio-economic impact in the hill region. In 2010 we submitted a project proposal to the ministry of rural development and the tourism ministry to declare Sankri in Uttaranchal and Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh as "tourist villages" because a number of adventure sports - from trekking to bungee jumping - are possible in these areas.

The Thrill is Back
My pet peeve is that people compare adventure sports to a leisure activity. It is not. It is not meant to be a relaxing break. People often come up to me and say, "Oh! We have to walk so much." But we are talking about adventure sports here. You have to sweat it out and dare yourself, and that's what makes it an adventure. You don't get a chance to test your guts every day. You may forget a walk in the clouds in Nainital or seeing snow fall in Kashmir, but you'll never ever forget the moment you skipped a heartbeat. That's what adventure sports does to you. When you are in a remote area, that feeling of giving-it-all teaches you a lot about your own self.

Up Next
Next on my to-do list is to scale Maiktoli peak in Uttarakhand, which is 6,800 m above sea level and is unconquered to date. When you are young, that's the time to do such exciting things. It's when you push your limits. That's when you come face to face with your fears, your apprehensions, and your own self. As a famous quote goes, life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away.