three is company
High Ground Adventures is a venture into a new field by three friends who also happen to be from prominent business families. While their business takes precedence, not letting each other down is a priority as well.
When a related link while watching bungee videos on YouTube, little did they know what they were getting into. The link led to a zip line video and it immediately struck a chord with the trio. “It was the three of us over coffee. We were looking at this video of zip lines around the world and suddenly thought it could be a very good venture for Nepal,” says Sharad. “We thought, ‘Why not try this here?’ It’s just two towers and a rope. You can buy a trolley off eBay and get started. It was an on-the-fly decision,” adds Abhinav. That decision led to the establishment of High Ground Adventures which has been gaining traction lately due to the ZipFlyer Nepal in Pokhara, billed as the “World’s Longest, Steepest and Fastest” zip line.
Of course, it turned out that starting a zip lining facility involved more than just two towers, a rope and a trolley. “As in a lot more,” says Abhinav. “We ended up spending twenty times more than what we were expecting.” But for these members of prominent business families–Abhinav belongs to the Mangalam Group, known for their hardware and sanitary
ware, while Sharad and Bharat are part of the Golchha family, giants of the steel industry in Nepal–it wasn’t going to be a deal breaker. This undertaking was to be their entry into a completely new domain, and they believed in it enough to do whatever it took. “We’d taken an uninformed plunge into the industry, but after getting in, we saw the kind of potential it had,” says Abhinav. “Tourism is a great sector to be in,” chimes in Sharad, 27, the youngest of the three. “And High Ground has given us a start in this field.” Of course, being friends helps as well. “We make a good team. We brainstorm together so we have plenty of new ideas,” he states.
Sharad says that a vast number of tourists in Nepal spend an average of $35-40 a day. With activities like these, however, they’re capable of spending much more, he says, contributing in a greater way to the national economy. “The tourists that come here to trek are second only to those on pilgrimages,” adds Abhinav. “There are exceptions of course but most of these tourists don’t have the motivation to stay in Pokhara or Kathmandu for very long.” For someone going trekking in the Annapurna circuit, Pokhara is just a transit point where they spend a day while coming and another while returning. “When you have a lot of activities, good hotels and cities that can offer more, you can make people stay longer. That gives the entrepreneurs and the country more revenue,” he says. It wasn’t always fun and games though, and the trio’s lack of experience in the adventure tourism field posed a few problems when High Ground Adventures first got off the ground. After launching on October 7 last year, they were able to operate for only 9 months due to technical and operational issues. This season though is set to be different. “We went through a lot last season and learned a lot as well. We’re well prepared this time,” says Abhinav. And they have other plans too – they’re all set to launch a bungee facility in Pokhara in early 2014 as well as an adventure park later on. “We want to make Pokhara a capital for adventure tourists from all over the world, or at least for South Asians,” says Abhinav. As challenging as the business can be at times, all three agree that working with close friends has made it a lot easier, especially given how they’ve divided responsibility amongst themselves according to their skills. Bharat, at 30, is the oldest. An Electronic and Electrical Engineering graduate from London, he was initially in control of marketing but
High Ground believes that having friends as business partners has made it easier for them to divide responsibilities.
has since moved on to other ventures. Sharad did his schooling in India and has a Bachelors in Marketing. He is in charge of operations in Pokhara. Abhinav, 28, who completed his Bachelors at Shri Ram College in Delhi and did his CPA (Certified Public Accountancy) in the US, looks after finance, marketing and sales while his wife, Shiny, manages the administration part. “Working together means we can meet informally for a formal meeting – that’s the best part,” says Abhinav. “We need not be in an office setting all the time… we could be sitting in a coffee shop or having pizza and still be talking about work.” But the informality doesn’t mean they’re unprofessional, he stresses. “If one of us is responsible for something we take it seriously because we don’t want to let our friends down.”