The eight of them were friends, progeny of old Bangalore families, seven of them from the same school (St Joseph’s), going back 30 years. Each of them followed their own career path. Sudhir Makhija spent two decades in advertising and then launched his own company. Suhail Rahaman went into real estate and construction, while Ashwin Ajila set up his own animation and gaming business. Ranga Moola operates cinema theatres, Nakul Shetty runs a unit manufacturing car components, Rumi Minocher owns a travel agency, Jawad Ayaz is the gang’s “serial entrepreneur”, while Dev Gupta retired from rally driving to dabble in the property business.
Fisherfolk: (from left) Monster Fishing’s Sudhir Makhija, Suhail Rahaman, Ashwin Ajila, Ranga Moola, Nakul Shetty, Rumi Minocher, Jawad Ayaz and Dev Gupta converted their passion for angling into a business opportunity that led them to the Andamans. Photographs courtesy Monster Fishing
On a holiday together in Phuket, Thailand, in 2006, the gang hired a catamaran and sailed out into the waters off the peninsula. “After the first night out in the Andaman Sea, I think it was Sohail who said, ‘Hey, why don’t we buy the boat?’” says Makhija. The eight of them continued to play with the idea, first toying with basing a business out of Phuket, then thinking about a sailing holidays outfitter and, finally, refining it into a sport-fishing enterprise. After flirting with the idea of Phuket, they zeroed in on the Andamans. “We had angled off the waters of the archipelago for years but had always missed world-class facilities,” says Ayaz.
With all of them well-established in their respective fields, finance wasn’t an issue. So they drafted a business plan and put up the corpus themselves. Having experienced the customer-end of the business for years, the eight—they christened themselves Monster Fishing after considering several names—were pretty certain of what they wanted their clientele to have. But, novices as they were in the sailing business, it took them more than a year to get their big idea off the ground. They divvied up responsibilities among themselves according to their specialities.
Also See At a Glance (click here)
When they started, their target was the serious angler. “It’s not a very well-known fact in India, but angling accounts for one of the top two spends in leisure pastimes (the other being golf),” says Ayaz. For the first year, their brochures quoted their prices in euros; this year, it mentions them in Indian rupees. Monster also looks to woo the adventurous Indian seeking to combine leisure boating with learning the basics of angling. Fishing is strictly on a catch-and-release basis, “though some of the smaller guys may be lunch”.
Their first paid trip happened in February 2008 “and the first year was very good”, says Rahaman, though the season extends only from October-November to April-May.
Since the glue here is a common passion, another business is not on the cards. Expansion, if it happens, will mean diversification into ecotourism or eco-resorts in the Andamans. For the moment, though, there’s plenty of fish in the sea.
Passion. None of them is in the business to make a quick buck—it’s more a case of promoting an activity that they believe in absolutely. As Makhija says, “There’s nothing more exciting than fighting a fish.”