It was fate that brought Sauraj Jhingan, 33, and Samir Patham, 37, together in 2005. Back then, they were pursuing MBA from the Symbiosis Institute of Business Management in Pune. Though they had signed up for a prospective career in the corporate world, they were more fond of discussing the outdoor world.
“I had just finished my basic mountaineering course from Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (in Uttarakhand) and was at college the next day. I remember telling Samir what a contrast it was to spend 30 days in the mountains and then land up at school. He told me he too was interested in the outdoors and adventure sports. We ended up being roommates after that," Jhingan recalls.
The other thing common between them was their Army background, which meant travelling across the country and an early exposure to sports.
The two friends are now co-founders of Adventure-Pulse, an adventure sports and outdoors start-up that offers trekking, mountaineering and corporate development programmes. “A lot of what we do today can be attributed to our younger days," Jhingan says.
Back to the starting point
Each weekend at Symbiosis, Jhingan and Patham would head out to the hills around Pune for a trek or a bicycle ride. Soon, they were leading their batchmates on hikes and started a adventure club at the college. “We had entered a national endurance race called Enduro3, which involved cycling, cross-country, trekking, rowing, rifle shooting and navigation, among other disciplines. We struggled across the finish line, only to learn that we had finished second in the collegiate category. That gave us a lot of encouragement to lead these treks," Patham says.
After completing their MBA, the two were posted at Sitel India. Jhingan went on to work at Standard Chartered Bank; Patham joined Infosys. Once a month, they would reunite in Pune to relive their college days.
In 2008, Jhingan pulled off a hike to the Everest base camp (5,400m); the following year, the duo climbed the Mera Peak (6,476m) in Nepal. “These two experiences set us off on that course. We figured we were two ordinary guys who had regular corporate jobs. And we had such a fantastic experience in the mountains. So we were certain that there were people out there who didn’t want to do a standard Thailand or European holiday. And that really was the foundation on which our entire company and thought was based," Jhingan says.
So, in 2010, they quit their jobs to start working on their dream company. For starters, they had to deal with the risk of investing their own savings and keep in mind the seasonal nature of the adventure travel segment. Family and friends asked them to reconsider.
“We realized the trekking season lasted five-six months. It was a major reality check. So we started creating opportunities for outdoor development and management programmes. It helped that a lot of our MBA batchmates were in key positions," Patham says. “For the first couple of years, six months were purely trekking and mountaineering. The rest of the time, we did a lot of corporate programmes," he adds. In 2014, they took the largest contingent of schoolchildren from Bishop’s School in Pune to the Everest base camp, as part of the school’s 150th year celebrations. “It give us a lot of confidence and put us on the map," Jhingan says.
Over the years, they’ve gone on to explore new avenues in Ladakh, Nepal and Russia. They have chased personal goals as well. After two unsuccessful attempts on the Everest in 2015 and 2017, cut short due to the earthquake and bad weather, respectively, they decided to go again last year. By this time, it had come down to selling their homes and cars. But it was a personal goal that had to be ticked off the list. “All we wanted was a fair chance. And on 18 May, we were watching the world for over 60 minutes from the top of Everest," Jhingan says.
Though they don’t make as much from Adventure-Pulse as they did while in the corporate world, it’s enough to make ends meet. In the future, the friends hope to be adventure management consultants and lead the first Indian contingent to climb Ama Dablam in Nepal.
“The most important learning was to not be deterred by failure. When you’re creative about something and really passionate about it, you just need to be patient," Patham says.
Career Detour features people who quit their 9-to-5 job and made adventure sports their profession.