It was during a holiday in the Maldives that Rahul Agarwal, a chartered accountant turned entrepreneur, got hooked to an adventure sport that became a hobby he’s passionate about. He and his family were on vacation in 2013, and decided to do a guided dive—with an instructor holding you all the way—but that hour underwater was enough for him to want more.
During that trip, he did some snorkeling and two dives at about 10 metres. “The water was quite comfortable and clear. We saw pink soft corals, turtles, Napoleon wrasses and mantas," he recalls. “I was captivated. I wanted to explore the mysteries of the world lesser known to us," says the 36-year-old serial entrepreneur. He’d also seen photographs that a diver friend had taken, and wanted to experience the underwater world for himself.
Since that trip to the Maldives, Agarwal’s vacation plans have always been linked to the best scuba diving destinations in the world so that he can explore more. He’s dived at Ari Atoll in the Maldives, one of the best diving spots in the world, in Bali, and at Pavilion Dive Centre at the Jumeirah beach in Dubai. On his wish list are Ayr in Queensland, Australia, and exploring the wreck of the Thistlegorm near Ras Muhammad national park in the Red Sea in Egypt. Until he started diving, his travel was largely about ticking destinations off a bucket list.
“What has me hooked is the peace and silence inside the ocean when I go scuba diving along with the beauty of the life under water. There is an excitement to seeing creatures swim past you, some of them seem almost mystical or even mythical," he says.
Agarwal also says diving is a great way to meet new people with whom you connect over a common love for the ocean.
Being in the water is a great stress reliever for the Delhi-based entrepreneur. “We all come across challenges at work and are wracked with tension. People find different ways to distress such as practising meditation, yoga, jogging, exercise and more. For me, it is scuba diving," he says.
He believes that if one is passionate about adventure, one must give it a try. “Even if you are hesitant or scared initially, once you step in, you’ll be addicted."
Adventure isn’t only a hobby for him. After spending five years as a chartered accountant with Ernst & Young, Agarwal quit in 2007 to set up an educational platform.
In 2013, he decided to start Organic Harvest, a range of organic personal care products. “Being the CEO of a startup isn’t for wimps," he says. “Your schedule is unpredictable and you juggle responsibilities that pull you in multiple directions at once," he says. A love of adventure helps with that too.
To stay fit so that he’s ready for his dives, Agarwal follows an exercise routine that includes running, yoga, pranayama, meditation and swimming.
“The hectic travel schedule and late hours at work wreak havoc on your body. As an entrepreneur and a diver, your health—both physical and emotional—are critically important. Fitness is probably the best investment in yourself that you can make," he says.
He also eats light, and avoids caffeine. Staying active keeps him alert all day, he says. “I don’t have a sweet tooth, but occasionally have a piece of jaggery after dinner," he says.
He says diving helps him be a better leader too. “The sport is challenging and until you dive, you don’t know what you are capable of. Staying fit and spending time underwater are meditative in nature. It helps me reassess my motivations," he says.
He says the challenges of deep-sea diving have also helped him assess his strengths and weaknesses. “It taught me that nothing is impossible and one can overcome his fear or weakness and if one believes in oneself. Every time you dive, you meet the unknown, so in a way it prepares you to face the unknown," he says.
To him, leadership is about being able to set a vision and lead others to take on big challenges and reach the finish line.
“While good health may or may not make a good leader, it does contribute to good brain function, sustained energy, and being physically resilient. These are important attributes for leaders," he says.
The best part, though, about diving for him is the feeling of isolation, which gives him time alone with his thoughts.
“Every time, you have a different experience. Plus discovering the marine world is very humbling. You learn to appreciate just how large and diverse the world really is."
Pursuit of Adventure profiles CEOs with exciting hobbies that feed into their work.