A game of squash and a dinner conversation till 3 AM led to Alpha League Races
There are a few things that connect people. Early morning conversations, a game of squash and a 100 km long arduous race -- that's how Alpha League Races was born, in Gurgaon. Harshveer Singh had spent most of his time competing in several ultra-marathons, and toying with the idea of building obstacle races in India. So while he broke bread with his cousin, Bishen Singh, the duo decided to start Alpha League Races.
While the duo planned on building the organisation, Harshveer also happened to participate in a 100-km race in Ladakh, where Jatin Arora their third founder happened to be a crew member.
Having run 270 km in seven days in the Thar Desert, 200 km in five days in Kerala and 100 km in Ladakh, Harshveer, an adventure ambassador of Woodland, is considered to be among India's youngest ultra marathon runners.
The other two founders were not too far behind in their fitness journey. Jatin has been part of several half marathons across the country. He also is a certified ACE instructor and master trainer with Reebook, India. Jatin worked for over 15 years at Decathlon. Bishen has a black belt in karate and has also represented his State in several national tournaments.
Hurdles in bringing obstacle races to India
The trio believed that with their diverse, yet complementary skills, establishing obstacle races would be easier. However, setting up anything new comes with it set of hurdles and challenges and Alpha League Races faced its own challenges. "The first major hurdle we faced was getting the manpower required for organising this kind of race. We needed passionate people who could take the energy of the team to the next level," says Bishen.
However, the kind of people they were looking to hire did not come cheap. After a lot of interviews and reference checks, they found three people for whom the experience and not the money was priority. They shared the founders’ passion for sports and wanted to do something exciting in the field.
Next came the big concern: money. They negotiated hard with the on-site production team and got a great deal. However, the trio soon realised that spending lesser money wasn’t always a good thing, as that may contribute to reducing the quality and professionalism of the team.
"We weren't experienced to handle the event we had envisioned whose scale was big and because this was being done for the first time in India, no one had any clue as to what was to be done," adds Bishen. Hence, the entire team was present at the venue on the day of the event. Other activities like marketing and social media drives were happening at the site, under a tree.
Bishen notes that though the process was maddening, the team’s energy level was electrifying. He adds that two days before the event, no one went home or slept during the night. As of today, Alpha League Races has witnessed participation from over 4,000 individuals in over two races in Gurgaon and Bengaluru. Alpha League Races is currently funded by ticket sales and sponsors.
Addressable market and average participant
The average age of a participant was 28 years, and women participants contribute to 35 per cent. Participants constituted crossfitters, gym buffs, adventurers and general sports lovers. "Marathoners only form 25 per cent our participation pool. We are tapping into a new market of fitness," says Bishen.
The team notes that people are now open to trying out new concepts. Events by Alpha League Races have been met with enthusiastic response, the company believes, because they are adventure activities in the vicinity, and one doesn't have to plan travel to another destination.
The market in India for such activities is in a nascent, yet developing stage, while the markets abroad are very mature. In USA alone there are over 600 companies organising obstacle races, with the top companies organising more than 50 races a year. But, marathons and ultra runs are fast gaining popularity in India. Case in point would be the Mumbai Marathon, which saw 40,000 participants this year.
"The aim is to host 15,000 individuals at one race and also take this format of racing to four cities in India in the next year. With time, we will have a huge database of sports enthusiasts across the country. This creates opportunity for us to up-sell or cross-sell," adds Bishen.