Radhika Khurana’s Sirius Sports is here to show sailing isn’t just for the rich

29th Jun 2017
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Sirius Sports opens up the ocean for Indian adventure buffs.

How many people do you know who sail for sport? Not too many, right? That’s because we always see it as a luxury the wealthy indulge in. However, a conversation with entrepreneur Radhika Khurana (43), Co-founder of Sirius Sports, presented a different picture of the subject.

Clearly passionate about sailing, Radhika says there are three myths around it—that it is for the rich, that it is unsafe, and that India is too hot for sailing. Radhika aims to change these perceptions.

Radhika says,

I stepped into this business in an attempt to dispel these myths and to successfully channel all the queries we were faced with. In an attempt to create more awareness and to make sailing accessible to all, I established Sirius Sports along with some of India’s leading authorities in the space.

With more awareness and exposure, she believes sailing could become a popular sport in India.

An ocean of opportunity

Radhika talks passionately of India’s coastline (the eighteenth-longest in the world) and its rich maritime history. She states, “Indians are well travelled and exposed to various forms of outdoor lifestyle already. Although sailing happens to be an integral part of the adventure sports domain, there is not much know-how.” This is a gap which Sirius Sports addresses.

With 540 million people living near the coasts, Radhika believes “every city, village, and town has potential to have a marina with 10 to 100 boats. As the government invests in intermodal transportation, sailing will continue to grow.” With her optimistic attitude, she set in motion her idea.

Banker mom to sailing entrepreneur

A merchant navy captain’s daughter, Radhika’s exposure to sailing started in her infancy. Growing up, she heard stories about being on a supertanker across the Pacific Ocean, which she’d talk about at school. She’d tell her classmates and teachers that her father was a sailor on a supertanker, but often they wouldn’t understand her and assume he was a fisherman.

After graduating from high school in Mumbai and completing university in Rhode Island, US, her first job was at Bank of America. Eight jobs with five multinational banks allowed her to travel across the globe.

Returning for business school at ISB in 2002, Radhika continued her banking career in India. She also continued sailing for leisure.

It was when her young son began to learn sailing that Radhika had her epiphany to make it accessible to all. While becoming accustomed to the sailing scene with her son she met the people with whom she would start a business. Sirius Sports is currently headquartered in Mumbai, where Radhika grew up.

Setting sail

Incorporated in March 2015, Sirius Sports began with Radhika and her co-founders, ace sailors and Arjuna awardees Mahesh Ramachandran (49) and Aashim Mongia (47). The company's primary business is teaching sailing to all age groups. Additionally, they host events such as regattas and rallies and provide consulting for water sports.

Sirius evangelises sailing by allowing the public and corporates to book boats for cruising or sailing experiences.

Not surprisingly, this nascent industry is male dominated. However, Radhika finds that this works to her advantage—retail clients she talks to, particularly women, are comfortable dealing with her.

While Sirius’ founders love sailing, building the business hasn’t been all fun and games. Despite her business and banking background, Radhika admits to facing several challenges.

Initial hiccups

Even the setting up of a private limited company was a challenge due to the compliance requirements and tax issues. Also, in a field as niche as this, “discovering and retaining the brightest talent is a challenge,” says Radhika. Even with 12 employees, she still spends a lot of time across functions. However, her favourite part remains “interacting with potential customers and demystifying the sport of sailing and yachting.” Interacting with customers shows Radhika that sailing is exciting to a lot of folks.

Bootstrapped

Currently self-funded, most of Sirius Sports’ investments have been in new, state-of-the-art boats. Other expenditure has been for boat management and technology to improve customer satisfaction. As their business evolves, they intend to raise funding for specific verticals around their business.

As regards their market performance and revenue, Radhika says, “We’ve been pleasantly surprised with our current revenue and run rate, given the [level of our] investment.” With positive strides in their work, Radhika believes Sirius Sports will popularise sailing in the country.

We love our work and look forward to having many more people go out to enjoy the wonders of being at sea!
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