Abhinav Bindra's Olympian Entrepreneurism
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An hour before our scheduled interaction, we reach the backyard of Abhinav’s home, which has an indoor range for him to practice every day. Inside is the man already shooting, unaffected by our arrival and concentrated on his target. Above the target is glued his aim ‘Rio Olympics’. The walls in the range mount his glorious achievements framing pictures and medals alike. His 20 year long career has been full of achievements, the most famous one being the only individual gold win by an Indian at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
The Olympics which was Abhinav Bindra’s only goal was finally fulfilled. His hard work, commitment,
discipline, focus, everything paid off. But the next morning when Abhinav woke up he felt like a ship without radar. All of a sudden he had no aim to target. The pinnacle of sports has been reached, what’s next. He was trying to find answers within himself, but couldn’t. He thought of quitting the game, but will this help. He kept thinking about it and took a break to find an answer. Every champion, entrepreneur or professional has a target to achieve, once you get there, you think what will be my next move. Abhinav went on a 10-day vipasana course to find an answer. In vipasana one has to keep quiet, not talking to anyone for those 10 days. While mediating one thought that kept coming back to his mind was shooting. The answer was right in front. Abhinav took a two-yearbreak and resumed sports in 2010.
Being a shy kid Abhinav was never interested in sports. At boarding, he used to get letters from his father encouraging him to take sports. “I was looking for something to do as a pastime when I was 13; I was looking for a hobby. At that point I didn’t really enjoy any form of sport. I was in boarding school and wasn’t really happy there. I was never the most talented or an athletic gifted person. I was never really fond of sports.” At 13, Abhinav moved from Doon School to Chandigarh.
The one who channelized Abhinav’s focus in the right direction and let a coach guide him was his father Dr A S Bindra, who is also the founder of Hitech Group. So, what was it that convinced his father about his son’s career in shooting? Dr. Bindra, shares, “I was very fond of guns. Every Sunday, I used to take out the guns for cleaning. As a child, Abhinav would show keen interest in knowing about them. When I brought toys for him, he would discard them and demand a gun. He started practicing with air guns shooting at bottles. He was really good at it. Once I saw him keeping balloons on the maid’s head and shooting. Then I introduced him to a coach.” Remembering the early days, Abhinav says, “I went to shoot and I really liked it. What charmed me was that I was responsible for my own success. My destiny was in my own hands. It’s an individual sport so that aspect really caught my fancy. Of course to be
successful in this sport you had to stand very still and at that point I hated that activity. It’s a very addictive sport. I got hooked to it.”
Abhinav’s family believed in him and supported him throughout. In Abhinav’s words, “They are more positive than me, I am more realistic as a person. I am naturally not very positive.” Abhinav started competing at a very young age. At Commonwealth Games, he was the youngest in Kuala Lampur in 1998. In 2014 Commonwealth Games at Glasgow, Abhinav won the Gold medal.
The stuff geniuses are made of
In an athlete’s career you fail more than you win. That’s very similar to business and an entrepreneur’s life. They also face a lot of failures. Learning from those situations, Abhinav says, “You need to have determination to absorb those failures and to continue to work hard. Continue to remain dedicated and honest to your goal and continue to persevere to achieve until you achieve that. There is no stopping. Fail and try again, try again. Don’t give up.”
As an athlete Abhinav trained himself even for the worst of situations. Still, the Olympic winner doesn’t find himself competitive enough. He says, “I am not a competitive person by nature. I am not built for competition. I find the idea of competition totally silly.”
Counting his limitations, Abhinav says, “I have the lack of talent to multitask. If you are able to focus on the task in hand and the ability to do it in the present nmoment, best to your ability, you do that task well.” Abhinav trains for about seven hours every day which involves shooting plus physical training comprising yoga, meditation, pilates and tai chi. As per Abhinav, “Shooting in itself is a very meditative exercise. I do exercises that involve mind, body control.” Besides shooting and business, Abhinav also enjoys travelling, reading, collecting art and watching other sports. On managing stress Abhinav says, “Stress has to be managed with a balanced, calm, controlled and socially sensitive approach. Stress should be managed timely to enable comfortable survival.”
Abhinav describes himself as one who is allergic to imperfections and wants solution not baseless suggestions and is focused and determined. Another Shot at Gold The Olympic glory lasts only a few years and in a cricket crazy nation like India, you have to be on your own to support your training, which in Abhinav’s case was done by his father. On taking the entrepreneurial route, Abhinav says, “I have to plan a living. I am not a golfer, a tennis player or a cricketer who can earn good living out of my own sport. My sport requires investment. In order to survive in life I also have to do something.”
Rio Olympics 2016 where he is a participant as well as India’s Goodwill Ambassador will also put an end to his journey as it would be his last. Once the Olympics end in August, Abhinav will full fledged get into another journey of his life. The entrepreneur in him is getting ready for another shot.
As per his father, the family business doesn’t interest him so he wants to do things on his own. Abhinav has set up a venture capital fund which will further invest in startups. On not joining the family business, he says, “It’s a learning curve for me and I am happy to start from scratch. I will work my way up. Move slowly. That’s a good feeling. My father guides me. I still continue to seek advice from him.” All matters is his experience what he would implement in different situations.
His existing company Abhinav Futuristics has a sporting division to it which is into technology, fitness and health. It also has a JV with Walther to manufacture the rifles in India. This year, he also started
to invest in startups in sports infrastructure, health and fitness. That is something which instills great interest in Abhinav. As per Abhinav, “Sports is an instant connect that I have. I am also excited about areas in health and fitness. Fitness is a huge market in India but it is an unorganized sector in India.” So far his fund ‘Shooting Star LLP’ has made two initial investments. Though Abhinav was fortunate enough being born in a well-off family, which could support his training. His aim now is to support kids at a young age. ‘The Abhinav Bindra Foundation Trust’ acts as a platform to promote education and sports, vocation training and healthcare.
On sharing what he looks for in a partner, he says, “We look at the best of companies; we invest in areas where people are domain specialists. We also look at passion of the people they have for the company. Excellence in that given field. The partner should be understanding, honest, transparent and forthcoming.”
For a common man Olympics come once in four year but for an athlete it’s Olympics every day. The transition from athletics to business for Abhinav Bindra would be worth watching. All eyes on him.
Also read: 8 Entrepreneurial Lessons By Abhinav Bindra
This article first appeared in the Indian edition of Entrepreneur magazine (June 2016 Issue)