Diving Into The Entrepreneurial Sea Scuba diving and entrepreneurship! It doesn't get better than this.
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It is rightly said, if you are truly passionate about something, you can make a living out of it. And making a good one out of his passion is this entrepreneur who probably has the coolest job of all times.
An industrial engineer by degree, Sunil Bakshi is a man of many talents. A former competitive swimmer and a water polo player, Bakshi is also one of India's first scuba divers. Diving in the oceans of Mauritius, Thailand, Mexico, Maldives, Australia and where not, he wanted people to see the hidden treasures under the ocean that he had discovered. Setting sail for his passion, Bakshi founded Infiniti Live Aboard, a cruise that will take you into the Indian Ocean and see the underwater beauty of the Andamans.
Living on the yacht for seven months at a stretch, Sunil's job looks more like a vacation, but even a job as awesome as his has some set of responsibilities. For instance, discovering dive sites, building a team of pro divers, and connecting with experienced foreign travellers who are into diving. Did I mention how cool his job is?
A Lord of The Rings buff, Bakshi talks about his experiences, both underwater and above water, in conversation with Entrepreneur India.
Sailing into the entrepreneurial wind
My first taste of entrepreneurship was when I set up an engineering consultancy in Dubai. Being entirely my initiative, it gave me confidence and whetted my appetite to do more entrepreneurial ventures.
As a passionate diver, it was my dream to start and run India's first live-aboard. It was something I wanted to do for a long time. I was taking these diving trips all over the world – Mauritius, Thailand, Mexico, Maldives, Australia; and I thought about the beautiful islands and coastline that belongs to India; and I really wanted to put India on the world's diving map.
We have the Andaman and Nicobar Islands which are just incredible, a part of our country to be truly treasured & to be proud of. The nature of the island is such as that the best diving is at remote dive sites, off uninhabited islands and volcanoes. You would have to have a "live-aboard" – a yacht that you can live on, to get there. Someone had to do it, and that someone would be me!
I had to begin by getting the Infiniti custom designed & built, in Thailand. We started by buying sheets of steel and then getting a vessel – 40 meter long, four decks – fabricated and getting all the systems installed. We had to do it to RINA class so a very high standard of engineering was required. All my engineering expertise was of tremendous use here.
Naming that sailboat
The Infiniti refers to the Infinite Ocean of course, and the huge world that it includes. The realm of experiences within the ocean is beyond imagination, it is a stunning living beauty like no other. That's the feeling we try to evoke with the name "Infiniti" – it's also a reference to "fin" which is a diving term, so it's a little extra appealing to the divers.
Our team is motivated by being part of our unique journeys, and of shared dream of taking diving in India to a new level. We get to meet amazing people from all over the world, and show them something they've never seen before. So everyone is focused on that and the incredible energy of being in the islands' pristine environment.
Our operation is all about team work. Our team lives together on the yacht for seven months, and works together for successful operation. Everyone is an expert in their own field so everyone is treated with respect. We don't have a formal boss – employee arrangement, it is always teamwork that is prized above all. The most important thing is to be cool-headed. Even in difficult situation, everyone is advised always to keep their cool. We all wear t-shirts emblazoned "Team Infiniti", including me, I am also basically part of the team. Communication, debriefings, get together are encouraged.
I am happy to say that most of our guests have really enjoyed themselves and appreciated our live-aboard a lot. Many of them come again. I remember that Anurag Kashyap the movie director from Mumbai wrote, "This is an experience of a lifetime that I will never ever forget". There are many more such testimonials.
A wave of craziness
There was this time when the Crown Prince of Dubai was set to come to the Andamans but his private yacht broke down. His team got into some fierce discussions with us and negotiated a crazy deal for us and our passengers to release the Infiniti from a scheduled trip, for his personal use. Finally it got rescheduled, but the whole process was quite interesting!
Travelling advice from the expert
Within the Andamans, it is Barren and Narcondam Islands, the volcanoes with endemic birds and stunning diving in surrounding waters. Outside the Andamans, I like vibrant cities too like London, New York. A travel tip – get PADI certified and become a divers – it will really elevate your beach holidays, will add an entirely new dimension to your vacation experience.