Umang Shankar is a small town guy with big dreams. Born and brought up in the Himalayas (Shimla, HP), he is a mechanical engineer by education and a sales and marketing manager by profession. He dreams of being a social entrepreneur to solve un-tackled problems like crowd funding one’s MBA! Umang Shankar is also a member of the Chandigarh Royal Enfield Club – The Road Survivors.
Every year I liaison with the club hosting the Rider Mania. From 2014 to January 2015, Umang Shankar and I were nothing short of partners in crime. While he was pumping in the money from every source known to fund Rider Mania; I was the lab rat helping keep promises made for online promotions. I had never met Umang Shankar till Rider Mania hosted by Road Survivors; but he is one of the most remarkable and industrious fellows you can meet. When he told me the story about his call sign, I was not the least bit surprised.
Our second interview with road trippers, in the #aageseright series! Read on…
- What inspired you get behind the handlebar?
Umang Shankar: I never had to be inspired, rather I was there as far or as long back as I remember. I used to get my photos clicked by my dad while me going underneath my tricycle and pretending to be fixing my tricycle like a mechanic. My folks say I was always there with my tricycle. So probably a wandering soul from birth. But in those times no one I knew got a cycle, neither did I. But struck a deal with my parents that if I got to an engineering college, and got myself a job I would get to pick any bike on the market. Ever since the bug bit it has never really healed.
- You have one of the most interesting call signs for a biker in India – The flying apple! Where did that come from?
Umang Shankar: That’s just a myth that my club started. We were riding on one of the trails near Chandigarh and I was riding well that day over taking everyone. There was this straight patch but a bit slippery with water over it. I slipped and my bike turned towards the cliff and literally flew down with me on it. I landed on a corn field. I still remember the expression the farmer had on his face. Since I am from the place, which is known for its apple orchards they started calling me the apple who flew. Hence, the flying apple. I still call it a myth because its much easy to explain it to family.
- You’re an integral member of Road Survivors, tell us about that journey with one of the most iconic bullet clubs in India today. Did the club find you, or did you find the club?
Umang Shankar: Back in 2007 there was a friend of mine from college who was a bike lover himself. He had a Rajdoot at that time and we were planning to start a club. But on googling a bit I stumbled upon Road Survivors and was invited to a club meeting on a Sunday. They liked me. Since I was single and didn’t have anything particular in life to do, I started going on rides and food runs that the club was most known for. That was it. The most likable thing about RS is that there are no rules and the 60-70 people who call themselves Road Survivors are just bound by only love, respect and passion.
- You’ve not been in India for some time now. On a scale of one to “get me out of here”, how much do you miss the mountains of India?
Umang Shankar: I miss mountains so much and I cannot just rate it on a scale. The mountains are not just a place where I like to ride my bike or trek or visit. Mountains are home, it is where I was born and brought up. And I am totally proud of my pahadi heritage. As they say, India lives in her villages, I totally miss the village life – the only life I knew while growing up.
- Road survivors hosted one of the most memorable BOBMC Rider Mania’s and you were the one man running the funds for the event. Was it too much to handle, did you expect it to come through so well?
Umang Shankar: It wasn’t just too much; it was way too much for any club. We are a voluntary organization and everyone volunteering has a day job too. One does the 9 to N job (in India there is no concept of going back home at 5) then tends to his family. After all this whatever time he gets, he invests in Rider Mania. I believe it is the story of every club and it is one herculean task to undertake. We had one aim in our mind, since the riders are coming to Punjab we needed to stick to our Punjabi roots. So food, music and drinks was the focus. Along with that our moderator Jojo always believed in collecting good karma hence we did abide by that for entire year. But the most defining part was everyone knew what he had to do and no one interfered with other’s job. We had run so many dry runs that we had memorized our rebuttals to every situation. And at the end as they say hard work never goes unrewarded.
- Can you recollect some of the most touching moments of you’ve come across during your rides in the last so many years?
Umang Shankar: There won’t be enough time to answer that question! I am sitting 7000kms away from home and we have riders here and we meet often. One very fond memory I have is of the Madbulls. I was riding to Chennai and was told to contact Mad Bulls. The hospitality and the warmth I got there was beyond imagining and I cannot forget how we went past language barriers and became friends for life. On a serious note there have been many incidents when a stranded rider in a middle of night was rescued by a someone from the nearest club to him. It is a huge network of likeminded people and bound by love of travelling and Royal Enfields.
- Which is your favorite highway in India? and Why?
Umang Shankar: There are 2 rather. One from Nahan (Himachal Pradesh) to Kumarhatti (Himachal Pradesh) which is not the remotest or an exotic location. It takes only 1 hour from Chandigarh to reach this place, but one of the few roads where the worthiest can actually do a knee down.
And second has to be the road of the White Rann. Looking at White Rann is the most inexplicable moments in my life. It is so vast and expansive that you feel so tiny in front of it. It is one humbling experience and one I will never forget.
- As road trippers what do you think are our responsibilities, and what are our rights?
Umang Shankar: I believe in the road and it teaches you a lot about yourself, humanity and nature as a whole. It gives you freedom but with rights also come responsibilities. You need to respect the passersby to get the respect from them. I have seen so many people giving a helping hand to a biker stuck in middle of no-where and so it should be reciprocated as well. We as the educated lot on the road need to be very strict with the rules and regulations, gear and speed limits. As we all think the community as our family we should respect the other person as well who must have longed for his place in the family as well.
- How do you go about planning your road trips? What do you think map applications can do better so they become more powerful?
Umang Shankar: Well mostly back in those days we used to follow the road atlas, but now-a-days google maps have almost made them obsolete. However, I still believe in a tangible offline world. And if a map application needs to be successful in that it should have an offline feature. A feature in which you can download the entire map of a place and can search the roads offline.
Tao used to say path is pathless. I say that path is known and traveled by many but your path is for you to take and travel and no one will show you the way.
- Tell us about your venture – Make My Ride. How has it been going so far. Have you guys raised any form of funding?
Umang Shankar: The core team comprises of 3 people Jojo Khurana, Bikram Singh and Gagan Singh and I provide with marketing, outreach and push support to the team. These guys are the big boys of touring in India. I should have mentioned them in the last question, because if any of them are with you in any part of the country you actually do not need a map! That apart, the team has invested in 21 motorcycles at first and recently procured 5 Royal Enfield Himalayans. The business model is simple, why do you want to hire a bike from an unknown source in Delhi, then ride the mad rush when you can get better rates, better bikes and from the best people in Chandigarh, which is half an hour ride from hills.
MakeMyRide has been a very rewarding experience. The effort these guys have put in is commendable. They have all the ingredients to be successful business leaders, they are patient, love their work and worship bikes.
I am a big believer of innovations and trying out new stuff. But I detest this new term of entrepreneurship and startups. From centuries people have started their businesses and have been successful in it, so what happened in last 20 years that all new business and people have a brand new name?
I believe in business with a good product, good service and good follow up. Rest of the knowledge is just a bunch of b******* to market the unsuccessful ideas, the people and pitch yourself as cool on talk shows and symposiums.
- You’re an avid blogger and author on several blogs. What topics are closest your heart?
Blogging was never my choice since I was pushed into it by a friend who owns www.camncon.com who made me start writing. I write about bikes, automotive developments, social injustices and currently about education.
- Professionally where do you see yourself going now?
I have worked for almost a decade in India and have travelled extensively throughout the country. Last year I visited Europe and loved the air and people of the place, hence I moved here. London is my karambhoomi now, although it voted itself out of EU but Europe it will always be. I want to broaden my horizon and want to take MakeMyRide to the world, as India is still so badly marketed in terms of Adventure Tourism that it creates an awesome opportunity for guys like us to make most of it.
Throughout my career I have been very inspired by world leaders and business tycoons and how big firms start and propagate. I was always inclined to do MBA and increase my scope of thinking and analyzing any business scenario. Hence I down for the tests and interviews, luckily I got admitted into one of the greatest universities of world – City University London, in its business school – CASS Business School.
- Congrats on your invite from CASS Business School! That’s the place to be! Everyone has a reason to do an MBA. While mostly, it’s money or better job prospects; is there something that’s really motivating you to go for it?
Firstly, if you look at the alumni list of City University you would find 4 names shining like the pole star, Mr. M.K. Gandhi, Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru, Ms. Margret Thatcher and Mr. Tony Blair. In the world of politics and history you cannot get bigger than this. To see your name in that alumni list is an achievement in itself. I am glad that I am being given an opportunity to showcase my talent and to represent India in such a diverse alumni and cohort.
As far as my personal motivation is concerned, I wanted to study business before getting into it full time. It is always to learn from the mistakes of others than to commit them on your own. I wanted to study machines hence I did Mechanical Engineering, now I want to do business it is logical enough for me to study it and then jump into it.
- MBA is very costly anywhere in the world right now. Have you also got any scholarship for the MBA program? Tell us more about how you’re funding your MBA
Yes. MBA is getting very costly even in Tier 1 Indian colleges. It costs almost 20 – 30 Lakhs for the course. My total fees Is GBP39500 (around 34 lacs as on August 2016). For the course I have been awarded the ‘Asia and Asia Pacific Scholarship Award’ of GBP4000 that comes out to be almost 10% but the rest I am trying to arrange from either a non-banking financial service in London Prodigy, my savings and if I can from a crowdfunding campaign – Fund-UR-MBA
- Wow! So how much have you raised so far and do you think you will reach the target?
Till now the campaign has been successful in raising Rs. 17,400/- which is almost 2% of the target of 10 Lakhs. I don’t know about whether I would reach the target of 10 lakhs or not, but I believe in this community of bikers and road trippers, and Indians as a whole. We have been the beacon of education from the start of time and education plays a big part in our society. Hence when a campaign like this comes along it faces its share of criticism but then it should not stop you from trying. And lastly if you ask of my target to hit the 10 lac, I will that is for sure!
- You and I both know this community of bikers; but would you mind taking some time to explain it to our readers?
Well this community was started when first Rider Mania happened way back in 2003 hosted in GOA where only 74 bikers from handful of clubs came to attend. In 2016, more than 1600 bikers from more than 100 clubs attended the event.
It is a community of largely motorcycle enthusiasts, whose sole passion of travelling and Royal Enfield have brought them closer and bonded as family.
The community I am talking about is BOBMC: – Brotherhood of Bulleteers Motorcycling Consortium. It is a voluntary body and comprises of very experienced riders. The community hosts a few events annually. Rider Mania, North East Riders Meet, BOBMC Day are some of them. These events are an annual communion of brotherhood, bikes and bonding.
17. You have our money Umang Shankar! We wish you all the best. Would you leave any last thoughts and comments for road trippers all over the country?
Thanks dada for the support, last thought for this interview would be – “Every guy has his cross to bear, so ride on, ride on to your mountains, village, home or café; as long as you are riding you are alive”.
- You promised me a Himachali cap. Can you send me one of those instead of a t-shirt you’re offering every donor? J
A Pahadi Topi is an honor and I will be honored to give you one!
Liked reading the interview? You might also want to check our interview with other road trippers like Sarah Kashyap, DK Chauhan and Arhunki Laloo. If reading about a pahadi has inspired you to hit the mountains anytime, do also checkout some of the creepiest places to road trip to!