Ex-army officer Sushil Bhasin capitalises experience to set up camping for corporates

 After serving in the army for 37 years, Bhasin decided to take voluntary retirement in October 2004 and shift focus to an old dream: making a difference in others’ lives.

 

 

Most retired army officers look forward to rest, relaxation, golf, family time and travel. But Brigadier (retd) Sushil Bhasin had other things on his mind. After serving in the army for 37 years, Bhasin decided to take voluntary retirement in October 2004 and shift focus to an old dream: making a difference in others' lives.

A weak back had meant that Bhasin had to join the Army Service Corps instead of the 
Indian Military Academy, and since this organisation provides logistics and training to defence personnel, Bhasin had spent a large part of his career offering this training. He went on to become an instructor and, eventually, a commandant of a training institute in Bangalore. So, Bhasin's first thought was to provide quality education to children. "However, my research, which started as early as 2003, revealed that setting up a school anywhere in the country would be very expensive," says the 62-year-old Bhasin.

Then, he was struck by another idea, triggered by a plot of land that he co-owned with three cousins. "In 1994, the four of us had purchased nearly 50 acre at Kolad, 120 km from Mumbai, as an investment. We had put in Rs 25 lakh to buy the property, but it was lying idle," says Bhasin, adding, "As none of my cousins was interested in using this land, I decided to develop it and hold recreational training camps for schoolchildren." The idea was to help the students have fun while building their character and personality. This is how Empower Activity Camps finally came into being, with Bhasin as its chairman and managing director.

With the business idea in place, his next job was to get the 
funding to make the place habitable. "Our property was in one of the most remote places of Maharashtra, where there was no road or electricity. We even had to figure out how to get a potable water connection," he reminisces. Bhasin had thought of taking a business loan to bankroll his dreams, but since it was taking too long to materialise, he took matters into his own hands. "My cousins and I mortgaged our houses and raised around Rs 1 crore as seed capital," he says. Bhasin and his cousins are equal shareholders in the company. In addition, he hired five employees.

When he was not wooing bankers, Bhasin met school representatives in order to sell his concept. Unfortunately, he found no takers. "The schools were not ready to pay the cost of training as it would have been costly for them. So, in an attempt to make lemonade from the lemons we were landing, we figured that we would use our camp for outbound training of corporate and company officials," he adds.

 

Within a month of hanging up his uniform, Bhasin bagged his first deal through a cousin, who was a senior official in a private telecom company. As the Kolad camp was still under construction, Empower Activity Camps decided to conduct the training session at one of the resorts in Alibag. "The camp was on team building. We designed several games and activities, which would help the 40-member team, achieve the objective, and pocketed Rs 40,000 for our efforts," he says. More clients followed courtesy the word-of-mouth publicity.