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Pursuit of Happiness

The adrenaline junkie
Manav Dhanda, Group CEO, SAB Group is constantly chasing the rush in his professional and personal lives

Sonia Mariam Thomas

If you ask Manav Dhanda, adventure and risk are not the same.  What separates risk from the adventure sports he so fondly indulges in is preparation. He asks, “It’s a sport at the end of it. When you’re trained and prepared to mitigate all the risks, why call it a risk? It is an adventure.”

Dhanda says he got lucky with the exposure to adventure sports. Being an Air Force officer’s son, he travelled to and lived in places such as Shillong and Srinagar, which offered him adventure camps to participate in. “At a younger age, it was very basic. We lived in tents, crossed rivers and rode ponies. Around the 6th or 7th grade, I joined a three-week long skiing camp in Gulmarg. On the ski lift on the way back up the cliff, I looked around and thought, ‘This is it!’ I think that’s when I knew I wanted to do this all my life.” Thereon, he did everything in his power to replicate the first rush he felt while skiing. He picked up water skiing, river rafting, sailing to name a few on his trips to adventure camps in Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir. However, the crisis in Kashmir heightening at the beginning of the 90s put a cruel halt to the frequency of his adventure camps. “I just turned up at Kashmir for a skiing camp and they had to shut down because there weren’t enough participants. It was quite sad, but I didn’t want to give up.” And he never did.

Through his college years and after, he was part of a theatre troupe which helped him explore his creative side a lot more. During this time, he was also working at an adventure travel company. With both his creative and aspirational pursuits working for him, he didn’t have much to complain about. However, by the end of his final year, he decided to move on to Mumbai to become a writer. During his time as a producer at Sony, he produced popular shows such as Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin while also continuing to make time for adventure sports at least once or twice a year. He picked up hang gliding, paragliding and scuba diving in the last 15-odd years alone.

He says, “I realised that writing and creating content was another adventure for me. When that wasn’t enough, I moved to production. Over the years, I have shuttled between radio, television, and entrepreneurship and finally back to managing television because I was constantly chasing the rush I felt the first time and I continue to keep trying to raise the bar.” Of his more recent conquests, he learnt skydiving, bungee jumping and the nevis swing on a trip to New Zealand last year and earlier this year, went scuba diving to have a look at a sunken World War II ship in the ocean in Bali. He remains on the lookout for something new to learn every time he travels and wants to improve at scuba diving over time.

When asked about making time for his adventures, he smiles, “I make the time for it.” As a CEO of a well-known television group that is only slowly expanding, what is it that calls out to the adventurer in him? “The ordinary bores people like me – people who actively participate in adventure sports and supposedly put themselves at risk. But, this is what keeps me going. Whether I am out there playing or here at work, knowing that I am constantly pushing my boundaries and exploring the unknown is what still keeps me going.” He continues, “When you go out hang gliding, people below you will look up and think you’re risking your life, but really you’re just flying. Channelising your love for adventure will ensure that you achieve what you seek in the best way possible.”

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