Known as land of mystics and spices, India is now fast emerging as one of the favoured destinations for adventure sports as well. From river rafting to trekking, India offers mind boggling diversity to try different adventure sports. Each adventure sport has its excitement but the thrill of bungee jumping is unmatched. Rishikesh is India’s adventure sports capital and is also home to its highest Bungee Jumping platform by Jumpin Heights. Talking to Financial Express, Captain Rahul Nigam (Managing Director and Founder) and Niharika Nigam (Director – Business Development) of Jumpin Heights revealed their plans to open new Bungee Jumping platforms at Goa later this year and the future of adventure sports in India. Excerpts:
Tell us about the journey of Jumpin Heights, from its idea and inception and now where it is now?
Captain Rahul Nigam: Jumpin Heights was launched in 2010 with an endeavour to introduce youth and adventure enthusiasts to extreme adventure sport and bring it on a commercial scale to India, with International Safety Standards. With limited advertising budget, the only way we could reach out to people was through word of mouth. The quality of our service led customers to recommend the brand to their friends and family and cemented our brand’s position as the leading adventure sports company in Rishikesh. Though this is a very slow process- it took almost four years for the word to spread – but since then there was no looking back.
Today, Jumpin Heights has successfully completed over 80,000 bungee jumps and has been instrumental in Rishikesh becoming the adventure capital of India, as acknowledged by the survey released in January by the Ministry of Tourism.
What was the idea/inspiration behind bringing Bungee Jumping to India?
Captain Rahul Nigam: As an ex-Army Captain, I always wanted to change the perception that undertaking an adventure sport in India was unsafe. Built above the glorious river Ganges, Jumpin Heights is host to India’s first highest Bungee jumping platform (83 meters). Consequently, it has changed the face of extreme adventure in the country, including the way organizational safety is perceived in India. Being pioneers of commercial extreme adventure in India, we emphasize on safety and ensure an exhilarating experience. Recognised by Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India, we follow Australian and New Zealand Standards for Safety Regulations and ensure safety of every individual present at the jump site.
Why Rishikesh? It is a spiritual hub which is now known for adventure sports.
Niharika Nigam: Over the past few years, Rishikesh has become one of the most travelled place in India by both foreign and Indian tourists who have taken a keen interest in experiencing adventure sports. River Rafting had been a popular sporting activity that had gained popularity amongst travelers of all age groups. It is true that Rishikesh is a spiritual hub but in equal measure, it is a hub for adventure sports also. I would argue that adventure sports itself is quite spiritually thrilling too. The two aren’t distinct and Rishikesh’s setting brings out that synergy between the conventional and the unconventional ways of reconnecting with ones deeper self.
Right now you have two platforms. One for Bungee and Giant swing and other for Flying Fox. Do you plan to add more platforms? Or other adventure sports like zip line or river crossing, etc. Or moving to any other place?
Niharika Nigam: In August of 2019, we will open doors for experiencing bungy jumping in Goa. We want customers to see us as more than an adventure sports company. They should see Jumpin Heights as an experiential brand that provides a thrilling experience in picturesque settings. This is why we choose Rishikesh for our first location and Goa as the second. Both places are an experience in themselves and surrounded by gorgeous scenery.
How many total bungee jumps have been done till now?
Niharika Nigam: We have operated over 80,000 bungy jumps since our inception in 2010- a landmark for adventure tourism in India.
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What all safety and emergency measures you have ensured at Jumpin Heights?
Captain Rahul Nigam: The safety of our customers is paramount. Owned and managed by Ex- Army officers, only the highest safety standards are maintained. Jumpin Heights has been designed by experts from New Zealand, and we hired Jump Masters from New Zealand to run the operations. Jumpin Heights adheres to the Australia New Zealand Safety Standards for Commercial Operations of Bungee Jumping and all equipment used by us is sourced from internationally reputed brands. We discard used equipment like rubber cords well before their life expectancy. Our Indian staff members have been intensely trained by international jumpmasters. We regularly practice rescue drills and all our crew members are trained in first aid procedures. Procedures such as checks and cross-checks are done stringently by Jumpin Heights staff. Checks and cross checks are done by at least four jump staff before every jump. Also, every jumper is provided a detailed briefing about what to expect before they jump.
Some people reach the platform and are not able to conjure the courage to take the leap, especially in Bungee? What would be the percentage of people aborting the jump?
Niharika Nigam: Not many people abort a jump. Less than 10% do so. Our jump masters patiently motivate them and try to instill that sense of strength in them. But if after three countdowns, a person in unable to jump, we honor his decision. A higher number of men sign up to do bungee jumps but a higher percentage of men, than women, abort jumps at the last step. Very few women who sign up to do a bungee jump abort a jump. One reason so few abort is we brief everyone and provide a VR experience so they know what to expect.
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Adding to the above question; what would be your advice to people coming to take the plunge?
Captain Rahul Nigam: I would advise them to trust us because they’re in safe hands. We have a decade of experience in managing adventure sports and jump masters in our service have even more experience. Jumpin Heights has been so successful because it pays meticulous attention to safety and provides a grand adventure sports experience. Rest assured that Our safety standards are unmatched, and at par with the best bungy locations globally. I would tell anyone who wants to bungee jump for the first time that it is an exhilarating experience and when done under a competent authority- is completely safe.
How would you like to address the concern about damage to environment due to increased footfall in eco-sensitive zone of Rishikesh?
Niharika Nigam: Every activity performed by Jumpin Heights is ecologically friendly. We celebrate the landscape where we manage adventure sports. We want people to enjoy adventure sports without diminishing the surrounding scenery. After a bungee jump, people trek uphill for 15 minutes. Some may complain, but we emphasise that Rishikesh’s mountains are a part of the intrinsic Rishikesh experience and cannot and should not be extricated out of it. We encourage people to take it in the spirit of adventure. We have left nature and mountains surrounding our site as untouched as possible instead of drilling through them because we celebrate the landscape.
And finally, how do see India’s current position in the world in terms of extreme adventure sports and its future in the country.
Captain Rahul Nigam: India has come a long way but it still has a long way to go- mainly in the attitude of the bulk of Indian companies towards safety practices. Stricter standards of safety and rules are necessary as is a need to adhere closely to generalised safety standards. Today almost any adventure sports company can begin operations without adequate certification with regard to safety. There are no strict norms to govern safety in adventure sports but work is underway.