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Surfing in clear waters

One of the oldest water sports operators of Goa, Charlie Rodrigues, founder, Atlantis Water Sports, Arpora, has ambitious plans of making his venture the best, discovers Shoma Patnaik 

The water sport segment of the state’s tourism industry is an integral part of services offered to sightseers. Located mainly in the Candolim- Calangute- Baga beach belt, the sector offers scope to middle-class Goans to become entrepreneurs instead of seeking mundane office jobs.

Charlie Rodrigues, founder, Atlantis Water Sports, Arpora, runs a professional water sport unit and is generally recognized as one of the few organised setups in the trade. He started out in 1993 when water sport activities were at a nascent stage and tourist footfalls were relatively less.

Resident of Sangolda, Rodrigues, studied at a school in Guirim and completed his education from St Xaviers College, Mapusa. He needs to be highlighted for being one of the few Goan entrepreneurs in the state’s tourism industry where there are more outsiders than locals running businesses. .

Rodrigues started out in business when he was just 25 years as an exporter of sea food. He supplied fish to Mumbai based sea-food exporters for many years. The business was good and it made enough money for Rodrigues to think of early retirement. So he decided to relax and live a life of leisure on our beaches doing swimming and other sports activities.

“Every day I was on the beach in Anjuna. I loved being in the water and learnt wind surfing from an expert. I enjoyed the sport so much that I purchased the wind surfing boat after learning the sport. Daily I did wind surfing and soon people were asking me to teach them. I ended up purchasing three second- hand boats and even purchased a kyak. It set me off in the trade,” he says.

Rodrigues had enough savings to think of buying himself a nice car. “I had five-six lakh on hand which was a good sum in the old days. I decided to buy a good car but after some thought felt that the money should be put to good use. Twenty four hour a day I was on the beach doing water sports. I felt that it would be better to buy a jet-ski than a car. Those days there were no water sport operators in the north Goa coastal belt. I could easily make a living by renting out the jet-ski and also teaching others. Soon I purchased a speed boat and got into the water sport business.” 

He says that, it was not a business at first. “It was 75 per cent hobby and 25 per cent business. But slowly the ratio changed from 75:25 to 50:50 until it became a full-fledged business,” says Rodrigues.

In the early days when he went to apply for license the tourism department had not yet started issuing licenses. The licensing and permissions came in later. Now operators take multiple licenses from different authorities, he says.

In the early days, Rodrigues often travelled abroad in the off-season and worked to earn a small living. He observed water sport activities in different beach tourist destinations such as Thailand, Bali, Vietnam, Malaysia. While returning he would purchase equipment for his venture. 

He says that, his unit Atlantis Water Sports offers scuba diving, water rafting, boat cruises, jet-skis, Dudhsagar water fall trips and the gamut of water related adventure activities. The customers are corporate clients as well as walk-in customers. About 80 per cent of his business is through referrals which protects it from the vagaries of the trade.

“There are too many water sport operators presently in the fray,” according to Rodrigues. He discloses that, sector has several operators from Bihar, UP and AP, who have never done sport in their lives and have no clue about the essentials of running a water sport business.

“I am not worried about the competition but am concerned about the quality of services. Operators also need to learn etiquette and speak properly. Sometimes they call raucously out to tourists and give the wrong impression of the state,” he says.

Rodrigues discloses that, he is from middle-class background. “My father was a teacher but I think I was always business inclined. There is lot of scope for water sports activities as the state is gained a reputation for water sports just like Kerala is recognized for its Ayurvedic massage,” he says.

His future plan is to keep professionalizing his business and improve the quality of services to customers. ‘I pay GST and pay all taxes but there are number of water sport operators who pay nothing. I look after my customers properly by having coordinators on the beaches,” he says.

The unit is registered with online travel sites and tour operators. It handles about 150 tourists per day on an average although the ongoing tourist season is slow and witnessing drop in clientele.

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