As dawn sets in, the villagers of Agondapalli in Hosur, Tamil Nadu, are awakened by the sound of a booming bark. Little Bruno runs through the fog trying to clear up the cattle and then enthusiastically runs back to join his friends – a horse and its rider. The villagers have gotten used to the sight of Bruno the dog, Melody the horse and Sandeep the rider. A sight that reminds some of them of the fictional superhero Phantom, who rides a horse accompanied by a mountain wolf. That’s how Sandeep Menon begins his day before opening the gates of his horse riding academy.
Following his passion
Sandeep grew up in a town called Irinjalakuda situated in Thrissur district of Kerala and this is where he first fell in love with nature. He nursed deep within him a dream to be closer to it. Even during his 20-yearslong career in the IT industry, he never let go of that dream. One day, he decided it was time to move out of the comforts of that industry and finally follow his passion. Not only did he fulfill his dream, but he also became somewhat like the comic book hero that he had idolised as a kid.
In 2018, Sandeep established the Stallion Valley School of Lifestyle, a sprawling farm in Hosur and Bengaluru that teaches the art of horse riding and everything about horses.
“On October 15, 2018, three horses entered our farm in Hosur,” reminisces Sandeep. His friend and partner Kishore Reddy had developed the Samruddhi farms in Hosur for a residential layout. “We had some areas there to develop something different. We had no clue what to do and discussed starting a Football coaching centre or cricket academy, but somehow my mind triggered the idea of a horse riding academy.”
“When I decided to move out of the IT industry, I was not scared and I was very clear about achieving my goals in life, the plan was to start The Stallions Valley School of Lifestyle -Horse riding academy. I started my career very early and I exited it also very early. I had a decent growth in my career, which was up to my expectations and then I opted to live my own life, which is when I decided to follow my passion,” he says.
With no past experiences in handling horses, Sandeep began to take one step at a time. “I started doing research and found out about Babu Kunnumpuram in Thrissur, who was running a small academy called Stallions Valley. I spoke to him and my partner and I along with our families went and met him. In his academy, we found well-maintained, healthy horses. At that point, we agreed to take our plans forward about starting our horse riding academy,” he says.
Maintaining the ‘Wow Factor’
Sandeep admits that it was extremely difficult for him during the initial days of the business. With hardly any idea of labour management and no clue about horses or stable management, Sandeep fearlessly stepped into that act of building up the academy. “I did a lot of research and reading. Spoke to a lot of people through social media.” To his luck, people came forward to support him. “So that is how I started learning things and I took things forward through experiences,” he adds.
With every customer who started to walk into his academy, he started receiving 5-star ratings on Google and very soon they became the bestreviewed and top-rated academy in India today. “This was the incentive for the effort that I put in,” he says confidently. Sandeep’s family lives in Bengaluru and he used to go to the academy in Hosur, five days a week during the initial days.
“Every time I visit the academy, I meet and interact with people who come there. I believe when the owner is involved directly with the customer, especially when you are a start-up, or doing something on your own, that will help the organisation to grow. Moreover, we followed ethics and integrity to the core.” Having worked in Wipro for 11 years, where ethics and integrity are a core factor, Sandeep integrated those values into his academy.
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