Secrets of Success – Founder of Powerboat P1, Asif Rangoonwala

Secrets of Success – Founder of Powerboat P1, Asif Rangoonwala

What is your start-up story?
Prior to P1, there was little if any professional marine racing, professional in the sense that there was a logical career progression for racers and fans of the sport leading from the junior ranks to a World Championship title.

In 2002 I started investing in P1. After 7 years of investment I realized that although we had built significant goodwill in the marketplace, we hadn’t differentiated ourselves as a racing product nor had we progressed the pathway of racing as much as I had hoped. In 2008, I got involved on a day-to-day basis and discovered that my original vision had been lost. In 2009, I re-launched the business as a start-up and brought in new management to refocus on the original vision of increasing the participation levels and creating a logical career pathway for the racers and other stakeholders in the industry.

To do this we focused on partnerships, training and ensuring that there was real value for all stakeholder levels in the business from racers to sponsors to spectators to venues. We shelved the World Championships and launched national racing series, thereby enabling enjoyable, safe, accessible and affordable racing around the world.

Three years in to the business refocus and we can claim for the first time within the industry that we have a genuine motorsport platform. We designed a one-make, dual purpose (race and leisure) boat that is at the forefront of technical design, production and technology for a fraction of the historical cost and launched this boat in a new national racing series in the UK and USA in 2011 (P1 SuperStock). We also launched a jetski series called P1 AquaX in the UK in 2011, which will launch in the USA this year.

Our international roll-out of racing is starting to build momentum with racing in UAE, China and India scheduled for later this year and anticipated agreements for further racing in Singapore, Malaysia and Sweden in 2014.

It has taken longer than I expected to dominate the marine racing sector, but it is now coming to fruition and has been worth the wait!

What is your turnover, employee numbers etc compared to previous years?
Before the refocusing of the business in 2010, we had a fulltime workforce, all based in London of more than 20 plus another 30-40 part timers and contractors. In hindsight we over extended on our overheads and placed too much emphasis on our head office in London.

Since 2010, we have cut back on our fulltime staff, and opened offices in Orlando, FL. Mumbai and Dubai. We also expect to open an office in Singapore in 2013. This has enabled us to better understand and manage local relationships, which are such an important aspect of any business, especially a passion led business like motorsport.

Our turnover also increased in 2012 to more than $4m and with our current strategy, that is expected to reach $10m by 2014.

What products / services do you provide?
Unlike many sporting organizations P1 actually has physical inventory.
P1 has successfully developed and sells a multi-functional boat for competition as well as introduction into the global commercial pleasure-boat market. The P1 Panther 28SS features outstanding technology in hull design, safety ergonomics, digital telemetry and data acquisition, together with an appropriate environmental stewardship. The design incorporates a removable cowling to access rear seats for leisure use, thereby encouraging even greater participation at entry level.

What problem does your company solve?
The marine industry is a $1 trillion industry and yet they don’t have a marketing platform from which to develop new technologies or promote their brands and environmental stewardship. P1 gives the marine industry a voice.

What is your USP?
I hope that my own USP is clear from my opening answer. It’s all about developing a strong differentiator and making sure that front end products deliver on claims and promises.

Very importantly, a USP must remain relevant and unique. It triggers associations about a company or brand and therefore it needs to make these associations contemporary when the marketing environment changes over a period of time. P1 is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year and I have ensured that we clearly communicate brand attributes, brand benefits and a value proposition that meets the changing needs of the marketplace.

Any thoughts on the future of your company?
If we can achieve as much in the next decade as we have in the last one, I will be a happy man. The P1 SuperStock and P1 AquaX series are going places in every sense of the word and we are delivering on our promises and building a commercially viable and credible global marine motorsports platform. It’s exciting!

What have you done to get the right people with the right skills in place?
The sport industry is a people industry, therefore the importance of getting the right people is paramount to my business. I have found specialists in each role which of course is important, but what is of greater importance is that they share my vision and are committed to the overall success of the business. I have a philosophy that all my staff share in the success of the company.

Do you have any tips for managing suppliers and customers effectively?
I have invested a lot of money in this business and paid a lot of money to suppliers and customers. From day one it is important that they also share my commitment and vision of the business. Of course, they need to be paid for their work, but the bigger opportunity for them is to be a valued partner of ours when we really get big!
I am always upfront with our cash flow and never leave a genuine supplier or customer out of pocket – you never know when you will need them again!

Any finance and cash-flow tips?
“money is like gasoline during a road trip – you don’t want to run out of gas on your trip, but you’re not doing a tour of gas stations.”

Cash flow is obviously a fundamental aspect of a business and the starting point is developing both short-term and longer-term cash flow projections. However, for me, the key aim is to ensure that everyone in your business fully understands the vital importance of good cash flow management and acts accordingly.

Any advice for the government?
The words of American Founding Father and US President Thomas Jefferson seem to me to be as pertinent today as they were some two centuries ago: “A wise and frugal Government, which restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labour the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.”

What is your attitude towards your competitors?
My vision is about increasing the profile and participation of marine motorsport in a professional environment. So I want my competitors to be successful – no one is really competing with P1 directly, so we try and embrace other forms of marine motorsport for the overall good of the sport.

Unfortunately there is a poor perception of powerboating around the world, so the more positive stories we have the better.
The main area that our competitors need to improve is in safety. Motorsport is a dangerous sport, but with the safety measures that P1 puts in place from race training to safety seminars ensures that this risk is mitigated as much as possible – we need to ensure all powerboating promoters and the UIM do the same.