Written by: Abbas Taskeen
Abbas Taskeen is a businessman and an avid off-roader. His love for automobiles led him to establish TTMotorsports 128 in 2012 which organises rallies, off-road events and expeditions. The company has successfully organised events in Chicago, Mumbai, Surat, Nashik and Nagpur and plans to undertake a Russian Winter Expedition in January 2022. In his spare time, Abbas loves to share his experiences about off-roading on his Youtube channel. In this piece, he narrates how his passion for cars helped him find the right track in life.
My father was academically brilliant. He was an IITan, and most of my immediate family members were either engineers or doctors. I, however, was the odd one out. My happiness lay in picking up car magazines, going to showrooms where I would sift through catalogues and drawing up comparisons between the different engines and features of any car. My infatuation with cars was no secret.
Fast forward a few years and like many kids passing out of High School, I was at a loss for direction. Some in my family would quip jokingly ‘at least he’ll make a good driver.’
With the rise of the internet, I chanced upon an automobile forum where interaction with like-minded people opened a new window for me. It fuelled my passion for cars, giving me an opportunity to learn about the motorsports scene in India and different types of car builds for off-road and rally racing.
I had not pursued a professional degree in auto-mechanics or motorsports engineering, however, all my years of ‘automania’ had given me a sort of niche perspective into the many features and facets of cars. My dilemma was how to pull all of this knowledge into a commercial venture, as at the time my understanding was that Motorsports was more of a rich man’s recreational sport rather than a feasible career option.
The game-changer was the announcement of the JSB Car Rally in 2010 organised as part of the centenary birthday celebrations of the late His Holiness Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin. My interest in Motorsports was well known within our community circles and that is what I think got me a call from my community’s centre at Visakhapatnam, informing me that I had been handpicked to lead a team for this rally.
At the time, the rally was one of the biggest T.S.D. (time speed distance) rallies in the country spanning six days and 2500 kms with a grand prize reserved for the winner. I knew in my heart that this was somehow a rare opportunity knocking at my door. I hadn’t the foggiest idea that what I saw merely as an adrenaline-pumping road adventure would eventually end up being my big break into the business of Motorsports.
For the next nine months, I focused all my energies on preparing for the event. The format of the rally was such that it required each team to maintain uniform speed at particular distances over the course of the day. The real challenge was psychological endurance: teams had to stay focused and constantly make corrections to ascertain speed and distances. I remember our team skipped lunch for six days straight, having nothing but fluids during the day. Once it took me two days to finish sipping a Frooti (mango juice)! No wonder I lost a good 3 to 4 kgs by the time we finished. However, it was worth the toil, as at the end of the grueling six day competition we won and that marked the beginning of my professional journey.
I had heard Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin’s counsel to ‘keep a business-minded approach in life,’ countless times. The success I garnered in this event gave me the confidence to heed that advice and take a leap of faith in the Motorsports business. We launched our inaugural Motorsport Event which was a small affair aimed at basic entry level enthusiasts. The experience we gained, especially with regards to commercial aspects, served as the building blocks for our venture.
Our first big event, ‘The Vizag Autocross’ was a trailblazer. As word spread, support and sponsorship flooded in from a spectrum of clients from automobile companies & corporates to private businesses & the hospitality industry. Motorsport events offer a great platform for brands to market their products and that’s how we were able to build a business offering Motorsports Management Services.
On weekends when I wasn’t doing any events, I started taking a group of people to offroad locations. I used to love diving into the nitty-gritties and explaining to them what their machines were capable of doing. One thing led to another and soon I started getting offers from automobile companies to take their customers to offroad locations and promote their 4×4 vehicles. This was how another business vertical took off.
In a way, for me, off-road driving serves as a metaphor for life itself. You will get stuck somewhere for sure and that’s the learning part, however you need to break free and get on with it.