How trekking and adventure sports help Qtrove’s Vinamra Pandiya tread the rocky path of life

Asha Chowdary
Be it skydiving and paragliding in New Zealand or going on the world’s most dangerous trek, this entrepreneur’s search for the next thrill keeps him happy, productive and relaxed.
Vinamra Pandiya
Whether you buy a bar of honey and goat milk soap or a bottle of pure rose water or a jar of a mysterious 'Miracle' drink on Qtrove, you get what the founders call the ‘Q-factor’, which is a  special feeling that fills your heart, when you own a lovingly curated, handmade product.

From food products like a box of sumptuous sea salt caramel brownies to skincare items like a tub of chocolate body massage butter to home décor artefacts like a row of Matryoshka dolls for your bookshelf, there is a plethora of treasures to be discovered on their website.
Vinamra's weekends are reserved for travel and adventure sports
Qtrove’s Co-founder Vinamra Pandiya, who calls himself ‘a chemical engineer by profession, a software coder by chance and an entrepreneur by choice’ has worked tirelessly with his Co-founder to bring new and interesting products to the Indian consumer. Often compared to Etsy, the New York based online marketplace for handcrafted goods, this Bengaluru-based startup offers a range of non-mass produced, sustainable items from small entrepreneurs across the country.

Vinamra’s weekends, however, are reserved for adventure and as he is a man of many interests, he alternates between skydiving, paragliding, going on treks and pursuing adventure sports, whenever he can find a small window of time.

The sky is the limit

Skydiving is a sport that was on Vinamra’s bucket list for years but he could not find a good place to get started for a long time. “So, when I finally got a chance to skydive in Queenstown, New Zealand, the mecca of adventure sports, I couldn’t stop myself,” he recalls, adding that while it seems scary, if your health allows it, you must definitely try it at least once.

It is also important that one pursues the sport only from a certified centre with trained people on hand.
Sky diving is an exciting sport that is fraught with danger
It is a dangerous sport because these trained staff jump along with you from an aeroplane flying 15,000 feet high and then you fall at a speed of 200 km per hour
“But it is once-in-a-lifetime experience that you should have as it allows you to embrace your fears. Just as in the Bollywood movie, ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’, where the heroes learnt to conquer their fear of heights, water and other obstacles in life, you need to face what you fear most,” he says.

First flight into the blue

If you plan to go skydiving, you need to spend many hours in training before making the jump. “The institute staff check your weight, ask about your health conditions and teach you how to manage fear. If you are a first timer, you must decide to do the tandem jump. This involves jumping out of the plane while attached via a harness to an instructor who wears a parachute that is big enough for both of you. For this, you will require a little ground training,” he says.
The tandem jump is not as scary as going skydiving alone
Vinamra can never forget his very first skydiving experience. “I was very nervous because it was my first time but I was also excited. When our plane took us to 15,000 ft. above ground, everything beneath me disappeared and merged with the skyline,” he remembers.

As for the fear factor, he says, diving off the plane is the scariest part. “I can’t describe the level of scariness but later, when you get a little comfortable, you start floating in the air.”

According to Vinamra, skydiving requires a lot of courage and the ability to manage fear and your emotions during the whole process. “You need to control your mind to successfully complete the task,” he adds.
It is very difficult to stay calm and be disciplined when you are so scared, but once you dive into the air, everything goes into autopilot mode.

Paragliding adventures

Another adventure sport that Vinamra enjoys is paragliding. “Paragliding is safer than skydiving and it is the closest one can get to feeling like a bird,” he says.
Paragliding gives you a sense of freedom as you can sail smoothly through the sky.
He learnt paragliding in New Zealand and advocates the sport to everyone who loves adventures in the sky. “Paragliding is one of the best adventure sports and very enjoyable too,” he says. “My only advice would be do it under surveillance and from a certified institute. If you are a beginner, fly in tandem and make sure your instructor is a certified and experienced professional. You can write examinations to get ratings as you keep clearing various levels, and eventually you can experience the joy of sailing through the air alone.”

How about a trek instead?

If sky-borne adventures are not your cup of tea, Vinamra is full of stories about his love for trekking, his other favourite pastime.
Trekking requires courage and patience
“I have trekked through one of most difficult treks of the world - The Tiger’s Nest, Bhutan,” he remembers. “It is around 6.5 km round trip trek that is 10,000 feet above sea level. It took us five or six hours to complete the whole trip. It was a great experience as we saw some beautiful views along the way.”

Advice for trekkers

Not everyone can do a long trek, warns Vinamra, as a great deal of training and preparation is required for this adventure sport. “You should start by focusing on your legs in the gym many months before going on a trek to build your leg strength, either by climbing the stairs and the ramps. You must go swimming or cycling for cardiovascular training and learn to take control of your breathing. The hydration levels in your body are important too,” he says.

He has some more advice for trekkers.
Keep yourself hydrated throughout the journey and eat light before leaving on a trek. Always keep a map handy along with a compass. Train yourself well in advance so that you don’t face difficulties while trekking. And if you are going for the first time, do not go alone.
As to why he loves trekking, Vinamra says that it has taught him some life lessons too. “When on a trek, you will pass narrow, rocky and other kinds of paths but they will eventually lead you to a calm and safe destination. Similarly, no matter how difficult the path in your life may be, the destination will always be beautiful. So you need to be very patient while on the path of life.”

His journey of entrepreneurship

“After a successful tenure as COO at Tasty Khana (which was acquired by Foodpanda in 2014), I decided to undertake a totally new venture in Bengaluru, the startup capital of the country,” explains Vinamra. “I wanted to do something in the curated space and our investorshelped us refine the idea, which finally developed into the concept of Qtrove.com. We felt there was a need for a marketplace for curated products. We started with a very small network of sellers that has now grown to more than 1,000 from all over the country, offering products in 40-plus categories.”

The joy of weekend adventures

As to why adventure hobbies are so important, Vinamra says,
Hobbies need to become a part of life to give you joy and help you relax. They also help you discover different sides of your own personality. For me, it’s my ‘me time’.

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