Whether you buy a bar of honey and goat milk soap or a bottle of pure rose water or a jar of mysterious Miracle drink on Qtrove, you get what the founders call the ‘Q-factor’, or the special feeling that comes when you own a lovingly curated, handmade product.
From food products like sumptuous sea salt caramel brownie to skincare items like decadent 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.
Qtrove’s Co-founder Vinamra Pandiya, who calls himself ‘a chemical engineer by profession, a software coder by chance and entrepreneur by choice’ has worked tirelessly to bring new and interesting products to the Indian consumer. Often compared to Etsy, the New York based online marketplace for handcrafted goods, Vinamra’s Bengaluru-based startup also 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.
Skydiving is a sport that had been on Vinamra’s bucket list for a long time 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 city of adventure sports, I couldn’t stop myself,” he recalls, adding that while it seems scary, if your health allows it, one 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.
“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,” he explains. “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 height, water and other obstacles in life, you need to face what you fear most.”
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 big enough for both of you. For this you will require a little ground training,” he says.
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.”
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.”
If sky-borne adventures are not your cup of tea, Vinamra is full of stories about his love for trekking, his other favourite pastime.
“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 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.”
Not everyone can do a long trek, warns Vinamra, as a great deal of training and preparation is required for this sport also. “You should start by focusing on your legs in the gym many months before going on trek to build your leg strength, either by climbing stairs and ramps. You must go swimming or cycling for cardiovascular training and learn to take control of your breathing,” he says. “Your diet and hydration levels in the body are important too.”
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 all lead you to a calm and safe destination. Similarly, no matter how difficult the path in your life may be, the destination is always beautiful. So you need to be very patient while on the path of life.”
“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 the startup capital, Bengaluru,” explains Vinamra.
“I wanted to do something in the curated space and GrowthStory - our investors, helped us to 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.”
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’.”