Growing up in Rajasthan, in an arid land with no rivers, Vishwas Shringi had to learn swimming in a well. “Most of it was all about standing and paddling,” Vishwas reminisces with a smile. But at 41, Vishwas is a top-notch swimmer, who also enjoys water polo.
Vishwas, who is now CEO of Voylla, an ecommerce platform for fashion jewellery, which he co-founded with his wife Jagriti Shringi in 2012, is an alumnus of IIT-Madras and has an MS and MBA from Mississippi State University and Carnegie Mellon University in the US. Both Tamil Nadu and Pennsylvania have shaped Vishwas’ passions outside work, namely water sports and biking.
Vishwas remembers being a skinny boy who became even thinner after he reached Chennai, due to the fact that he is from a traditional Brahmin family and did not take non-vegetarian food. But when Vishwas’ father saw that the teenager was losing weight, he gave his son two options. He could either leave his university, come back home and write the entrance exams again till he got admission in an IIT closer home, or start eating chicken so as to get some protein into this body. Vishwas chose the chicken.
Vishwas was a regular at the swimming pool inside the IIT-Madras campus during his college days. He was selected for the water polo team as a goal keeper. “Well, the job was to stand in one place for 45 minutes, and I could easily do that as I learnt swimming in a well!” he laughs.
In the final year of college, he was the water polo team captain and was trained under a national level coach at IIT. He says,
Later, when he went to the US for higher studies, he gave water polo coaching at YMCA (outside the university) to earn a few bucks during his college days. His love for the sport has stayed with him ever since. Along with his 10 and 8 year old sons, he goes to the swimming pool near their house in Jaipur every Sunday. “We book a slot in advance and sometimes Jagrati also joins us. Since I travel for work a lot during the week, weekends are for relaxing. Swimming, biking and working out at the gym in my house keep me energetic,” says Vishwas.
During Vishwas’ childhood, his father owned a Royal Enfield Rajdoot bike. Vishwas rode that bike for the first time when he was in the fifth standard. “I was too short to even turn the bike around. I realized I had to be tall to ride a bike. So I started playing football. Now that I am six feet tall, it is better,” Vishwas laughs.
As time passed, Vishwas’ father taught him to ride a bike, and when he went to Chennai, he was presented with a Hero Honda bike.
In 2001, Vishwas went to the US for higher studies. “You rarely see bikes in the US. They are more expensive than a pre-owned car there. So I bought my first car, a second hand one, for $1500. I wanted to save money and buy a bike though – a Kawasaki Ninja 650.” This was a sports bike, with great speed and pick up. So after he got a job as a software engineer, Vishal bought one for $5500. He used it for all the 10 years that he spent in the US.
“I love speed, which is why I wanted to ride a Yamaha in India. But parents are always scared of kids speeding. On a sports bike you cannot carry anything except a backpack. But when we were in the US, Jagriti and I have gone to buy groceries on that Kawasaki bike! It was fun,” says Vishwas.
In 2007, Vishwas left Pittsburgh to move to a new job at Amazon in Seattle, famous for its water bodies. “We used to ride around every weekend. Jagrati learnt biking then. But she rides under 50, I always go above 90,” Vishwas adds.
When the couple returned to India in 2011, they could not bring the bike along with them as the import duty was too high. By then, they had had two children and were settled in Jaipur. The duo felt that riding speed bikes can be risky on Indian roads. So Vishwas ended up buying a Harley Davidson Street 750. He also owns an Avenger 251, which he rarely uses. Vishwas’ bucket list includes owning a Harley 1500 cc and riding from Jaipur to Pushkar on it. He hopes to tick it off his list in two years.
The romance of bike rides, however, is not over for the couple. Vishwas and Jagriti go on a ride to Nahagarh near Amer Fort in Jaipur every Sunday to watch the sunrise, before the children are up and the day begins. “There is a club in Jaipur for bike enthusiasts. But I rarely get to go,” Vishwas adds.
Well, if you ever thought that an entrepreneur’s life is all-work-and-no-play, Vishwas Shringi proves that you don’t have to sacrifice one for the other.