In conversation with Rahul Jagtiani – entrepreneur, content producer and columnist, on the joys of travel, adventure and self-discovery through one of the best ways possible

Yvonne Jacob

If you are always dependant on someone else to do something, you’re going to miss out on 50% of the experiences in life. Get out of your comfort zone instead of trapping yourself, ” says Rahul Jagtiani. Rahul has been travelling internationally since he was a kid, but his entrepreneurial journey began when he started his family business, Plush Plaza, and started travelling to attend trade shows. “In 2012, things were a little topsy turvy personally, and I left for Australia for a solo backpacking trip. This kind of freed me in a lot of ways because most of the times, we’re used to travelling with someone. But this was different. I went alone and stayed there for three weeks and did all the activities: skydiving, scuba diving and river rafting.” Initially, Rahul would take 2-3 days off of his trade shows to travel and shoot videos on his Blackberry. This was also how Rahul’s travel series Plush Places was born. “We’re suppliers of merchandise to a lot of airlines and brands in the tourism industry. One thing led to another, and Jet Airways picked up my series. This gave me the validation that someone apart from my friends and family likes my work too!” he laughs.

Rahul started Plush Plaza with an idea of selling home decor online but evolved into a premium gifting and merchandising company. “Every business goes through its pivots, and we’ve reinvented ourselves to stay updated with times. One of our core products clicked, and we started getting orders in thousands. We changed our business model from a B2B to a B2C business player. This reflected in a lot of merchandise the corporates wanted which was more gifting than home-related. Over the last three years, we’ve further narrowed down to mainly supply travel-related accessories from backpacks to laptop cases and iPad sleeves.”

Being the curious person that he is, Rahul loves learning about other cultures and in the process, discovering himself as well. “Travel to me is education. You try your hand at a new sport or cuisine. It gets you out of your bubble. I’m also a huge fan of solo travel. When you’re travelling by yourself, you’re not tied down to a routine. I like walking somewhere and having a chat with a stranger.” Thanks to his adventures, Rahul has a bag full of stories, and he tells me a few of them. One of them being about the time he jumped into -2 degree water in Antarctica and about the time in Sweden where he stayed in the Lapland region. “I enjoyed the North of Sweden. We cooked reindeer meat and stayed in treehouses. We also dined with the local Sámi tribe. We could drink the water from where we were river rafting,” he tells me while in my mind, I had already started packing my imaginary travel bag.

I ask him if he has ever had one of those dreadful moments where he forgot his passport, “I have not forgotten my passport, but I have missed cross-continental flights! You know when you’re travelling on a budget, and something like this happens to you, and you’re like ‘oh crap’. But I’ve gotten away with it by acting really stressed or surprised (laughs)! I tend to get things worked out. I have my own method to my madness when it comes to my work.”

Travel to me is education. You try your hand at a new sport or cuisine. It gets you out of your bubble. I’m also a huge fan of solo travel

“What do you prefer – the mountains or the beach?” I ask him. “It’s funny you ask me that because in one of my episodes I actually talk about that. But I kind of identify with both. I really do like the hills. It’s a close contest, but I’d say it’s a 55-45 situation! I live in Mumbai – where all five senses are always alert, the city is beautifully chaotic but I prefer going to off-beat places where there are lesser people and more outdoors to explore. Another place  I went to was Kelowna in Western Canada. It’s a world-class wine region rivalling California’s Napa Valley.”

In addition to Plush Plaza and Plush Places, Rahul is also known for his fit body. I ask him about how he manages to keep himself fit irrespective of travelling so much and handling his businesses as well, “My family thinks I’m weird because I don’t like butter and cheese!” he tells me as we both burst out laughing. “But yeah, fitness is just a way of life for me. It’s like brushing your teeth. I try and eat healthy, not for the cosmetic aspect but it’s more about feeling good. I try to manage my stress well, and I also avoid alcohol and sugary things. These little things you avoid can go a long way. My only weakness is dessert!”

When it comes to his fashion sense, Rahul is pretty diverse in his own way. He could be casually dressed in a pair of shorts and a tee, travelling for work dressed in a sharp suit or even catching some waves in his wetsuit. “I classify myself as more of a shorts and a tee kind of a person. Even when I go to a bar, I wear my patent black tee and jeans. I’m not one to horde. I’m mostly filming so I just need a decent suit. I don’t need to own 100 pairs of jeans. I think I’m pretty cool the way I am.”

An evolved man himself, Rahul has a pretty neat idea on what it takes to be an evolved man. 

He thinks that it’s important to go through a few ups and downs in life and keep working on yourself. It has a lot to do with a continuous form of education, the attitude of learning, reading and trying to challenge your own stereotypes and biases.