Leading three different companies– fashion and lifestyle, experiential travel, and hospitality—one would imagine Shilpa Sharma, co-founder of Jaypore, Break Away and Mustard, often covets the seductive pace of a single job. But that’s not the case. She says there is one ingredient that works as a reliable fuel to keep the passion high: travel.
“Travel is the common thread that binds all my previous and current professional avatars. It has sparked creativity, debunked myths and has injected unadulterated joy in me,” says Sharma, who has three decades of work experience.
Sharma has worked at Fabindia, handled sales and marketing for two FMCG companies, done a short stint in advertising, and started her own consulting practice a decade ago. It is no coincidence that travel has always been at the core of all of her jobs.
“Travel opens up the mind. It allows you to see how much there is out there that doesn’t get noticed or talked about. It opens one up to new dimensions and ideas, and helps find like-minded people that resonate your dream,” she says.
Learning on the move
Travel has been a silent but abiding teacher for all of Sharma’s life. As a young girl, long trips to different destinations were a regular feature during holidays.
On family road trips, she enjoyed watching the countryside zip by. She says her love for experiencing local culture and ways of life started then, and it’s a love she carried into adulthood.
In 2011, she started Breakaway, a travel platform that offers an alternative and immersive view of India. “The trips mostly straddle craft and textile, festivals and culture with a strong social impact inclusion. Ever since I curated my first trip, my faith in this space and the idea of ‘slow travel’ has only been reinforced,” says Sharma.
The same tenor runs in the popular fashion and lifestyle brand aggregator platform, Jaypore, launched in 2012. On this site, Sharma sells the work of skilful artisans and colourful textiles. She says it’s a way to share the cultural history of India, which she discovered while visiting craft hubs and artisans’ homes over the years.
Her third venture, Mustard, a restaurant serving French-Bengali cuisine, is the result of a chance meeting with her partner Poonam Singh, a chef and a food curator. Travel played a huge role in this idea and effort too: He four of them connected over a bonfire in Nagaland.
“I’ve always loved travelling alone, minus any personal dynamics and expectations, which are the most demanding by-products of group travel. Solo travel is precious and liberating,” she says.
“Unplanned holidays and itinerary-less days work well for me. Over the years, my style of travel has inadvertently steered me through entrepreneurship as well. My foray into all three realms of business have been delightfully accidental,” says Sharma.
She has no fixed rules about striking work-life balance or the desire to tick off popular destinations.
Her last trip was to Arunachal Pradesh and she describes it as a week filled with sampling local cuisine, experiencing tribal culture and unwinding with a group of like-minded women travellers.
“Travel doesn’t come in the way of work, and vice versa. I can be ‘off the grid’ even when at home. Technology has made it so much easier to be geography agnostic that I can have handle on work, if need be, wherever I am,” says Sharma.
With so many balls to juggle, Sharma is often teased by friends for being “over-subscribed”.
“It’s travel that makes me present to things, introspective, humble and give me the comfort of being just me,” she says.
More than anything, travel has been a great educator for Sharma. “Travel makes you learn how little it takes to be happy. It’s a great leveller,” she says.