What makes a successful life? One where you’ve ticked all the right boxes, or one where you follow your heart, and live life on your terms, no matter what the price? Ashish Malviya, a digital nomad and founder of Digital Nomads India (he also calls himself a travelpreneur) believes it’s the latter.
Malviya’s life was going the usual way — school and then an engineering degree from a premier college — until he decided to live his dream, which went in the opposite direction of all that’s mainstream.
“I hated the idea of working in a cubicle, trading your time and freedom for so-called security. My passion was to go motorcycling in the Himalayas. I wanted a life that would allow me to live my passion” — Ashish Malviya, digital nomad
In what he describes as a cinematic moment, while staring at an offer letter for a lucrative job with Nvidia (a world leader in gaming graphics), he decided against taking the job and chose the path less travelled — one that was filled with uncertainty, and had more questions than answers.
“I hated the idea of working in a cubicle, trading your time and freedom for so-called security. My passion was to go motorcycling in the Himalayas. I wanted a life that would allow me to live my passion,” he says.
This thought led him to create his first business, Webricots, a software development company that provides full-stack services for web and mobile products. Since the inception of Webricots, he created a remote team, allowing all of his team members to be location independent, checking in online to work.
I asked one of his team members — Shubh Rath, a business ambassador at Webricots — how he feels about not having a conventional office, organisational structure, etc. “I became a digital nomad two years ago and today I am much more satisfied with my way of life. I have become more resourceful and organised than I was. I also have a better work-life balance,” he says.
He feels it’s not necessary to have a physical office to manage a team as there are plenty of resources and tools on the internet that help in running virtual offices. “I compare the life of a digital nomad with that of a lone sailor sailing the ship on his own who knows how to reach to the shore with all the knowledge, ideas and resources he/she has,” he says.
Enabling digital nomadism
Malviya was so enthralled by the digital nomad lifestyle and how it boosts productivity that he wanted to evangelise the concept to others. So, he founded Digital Nomads India, a portal that provides information and resources to the community and those who want to be part of it. It will soon offer accessories via an e-store.
Malviya feels that the digital nomads concept will be firmly entrenched in the future of work. According to him traditional jobs are “gonna be slaughtered by technology.”
“A digital nomad will always find a way. I am scared for people who are not willing to understand tech, or those who are working in a job that keeps them away from tech advancements in their own field,” he says.
“A digital nomad will always find a way. I am scared for people who are not willing to understand tech, or those who are working in a job that keeps them away from tech advancements in their own field” — Malviya
Many businesses have gone out of business because technology has changed the game, he says. “This is going to happen more and more every single day and every single year. Get on the tech, start building what you are good at or dreamt of,” Malviya adds.
He takes his own advice very seriously and has built two more companies to get ahead of things — Way Back Roads, which deals with motorcycle adventures in the Himalayan ranges, and Storybuckets, a photography and video production house. He feels it’s very important to keep up with changing technologies as well as market needs, and does this by reading widely.
“Every day is a weekend”
I ask him to describe a typical day in his life. “As an entrepreneur operating four brands plus multiple client businesses, I work as per my priorities. I get up when I want, depending on when I slept previous night, so there is no perfect division of hours. I wrap up my morning stuff in an hour, address my team and start doing tasks that need to get done. Then I have lunch and do quick 15-minute coffee meetings (if any), and make client calls. In the evenings, I hold quick online meetings with my team,” he explains.
Malviya adds that he does not wait for a specific time to have lunch or take a ride or a tea break. “Every day feels like a weekend since I am allowed to have fun and travel even as I’m working,” he says.
“Every day feels like a weekend since I am allowed to have fun and travel even as I’m working” — Malviya
I bring up the big Indian elephants in the room — job security and social perception — that could challenge the digital nomad concept. He quickly dismisses them. Job security is an illusion, he says, adding that many traditional companies have gone out of business and many more will do so.
“As for society, the only thing you have to ask yourself is do you really want to trade your time and freedom for it? If you love your 9-5 job, then that’s great and this is irrelevant. But, if you hate it and are doing it for the wrong reasons, then it’s time to stop and do some self-assessment. There is no reason to do something you hate for the rest of your life. Figure out what what you want and work for it. Do what makes you happy. Don’t adjust,” is his advice.
The pitfalls of a nomadic life
A Google search on digital nomads yields a plethora of happy visuals, but this life is not a cakewalk and is definitely not for everyone.
I ask Malviya about the downsides of this choice. First up is loneliness. “It takes mental strength and an independent attitude to live this life. You can’t really sustain a digital nomad lifestyle if you need people around all the time,” he says.
I ask Malviya about the downsides of this choice. First up is loneliness. Another important aspect he brings up is the ability to network and hustle
Another important aspect he brings up is the ability to network and hustle. “You have to be networking all the time, and not just you, your teammates too. Business development happens all the time,” he says.
He signs off by naming a few of his favourite places in India to work from — Rishikesh finds top spot, followed by Pune and Mumbai. “These areas are evolving in the context of the remote working culture and co-working spaces, which creates a probability of meeting like-minded people more often,” he explains. His next plan is to move to Chiang Mai, Thailand for six months, a huge favourite with digital nomads.
I can’t resist asking what his family thinks of his lifestyle. This is what his dad, Sunil Kumar Malviya, has to say of him: “I am proud that he has created his own work style and is now generating employment for others without snatching away their freedom and time. What more I can want? The concept of work seems to be changing every day and these people are doing better jobs, earning better wages and reputations. I am proud of him.”
I tell him he is lucky to have a dad who thinks like that!
Photos: Ashish Malviya
Lead collage: Nikhil Raj
Updated on February 27, 2017, at 1.20pm with the Future of Jobs band.