Interview with Apoorva Prasad | Founder-TOJ
Apoorva Prasad is a climber, alipinist, journalist, photographer & a snowboarder. Then he is also the founder of world’s first global active lifestyle magazine with a focus on adventure sports in India called The Outdoor Journal. When we received our first issue of the magazine, we were spellbound. Let’s hear it from him of how his journey has been & what is TOJ all about…
Camp Roxx: Hi Apoorva, thanks for your time. It’s about time this went up on the blog. How’s The Outdoor Journal going? Let me re-frame that…how has the kick start been?
Apoorva Prasad: It’s going great Sameer. I’ve never been so excited about working on something.. and never been so busy before either! We’ve been able to build and create something entirely new in the world, and we are getting a lot of recognition from that from some of the world’s top outdoors brands, and adventurers. It’s a great feeling to have people like Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, Dean Karnazes, Peter Metcalf (Black Diamond’s CEO), Bernadette Macdonald and so many others appreciate what we do. We call it the world’s first international outdoors magazine, and that has been getting validation from many established quarters – so we’re very excited about our progress.
There are of course a zillion challenges, and succeeding each time feels like a little victory. For example, we’ve also created a distribution system from scratch for the magazine, since the current distribution models are really patchy or even broken, and we don’t want to do a disservice to either our readers or advertisers. And we are such a new concept in India – we’re the only magazine sold in outdoor gear stores in India; and also available in 5-star hotels, like the Taj Palace, which has been a great partner. The appreciation has been from all sides, and is sometimes surprising!
That said, it’s still a little difficult to establish ourselves commercially in a market that doesn’t understand something so new – so advertising is a bit slow at the moment, especially since many of the brands we consider endemic to the sports and activities we talk about in our magazine, aren’t really present in India except through distributors, many of whom are not interested in or not able to promoting these brands here, partly because many of them don’t actually do these sports themselves – it’s just a business they’ve taken on. So that’s a bit unfortunate. That said, we have been working with some, like Petzl, which makes great products, and is run by a true enthusiast who’s himself into outdoor sports in India.
However, our scope is vast, and many other established companies also like to present themselves as adventurous, rugged, travel and fitness-oriented, and an active lifestyle – targeting the same audience as us. It’s still hard to communicate with the right people at the right levels at these brands, but I still do see a great future ahead, as this space can only grow – especially with so many young Indians like you who are passionate about the outdoors, adventure and an alternative, more environmentally-friendly and more natural lifestyle! We’re building some great partnerships for next year, including with Thai Tourism, Taj Safaris, and others.
CR: So you were always an adventurer? When did you know “this is what I want to do”?
AP: Hmm. I think that yes, perhaps this was in my blood. My earliest memories involve discovery and excitement… my parents took me on a road trip to Nepal when I was around 4, and I don’t think that ever left me. I can’t imagine a life without travelling and experiencing new things. I think that’s pretty much the purpose of life. As for when I decided “this is what I want to do”.. I can’t really say. Probably when I started college (in the US) and realized I was an individual, a free agent, and therefore free to choose my direction in life – to climb, to travel, to explore and discover, and I didn’t have to do what ‘they’ told me – cue Rage Against The Machine! Haha.
CR: If Apoorva Prasad was not busy with The Outdoor Journal right now, what would you be doing?
AP: Backpacking and climbing across South America.
CR: Any particular adventure or misadventure where you might have felt that you’ve dared a bit too much?
AP: Hmm. I don’t think so. Every experience is unique, and teaches you something, and as long as you are still alive, it’s all good.
CR: Where is The Outdoor Journal headed right now? Who should be buying/subscribing to this ?
AP: Anyone and everyone who is excited about the whole wide world out there, this beautiful, incredible, huge planet, which has so many beautiful places, with just so much to see, to do, to experience. Anyone believes in another lifestyle, in being fit and healthy and happy and loves to travel, to do outdoorsy things – whether it’s running or climbing or surfing or diving or road tripping or even just travelling adventurously. As long as you’re doing something different in life – you should be reading this magazine!
CR: What are the challenges that you are prepared to encounter in this journey ?
AP: Any and all. I’m a pretty stubborn character. And when I’ve set my mind to do something, I usually go and do it. I think anything can be achieved as long as it’s built on rationally sound foundations, and with enough willpower to drive it.
CR: In your opinion, is there an audience outside India that recognizes this country as a hub of adventure more than Indians themselves?
AP: Oh yes, certainly. In fact, that’s one of the big problems about adventure in India – fewer Indians realize the opportunities this incredible country has to offer, than non-Indians who come here specifically for those adventures. I mean, climbers like Mick Fowler climb here and and make Piolet d’Or-winning first ascents… Ski brands shoot their videos here and showcase them around the world. It’s an incredible playground, and I only wish more people would travel the world, just to gain enough experience to recognize just how amazing home can be. (Though there’s a flipside – many people also get unnecessarily jingoistic and feel that this is the best, even when it’s not – same reason, not enough exposure to the outside world.)
CR: What’s on your short list of places you’re dying to visit — and why?
AP: Hmm. A lot, really. Both places I’ve been to and want to return to, and places I haven’t (which are surprisingly ordinary!) – from wanting to return to Corsica to hike the GR20, to go climbing in New Zealand. I haven’t been to the southern hemisphere at all, so that’s something I really need to do. I’ve been dreaming about Patagonia for years too. Though I hear the weather’s never great for climbing! But right on top of my list is Afghanistan. And parts of Central Asia. I think there’s a lot of adventuring to do in those parts!
CR: Top 3 worst foods you can remember eating outside India
AP: Oh man. Well, Halo-Halo in the Philippines, which is a mish-mash of every conceivable sweet dessert in the world, all in one bowl. Though it is otherwise a really great country! Then.. Andouillete in France, which is made with tripes or pig intestines or something and smells like, well you can guess! I’m not touching that again. I love French food otherwise. I’m generally not that adventurous with food. I know what I like, which are “regular” meats, fruits and vegetables, and I tend to stick to regular meals in any country, and not try their bizarre let’s-make-fun-of-foreigners-by-feeding-them-weird-specialities-we-don’t-ever-eat.
CR: Top 3 most memorable experiences on the ground, below the ground or above the ground. That wonderful moment of time suspension?
AP: Ah yes… that moment indeed. The little Samadhi. The first… when I was probably 3 years old, riding a motorcycle with my father, bundled in the front, clutching on for dear life. That was in 1984, when such things were still possible. It is perhaps my oldest memory. The second… one of my early trad leads in Seneca Rocks, West Virginia, when I was so merged with the rock during the climb, that I don’t remember anything between the ground and the summit, except a sensation of floating. The third… maybe again when climbing, in the Alps, many years later… but to be honest, I don’t think I’ve had another such powerful sensation again yet. I’m still looking. That sensation is truly rare, despite years of climbing, snowboarding, now paragliding, and other adventures.