The difference between passion and obsession is a very thin line. If you visit Pepperfry’s Mumbai office, you’ll hardly be able to distinguish between the two. The door of the room next to the entrance reads ‘Namika La Pass (3,700 metre)’. Meanwhile, trekking ropes and huge photo frames of group treks adorn the brightly coloured workspace. Founder and CEO, Ambareesh Murty, laughs, “Each room here bears the name of a pass.” And surely, as we turn around, there’s another rhombus-shaped poster stuck on the glass door of the meeting room — Wari La Pass (5,312 metre).
What started as a research trip has become a tradition at the online furniture store, fuelled by Murty’s love for travel and the co-founder Ashish Shah’s passion for trekking. “Ashish, another colleague and I drove through Ladakh in 2015. Along the way, we trekked at various places for two to three days each. We stopped at Sonamarg and trekked the glacier, followed by Zanskar Valley, the least inhabited place in India,” he recalls. That was his first trekking experience, and there’s been no looking back for Murty. As a team, they have trekked several destinations including Chadar (February 2016), Wari La Pass (July 2016), Hampta Pass (2017) and Har Ki Dun (June 2019). In fact, the company also organises a separate team-building initiation programme for freshers every year called ‘Trek to the Top’.
But how did Murty train for such difficult treks? “It’s all in the mind,” opines the 40-year-old entrepreneur while admitting that the Hampta Pass has been the most challenging feat for him so far. “We had to ascend and descend on the same day, covering more than 20 km. And to reach the top, we had to manoeuvre through various peaks, making the actual journey longer,” he shares.
Murty believes in doing his research well before finalising a trek. “You need to know the distance and elevation that you’ll be covering and have to be comfortable with the terrain.” The trick, he shares, is to carry multiple layers of clothes. “For instance, on the Chadar trek, we left at 5 am when the temperature was -15 degrees. But, by the time we were done, at around 3 pm, our woollen socks were drenched in sweat and we had to take our jackets off.”
Murty credits these expeditions for teaching him valuable life lessons such as being flexible and accommodative even at work. “Things go wrong even when everything was planned. We need to accept the mess and move on,” he preaches. One of the most important things he has learnt is being a team player. “When you are trekking as a group, some may lag behind due to lack of fitness. You have to support each one till we reach the destination,” he says. He sticks to that mantra even if he means he has to slow down.
Murty’s ambition doesn’t stop there and he is always on the lookout for his next exploit and says, “When I’m fitter, I want to try a peak that’s higher than 7,000 metres. It’ll probably be the Nun Kun peak in Jammu and Kashmir.” That’s a commendable claim from a person who was once afraid of heights. He says that he overcame that fear by going on a bungee jumping adventure in 2009 in Macau.
While Murty has balanced his love for work and trekking by bringing the two together, he is also a man of other passions. He proudly declares that he not only loves rock music, but also plays bass in an in-house band. That lighted another interest in him — of visiting Hard Rock Cafés around the world and collecting over a 100 Zippo lighters. “I have a special fondness towards Hard Rock Café. Around 25 lighters from my collection are sourced from these restaurants and the rest from my various other travels,” he shares.