People think that living in the mountains is a dreamy affair but it’s not really a bed of roses. Meet Laksh Arora, who left his digital marketing job in Mumbai to open a gorgeous, eco-friendly boutique hotel in Mashobra, called The Nilaya (45 minutes from Shimla). By Japleen Kaur
1. Tell us a little about your journey before Nilaya came into existence.
I spent seven years working in the digital marketing space. I worked for a couple of start-ups in Delhi and then shifted to Mumbai. In the city of dreams, I worked with a brilliant digital agency where my portfolio had some of the best hotels in the country. And that knowledge really helped when The Nilaya came into existence. Today apart from The Nilaya, I keep taking up freelance social media projects too, since, in my heart, I will always be a marketer!
2. What was the switch like? A city boy like yourself living in the hills!
My maternal roots are from Himachal Pradesh; the visits here were limited to summer vacations when we were growing up, and weekend holidays as an adult. I had never really planned to shift to the hills; I just got there for a month to help out with the hotel. The weather, a forest behind my house, dramatic sunsets, snow-clad mountain peaks, and just the proximity to nature changed my entire outlook. When I went back to Delhi following that month, and couldn’t even see the colour of the sky properly, I knew I was craving to go back to the hills. And now, its been two years for me living in the lap of nature.
3. Top three USPs of Nilaya.
Our location has to be the primary USP of The Nilaya. Mashobra valley is close to Shimla, and that makes us pretty accessible. However, we are still away from the chaos of city life. And with this location comes the incredible weather, nature, and famous Himachali hospitality. This has to be followed by the design element. We were personally involved with the architecture and interiors of the property. Each corner, each frame, and each amenity is personalised! The Nilaya is a boutique home and the doors to our home are open for all. And finally, it’s the value for money. Our rooms, food, and services are at par with any luxury property without the price tag of one.
4. Any tips for people wanting to shift to the mountains?
Brace yourself for you will get a solid does of ‘me-time’ in the hills. Although it seems like something that city-dwellers might crave, but trust me, after a while it can get a little overwhelming. My suggestion would be to pick up local hobbies. I personally got into birding, astronomy, mixology, and just driving solo for hours discovering new artists to listen to. Another pro-tip would be having your own transport. It really helps.
5. If not a hotelier or a digital marketer, what career would you be in?
I would have been a scuba diving instructor. I realised way too late in my life the joy of being underwater. Had I known this in college, I would be off somewhere in Palau teaching kids how to dive today.
6. Major life lessons that you learnt after shifting to Himachal?
People have it tough, yet they are so happy and welcoming! You will get invited to people’s homes without any shadow of foul-play. We could all learn how to be nicer to each other.
The sad lesson I learnt was that the pollution crisis isn’t just in the cities, it’s in the hills too. We have tried to keep The Nilaya as sustainable as possible, and volunteer our time and resources to clean-up trash and raise awareness. This has turned into a personal lifestyle choice as well.
7. Future plans?
You know, sometimes, it’s quite all right to opt out of the rat race and not be on the lookout for the next step, the next project, the next big thing. I feel privileged to be where I am right now, and will see what the future holds when the time comes!