Meet Danny Garg from Valka Yoga.
How do you get inspired?
Funnily enough, it's often boredom that inspires me. I've read a great deal about how technology and social media are killing our creativity by reducing the number of situations where we are "bored". Boredom often leads to daydreaming which is when the real ideas come about. In a way, the idea for Valka Yoga came to mind on a commute to my consulting job at Deloitte. In addition to wanting to do something creative, I wanted to solve problems - be it a specific consumer pain point or a general environmental issue. Fortunately, with Valka Yoga, I can do both.
Can you tell us a little bit about what you were doing before this?
I ran two small online businesses when I was at university, where I studied law and finance. After finishing university, I got an offer at Deloitte, which I promptly accepted. Although I enjoyed the challenges of working in consulting, I dreaded the hierarchy and the slow pace at which decisions were made. I also found the work stifled my creativity. Valka Yoga almost became a project to escape the soulless corporate life. Tell us about the birth of your business.
Valka Yoga is the amalgamation of several influences that have shaped my life. I had a very modest upbringing in India, where we lived quite frugally and were always encouraged to reuse and repurpose everything around the house. Toothpaste tubes were used with binder clips to squeeze out every last bit. And soap was, when ingredients allowed, often made at home. In my teens, I became infatuated with Japan and indirectly came into contact with minimalism and sustainable living. Then I moved to New Zealand to study and eventually got a job in Auckland. A chance encounter with a colleague at Deloitte led me to model for her yoga brand. Through her I learnt that starting a yoga brand wasn't that hard. Not anymore at least. It was easy to find suppliers overseas that were more than willing to entertain a small order and make a product to your requirement. At this point, I already had a side business selling office electronics on TradeMe. So starting a full-time online business didn't sound quite as intimidating. As I had been practising yoga for 5 years at that point, I felt I knew the kind of yoga mat a yoga practitioner and environmental warrior needed. 6 months of research and 100+ contacted suppliers later, Valka Yoga was ready for business.
Are there any values or ideas that you will always base your business decisions on?
I would never create or sell something I wouldn't use myself. So in that sense the business has to address the core pain point of the customer. So for a yoga mat, this would mean that it must be comfortable, anti-slip, non-toxic and provide sufficient support. The product has to be functional. In addition to that, it's important to me that the products I am selling are aesthetically pleasing. They should be shown off at classes or sit pretty in a lounge, almost enticing someone to get on them and flow. I often lack motivation to do yoga and I know good yoga gear can often be the difference between a calm Danny and a chaotic one. And last, but not least, I want every business decision to have a net positive impact on the world. In that sense, it's important that the business is plastic free and carbon neutral, generating the least amount of waste possible.
Boredom often leads to daydreaming which is when the real ideas come about.
What do you love most about your products? And what’s your favourite product. Pick one!
The Chakra Yoga Mat. I still use the prototype I got made 3 months before starting the business. I love the fresh smell and feel of the cork. I sweat a decent amount so it's just convenient having a natural yoga mat that can keep up with my intense yoga sessions. The linear arrangement of the Chakras almost act as a guide for alignment when it comes to poses such as warriors, lunges and pigeon.
What are your personality traits that have helped you with your successes?
I definitely have a higher than average tolerance for risk. I feel most entrepreneurs need to be able to handle the risk of running a business and all the stresses that come with it. I'm also quite curious and therefore always willing to learn and pick up new skills. Technology is changing all the time, so having a perpetual learning mindset is critical to succeeding online. I'm also quite a positive person, which helps in seeing opportunities where others might see problems.
Have there been unexpected life or business lessons since this journey started? Please share!
This sounds a bit cliché but it's important to enjoy the journey. Sometimes this means less overthinking. Sometimes it means slowing down and being grateful for how far you've come. There is also a fine balance between being content with what you have as well as striving to level up. Life is meaningless which can be both a blessing and a curse. The sooner we accept that, the sooner we become free. Personally, I feel it's important to find great projects to give your own life meaning; net positive projects that make other peoples' lives better as well. Whenever you can, be kind. And never sacrifice your health for money.
What are some things that you do to take care of yourself?
I try to meditate daily as soon as I wake up. Meditation helped me a lot during 2020 and I feel some mindfulness practice is just as important as "working out". I also try to do some form of physical exercise daily (usually in the mornings as that's when I have the most energy). Apart from that I try to eat a healthy, mostly plant based diet and I intermittently fast as well.