Insia Lacewalla

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 Insia: “You be you. Because no one else can”

Issue XIII Exclusive Interview  Empower

Interviewed Aditri Sen 

Edited by Jascha Pacubas

25th April, 2022

PR and Communications graduate turned Hospitality Brand Strategist. Insia has experience as a corporate communication manager with Sony Entertainment Network, assistant producer with Vinod Chopra Films until she founded Small Fry Co. in 2013, running over 50 food festivals and pop-up dining experiences across India. Insia worked with hospitality operators and hotels across the country and has set up luxury boutique hotels like 28 Kothi and The Johri in Jaipur along with numerous other projects.

Firstly, Where would you say your inspiration or love for travelling first began? Did you always love travelling? 

Insia:  I spend a large part of my childhood travelling through India with my parents and grandparents, falling in love with the landscapes as I did. Our travels were mostly local, which gave me access to unknown destinations, cultures, heirloom recipes, and stories of people who have inspired me. These stories further pushed me to launch India with Insia, a curated Indian travel platform that focuses on content around unique stays, regional cuisine and underground culture. 

You started a company called ‘Small fry’ and also initiated food festivals in India. Could you tell us a little about this journey of yours?

Insia: Small Fry Co. was a boutique culinary production company that focused on bringing homegrown chefs and culinary artists to the forefront. Anyone who loved to cook and wanted to share their passion had a home at Small Fry. We created, curated, and produced food festivals to pop up dining experiences in the most unique locations like abandoned bungalows, backyards, art galleries and the likes. This was in early 2013 when the homegrown food scene hadn’t yet picked up in Bombay.  Before starting the company, I worked with OML where I curated Food & Beverage for NH7 Weekender (A multi-city music festival) and toured with international artists, curating their hospitality riders. After a few years, I developed a keen interest in the culinary side of festivals and started  Small Fry Co.

Watch our interview with Insia Lacewalla, Exclusive Interview of Issue XIII

You visit and explore so many new places! How do you ensure your safety while travelling?

Insia: The key is to research well and understand the place you want to go to. It is important to respect the tradition and culture so that you know how to dress appropriately and that you’re travelling to safe locations (every city has areas that we wouldn’t want to venture to). I make sure that I get a local’s perspective first, getting a sense of the place from people who grew up there and are used to living there.

India with Insia is a brilliant travel platform. Where did you get the idea to start it? Was it something that you always wanted to do?

Insia: You won’t believe it if I tell you but it was a premonition. I had a dream about travelling in India and I could see the name - India With Insia. I woke up, half-asleep, and went to draw up a logo on my computer, and booked the domain name. As simple as that. Before I launched the platform, I used to set up boutique hotels as turnkey projects and that led me to travel a lot in India to explore other boutique hotels. When the pandemic hit India and all travel took a standstill, the idea of looking inwards (domestic travel) germinated. Towards the end of the first wave, I launched India With Insia to support some of the boutique hotels and restaurants that I loved and that’s how it took off. My Small Fry Co. background made sure that regional cuisine and underground culture became a part of the platform.

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What has been your most amazing experience while travelling so far? 

Insia: When I collaborated with Jeep Compass and did a driving trip down the Konkan Coast. On this journey, I met the most inspiring women who have chosen offbeat paths to create livelihoods for their families. In the small towns of Ganpatipule, Dapoli and Sawantwadi, these women have set up business opportunities for themselves by fighting all odds and are their bosses. This is an experience that not just added value to my journey but also made me look at life from a whole new lens.

RAPID FIRE ROUND WITH INSIA

 

A weird food combination I like

Something that many people don’t know about me

One thing I could never live without is

One mantra that I always follow

My favourite book

 Butter chicken and Schezwan Fried Rice

I love being at home :)

Chai!

You be you. Cause no one else can.

40 Rules of Love by Elif Shafak

The travel and hospitality industry came to a standstill when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world. It must have been hard to deal with it so how did you adapt to this major change?

Insia: When you know you’re not alone, it helps to deal with the situation. Knowing that the whole world was coming to a halt, did give me time to soak that in and introspect my own life and choices. The pandemic slowed me down, something I have never experienced and honestly, something that I wish I had experienced earlier on in life. I was a workaholic and now I can create a work and life balance, dedicating time to things that I love doing without feeling guilty about not being at work all the time. Thanks to the therapy and the support system I have, I was able to get through this pandemic and come out stronger.

Lastly, does it sometimes get overwhelming to visit so many new places? Did you ever feel homesick while travelling? How did you cope with it?

Insia: As much as I love travelling, I love spending time at home. But when I travel, I am wholly present there at that moment, experiencing every minute of it and that doesn’t leave me with any time to miss being anywhere else. I only get homesick if the hotel has a very uncomfortable bed or poor quality shower. Haha! 

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