Meet Malaika Arora, the yoga entrepreneur

‘I followed my gut and my heart’ says Malaika Arora about setting up a yoga studio in Mumbai

  • Published 18.06.19, 8:01 PM
  • Updated 18.06.19, 8:01 PM
  • 5 mins read
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Fitness motivation: Malaika does yoga on Venice Beach in Los Angeles (Malaika Arora)

Malaika Arora has always been one of the fittest celebrities in Bollywood. She’s taken her passion for yoga one step ahead by investing in a yoga start-up and opened a yoga studio in Mumbai.

t2 recently sat down with Malaika at Diva Studios in Bandra in Mumbai to know more about her love for yoga, friends she does yoga with and her entrepreneurial life.

(L-R) Kareena Kapoor Khan, Malaika Arora, Karisma Kapoor and Amrita Arora Ladak
(L-R) Kareena Kapoor Khan, Malaika Arora, Karisma Kapoor and Amrita Arora Ladak (Screengrab)

How did Diva come about?

Well, sometimes some things just happen accidentally in life and you bump into certain people not realising that something good might come out of it. And that’s just how it happened. I met Sarvesh (Shashi, yoga entrepreneur) and he told me what they had in mind and what it is that they wanted to do. Bam! I said ‘Okay’ because this was so up my street. We decided to do studios for women predominantly, and that’s why it’s called Diva Studios — so that you can come here and feel like a diva yourself.

You have also invested in Sarva, which is a wellness and yoga start-up, along with the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez...

Sarva is the mother company and we started with Diva Yoga. It all started with me being the face of the studios, which was fine. But somewhere down the line, after a couple of meetings and realising what they have in store, I didn’t just want to be a face for it. It would be just another endorsement but I wanted to take it a step further.

How involved are you in Diva and Sarva?

I’m involved hell of a lot. May not be like how Sarvesh is, because he is the brain behind everything. But the more I hang out with him, the more I talk to him, the more I learn on the job. The only way I can do that is if I’m here and I’m physically present, learning on the job every day. I’m not somebody who knows the ins and outs of running things... I don’t. I’m still a work-in-progress and that’s how it should be. I’m loving the process.

Are there expansion plans?

Of course, the whole point of getting into it is that. There are a whole lot of plans in the pipeline. This is our first flagship studio and we want to make sure we iron out all our initial teething problems. Then we’ll roll out subsequent studios. It’s all underway as we speak. Once this is up, running and fully functional, then we’ll be ready for our next phase of expansion.

When did you discover yoga?

Someone asked me when I fell in love with yoga. And I told them that I actually fell down, hurt myself, then I turned to yoga and fell in love with it. There was a lot of falling down involved, some terrible injuries and that’s when I started doing yoga. I also think I turned to it in a phase where I needed that bit of calm and direction in my life. Some people turn to meditation, others to writing or singing. Everybody has a different outlet, for me I found that in yoga. It really helped me at a very precarious stage in my life and I’m grateful.

You have a very hectic lifestyle. How do you make sure that it’s a part of your daily routine?

That’s the best thing about yoga. You can make it a part of your life without having to disrupt any agenda for the day. It seamlessly fits into your life. I’m at the studio practically every day. When I’m not here, I do it wherever I am, whether it’s a hotel room or at home.

This space we’re offering people because we want them to come and learn the benefits of yoga, be trained under experts and give them an environment that makes them feel the money’s worth it. Once you can do the basics, you can do it any time and anywhere, you don’t need a fixed time and space. Here we train people to get better, put them in a programme and help train and transform them in a particular way.

Who among your celebrity friends can match up to your yoga prowess?

I think Bebo (Kareena Kapoor Khan) is really good, and every time we do a class, she’s getting better for sure. I drag them all here, it’s more fun when we all do class together. The group keeps fluctuating — there’s my sister (Amrita Arora Ladak), Bebo, Lolo (Karisma Kapoor), whoever is available.

Who was the last person you managed to convert to yoga?

My sister. She’s always been somebody who believed that hitting the gym, running on a treadmill and lifting weights are the only way to stay fit, which is fine. I asked her to just give it a shot, just do it. And now she can’t do without it.

Among the people you know, who would benefit from including yoga in their life?

I want to get KJo (Karan Johar) to do yoga but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to pin him down for a class.

There are all these new kinds of yoga. There’s dog yoga, cat yoga, even goat yoga...

I’m sorry. Let’s just stop right there, I beg you. This is not a zoo. We stick to traditional yoga. I saw a video of goat yoga and at some point someone was tickling a goat. Are you serious?! I don’t subscribe to any of these. I think these are all excuses to have a good time. It’s like, ‘Let’s put some yoga into it to make it look a little legit’. But otherwise no. It’s all rubbish.

Which of these do you think is the strangest and which would you be intrigued by?

None. They’re all beyond ridiculous. None of them interest me.

In the last few years, you’ve successfully pivoted into becoming an entrepreneur. What is it like to have to start learning new things from scratch?

But that’s life. If you’re not going to learn, you’re redundant. That’s what life is all about, you’re constantly learning. Not just this, but every day I’m learning something new, whether it’s at home or at my workspace, or with my friends. Yes, this was a bit of a shift for me but like I said, what’s the point of living if you’re not going to be learning something new every day?

What’s the journey been like of being an entrepreneur?

Like all things in my life, it wasn’t planned at all. I’m just glad that I went down that road because somewhere I realised that I had a bit of a head for all of this. And once I realised this, I told myself that I needed to delve more into being an entrepreneur. And I’m really glad I did. I’m glad I didn’t succumb to fear. I’m glad I didn’t succumb to unnecessary chatter. I followed my gut and my heart... I went with what I felt.

There were a lot of people around who kept asking what I was doing and why I was doing it. But if you’re not going to put yourself out there, how on earth will you ever know whether it’s up your alley or not? And I’m somebody who hates getting bogged down. So, I’ll take those chances. I’m not a gambler as a person, I don’t like the whole thought of gambling in any aspect. But in whatever I’m doing, I just followed my gut and went with it.