How Prakash Family which did not have any background in hospitality, won the Trip Advisor’s 2020 Travelers Choice award for The Lodge at Wah - Boutique Homestay

#homestay - Panchrukhi - Paprola Road Patti, Deogran, Himachal Pradesh -176061. Book on RARE India

YC - What is your background? What motivated you to start the company and what is it all about?

Upasana - None of us has a background in hospitality, but we all enjoy travelling and meeting people. This made it easy to convert our beautiful home into a homestay, and welcome guests from around the world. We use our travel experiences to enhance the stay for our guests, and since we think of our visitors as personal guests, hosting comes quite naturally to us. The Lodge was created in a completely natural way, using natural materials only, and with a view to living a wholesome, organic, sustainable lifestyle. “It is something that we just had to share with the world!”

YC - Could you please share with our readers about your core team and their roles :

Upasana -

  1. What is the current Team Size - 12

  2. Team Roles – Chefs, housekeeping, and service

YC -As a founder what primary functions are you responsible for, basically how typically you spend your day in the office?

Upasana - As a founder, I would say there are no primary functions, no typical way to spend the day. We might be firefighting plumbing issues at one point, planning menus, gardening, or baking goodies at another. We like to personally host our guests so we do spend a fair amount of the evening with them, and try to make their holiday personalized, memorable and fun. The rest of the time is dedicated to handling inquiries, marketing, and general admin.

YC - Have you used social media platforms to promote your products or services? Which channels have been very effective for your business? Which marketing channels have been super flops for your business? 

Upasana - We have always been active on Instagram, and through that on Facebook. I love putting up stories, posts, info snippets – just whatever I am doing or seeing that day. It gives our followers a great idea of what our lives here are like, and how they could enjoy it if they wanted to stay with us. Instagram has been very effective, as the people who follow us are usually the ones who fit our guest demographic really well. 

We realized very quickly that anything paid for, whether in terms of ads, exhibitions, media, or influencers is not the best fit for us. Word of mouth and organic growth propels us forward a lot better, and we have continued to stick with this.

YC - What according to you is the USP of The Lodge, for which your customers come back to you?

Upasana - A hosted experience in the lap of nature within the largest manufacturing tea estate in the Kangra valley, living in natural homes with wholesome and organic food has been our USP since the start.

YC - Can you elaborate on the challenges you faced in promoting your business?

Upasana - The main challenge I believe is that the true beauty and essence of the property do not translate over photos and videos. Social media is a great platform to showcase The Lodge and our philosophy, but the reaction from guests is always that the photos don’t do it justice! In some ways, maybe that is better ☺

YC - Do you use any tools or software to manage your business? Is there any problem in your day-to-day operations which you wish could be solved with the help of software?

Upasana - We stick to the basics –Google sheets and email. We have never really faced a problem with our 6 bedroom property since we do not list our rooms anywhere online. 

YC - What is the current traction? Can you share some numbers on your order volume, number of customers, and revenue?

Upasana - Post lockdown, our numbers have risen (as it has for everyone else in the region). In a typical year, we see high volume for months other than January, February, July, and August.

YC - Based on your experience so far would you have any advice for new Entrepreneurs.

Upasana - Being on the ground throughout proves really helpful to understand what is required for your business.

“We quickly learned that every place and every business is different, and it’s best to come up with solutions and ideas that fit our unique abilities and challenges.”