How Udit & team has built Ekaa, helping traveller to discover Agra beyond Taj
#homestay - Agra 282002 - Uttar Pradesh
YC - What is your background? What motivated you to start and what is it all about?
Udit - We all come from varied backgrounds. I come from a travel background, having run an inbound travel company for about 8 years before we launched Ekaa.
We started with our first hospitality venture Jugaad Hostels, Delhi’s second backpackers’ hostel in May 2015. Jugaad is one of the best-ranked backpacker’s hostel in Delhi with more than 2500, 5 stars reviews on multiple platforms and multiple awards. After running Jugaad we decided to go start Ekaa Villa and Kitchen, Agra’s first and only boutique property in November 2018.
The motivation was us wanting something unique and experimental in the travel and hospitality segment. The reason we chose Agra was, there is a huge gap in the city and there was no boutique property there. It was either the big brands or the budget city hotels.
YC - Could you please share with our readers what is your current team size and their roles?
Udit -There are 2 co-founders that run the venture actively and 2 co-founders are in a passive capacity. Besides that, we have a team of 14 staff running the property in Agra.
YC - As a founder what primary functions are you responsible for, basically how typically you spend your day in the office?
Udit -I am in charge of running the property in Agra. My day is typically spread between making sure the back of the house is in shipshape and at the same time interacting with the guests and making sure they are having the best experience at the property possible.
YC - Have you used social media platforms to promote your boutique homestay? Which channels have been very effective for your business? Which marketing channels have been super flops for your business?
Udit -We have not really had much success on the SM platforms in generating bookings but they are a good channel to build public perception of the brand and to let people know what we are up to.
100% of our business comes from B2B channels like international agents and international OTAs like Booking.com and Airbnb.
YC - What according to you is the USP of your boutique homestay, for which your customers come back to you?
Udit -Ekaa stands for ‘Agra beyond the Taj’ and we offer the best platform for our guests to experience the city beyond its most popular sites. Be it food, handicrafts or mingling with the locals, the reason why people come back to Ekaa or love staying with us is because of the high level of hospitality and the unique experiences we offer.
YC - Can you elaborate on the challenges you faced in promoting your boutique homestay? What are your views on platforms like Airbnb, RareIndia, Booking.com etc?
Udit - Thankfully because of our experiences with Jugaad and because we had worked with all these platforms before, coupled with the fact that we are truly the only boutique experience in Agra we did not face any major challenges with promoting the property. In the B2B market also there was a huge demand for a property like Ekaa, so the Indian as well as and international agents just took to Ekaa like fish to water.
YC - How are you coping with COVID 19, what would you suggest to your fellow boutique homestay owners?
Udit -The Covid situation has hit us hard as 100% of our business was based on the incoming foreign tourist and for now, the property has been put on hold.
YC - How do you manage expenses, typically what percentage do you allocate for marketing & sales, day to day operations and property renovations and enhancements?
Udit -We do not need to market the property on a regular basis as most of the bookings come from established B2B networks and OTAs. We participate in a few annual events but that is not a big part of the expense sheet. Day to day operations and the salary roster takes up most of the costly bills.
YC - Based on your experience so far would you have any advice for new Entrepreneurs.
The best advice we can give is to be really in love with what you are planning to do because it is a very difficult and tough road ahead.