How Vasudha & Sanjay built Parvada Bungalows out of their love for Kumaon

#homestay -Village Parvada, South Gola Range, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

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

 Vasudha and Sanjay - I, Vasudha Sondhi, am from the hospitality industry having worked with international hotels in leadership roles. Sanjay had a Unani medicine manufacturing business. He was keen to set up an entrepreneurial venture. So in 2002, we set up Outbound Marketing Pvt Ltd. where we handled outsourced sales and marketing for international hotels and hotel chains. We went on to set up OM tourism in 2008 which provides destination marketing strategies to National Tourism Boards.

In 2012, OMT hospitality was set up to provide PR and digital marketing solutions to hospitality, tourism and non-tourism clients. Annapurna Charitable Foundation was set up in 2016 and we have done one small project in providing self-employment opportunities to residents of Village Peora in Uttarakhand. We partnered with Aarohi and Le Meridien Hotel to set up homestays in the villagers’ homes. After a year of hand holding the project, we helped set up a village cooperative that now manages the homestays. Parvada Bungalows was born from our love of Kumaon and our desire to have a little cottage here. It turned out that we ended up buying a fairly large Orchard in village Parvada.

YC - Could you please share with our readers what is your current team size and their roles?

Vasudha and Sanjay - We have totally a staff of 7 persons in Parvada Bungalows. 2 in the kitchen, 2 in the garden, 2 for housekeeping and 1 supervisor

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

Vasudha and Sanjay - I handle all the sales and marketing work for Parvada Bungalows, including handling all calls for bookings, Insta and Facebook posts, responding to queries, training of all departments including kitchen, working on new recipes, and other operational aspects. Sanjay handles the accounts and orchards. He just completed planting 750 apple trees. Furthermore, both of us are setting up village homestays at Parvada as well. 

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

Vasudha and Sanjay - We are luxury without ostentatiousness. Our rooms are well-appointed with a pinewood interior, we use 300 TC bed linen, our bath linen is Egyptian cotton. Rooms and bathrooms are cleaned daily. Our kitchen staff is local but we have had them trained in a culinary institute. So there is a lovely mix of local and international, Indian variety. Kitchen hygiene is of the highest level. We have not used the tag of “homestay” to mean basic. Our customers come back to us and recommend us highly for our food ( we are a vegetarian homestay), our ambience, our staff and our cleanliness, please check out our TripAdvisor rating. We follow sustainable practices and encourage our guests to do similar.

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?

Vasudha and Sanjay - I think the biggest challenge is in the perception of a homestay where people actually expect that there will be one or two persons doing all the job and that it will be pretty average. So when we quote our price they get quite surprised. Training local staff is a good challenge and most of them at least at our place continue to be motivated to do their best. 

Airbnb is pretty good but we have not yet received a booking from that platform. Rareindia I do not know of as a travel portal. Booking.com is OK. I don’t really expect good quality bookings from travel portals. We are able to draw in a better profile directly.

YC - How are you coping with COVID 19, what would you suggest to your fellow boutique homestay owners?

Vasudha and Sanjay - Covid 19 has really hurt our business and the businesses of fellow homestay owners. Since this is not our main business, we do it more to maintain our place we have easily been able to be selective about who to take in and when to close the doors. We have also paid our staff in full all through 2020 and to date. I however understand if homestay owners have shut their doors and also dismissed staff. My advice would be to use this time to restructure their business to take in more long stays which is the current demand and will be so for at least the next 1 year and which will minimize more people coming in and spreading possible infections.

YC - How do you manage expenses, typically what percentage do you allocate for marketing & sales, day to day operations and property renovations and enhancements?

Vasudha and Sanjay - We end up spending almost 50% of our earnings or more on operational cost including maintenance. We are a fairly new property, opened in 2018

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

Vasudha and Sanjay -

“Entrepreneurship is an exciting journey. You have to be mentally prepared to give it all. To make your journey successful, you need ideas that can be implemented, money to back it …at least for the initial phase of 3 years. You have to eat, breathe, sleep and live your journey and be almost maniacal to make it successful. “

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