People@Work

The hospitality shift from staycations to workations

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on June 04, 2020 Published on June 04, 2020

SaffronStays property

Linger Leisure

Holiday home chains SaffronStays and Linger Leisure do a Covid pivot, with long-stay, work-from-a retreat, offerings

Tired of working from home? But your office is insisting you do so? Well, holiday home chain SaffronStays is opening up some of its drivable-distance properties near Mumbai and Pune for executives looking for a safe, salubrious place to work out of.

The chain, started by former Ernst & Young cyber security and privacy practice lead Devendra Parulekar and his corporate banker wife Tejas, has pivoted to position its full-serviced villas as ideal, long-stay, work-from-home places. Rentals are around ₹2 lakh per home, which have been made Covid-19 safe, with WiFi and connectivity, pools to laze around in and equipped corners for zoom calls.

Linger Leisure

 

Meanwhile, Linger Leisure — started by former software engineer Sameer Shisodia who has worked with Wipro and Oracle — has announced its workation plans and pricing for a duration ranging from two weeks to eight weeks. Pricing starts at ₹82,500 for eight weeks at its Vijaypur property and goes up to ₹1,12,000 for eight weeks at its Chikmagalur estate. This includes home-like food. Linger anticipates that long-stay workations will become a big trend now.

Linger Leisure

 

According to Shisodia, there have been a lot of enquiries from software engineers and entrepreneurs. The properties in Coorg and Chikmaglur are especially generating interest. One person wanted his team to be there for a month. “People want to know about the specific data speeds,” he says. The concerns are whether speeds are enough for children to attend school online as well.

Different reasons, different models

With Unlock 1.0 allowing hospitality ventures to open up, SaffronStays is gearing up to welcome its first work-from-retreat guests. During the lockdown, the vacation home chain worked on this strategy, identifying properties that were at drivable distance from Mumbai and Pune and equipping them for remote working.

Devendra Parulekar, Founder SaffronStays at Seaview Soiree Gorai

 

“We floated the idea with our customers and got an enthusiastic response as people who have remote working options want to escape the city,” says Parulekar.

According to him, different needs motivate people to go in for the long-stay rentals. Some want a safe sanctuary against Covid, especially as cases in Mumbai are growing. Others want to escape house chores. The third motivation is simply wanting a change from being cooped up at home, especially if the option is a villa with a view and a pool.

Three models are on offer for those looking from work-from-retreat options. There is a completely zero-staff model, a semi-service model and a full-service model with all meals provided and staff staying in attached quarters.

Isn’t the price a deterrent? Parulekar says typically the rates for the villas pre-Covid ranged between ₹15,000 and ₹30,000 for a weekend for a villa with a pool. So ₹2 lakh a month by that yardstick is a discounted model. “The advantage for us is we have a committed business and occupancy for two or three months,” he says.

SaffronStays has 175 homes currently out of which 130 are near Mumbai and Pune, 10 are in Ooty and Kodaikanal and the rest in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. The chain does not own any of the homes but has them on lease or manages them for owners.

The initial work-from-retreat plan is being piloted at 24 properties near Mumbai and Pune, especially places like Alibaug and Karjat. “We would like to try the model, study the needs, and then implement it in places accessible from Bengaluru and NCR,” says Parulekar.

Small celebrations are in

Significantly, SaffronStays will be adding more homes this year. All through lockdown, enquiries from home owners have poured in to offer their properties to the chain. This is because ultra-rich home owners, whose businesses are suffering, would like to monetise their empty vacation homes. “We will be growing our supply by 20 per cent this year. When we entered lockdown we had about 500 rooms, By the end of the year, we should have 1,000 rooms,” he says.

With all projections showing that hospitality players will struggle to generate demand, isn’t it counter intuitive to add more supply now?

Parulekar says that SaffronStays has never been a tourism product. “Our largest audience is people who want to celebrate an occasion with close friends and family and book adjacent villas for 15 to 20 guests,” he points out. That is why the properties are carefully chosen to be at drivable distance from metros and are not in typical holiday destinations. “We are looking to unlock luxurious homes outside Bengaluru now,” he discloses.

With social distancing here to stay, Parulekar feels small celebrations will pick up over large parties and that, along with work from a retreat, are the two propositions the chain is pushing.

Published on June 04, 2020
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