*StayEden* is an apartment management company. StayEden provides state of the art facilities in fully furnished apartments in gated societies with 24hr security at nominal rates. It is a unique virtual marketplace that brings the owners and seekers to one platform.

The idea is to let owners make use of their spare space and property while facilitating travellers to get warm and comfortable stay in pocket friendly costs. ‘News With Chai’ recently interviewed Mr. Saurabh Dafria, Co-founder, StayEden and these are the excerpts from the interview.

Q. Tell us about your startup in one sentence. Why the name?

STAYEDEN SERVICE APARTMENT is the name of the company. Eden means paradise. Paradise is home that’s what our tagline says “A home away from home”. STAYEDEN simpily says STAY in PARADISE (EDEN).

Q. Why did you start it and what problem area does it address? Where and how did you get the idea of starting this business?

Year 2000 to 2016 was a real estate boom where every tier 1 & 2 city investor was loaded with spare flats, villas and apartments as investment idea. Apparently supply was very high and demand couldn’t catch up. We wanted to use all these inventories as a great revenue generating model for investors. So the idea is to let owners make use of their spare space and property while facilitating travelers to get warm and comfortable stay in pocket friendly costs. Then here you get entire apartment with complete privacy with family and loved ones. Most important we facilitate pet friendly accommodation which almost no hotel or say for that matter any service apartment provides that facility.

Q. Tell us about your co-founders and co-workers? What do you see in them as your organizational growth drivers?

Ankit Jain, Cofounder of StayEden is a great enthusiast and a traveler. His strong points are building relationship with Hosts and guests, listening skills to solve organizational problems and training our staff to provide same hospitality in affordable service apartment that any top 5 star hotel could deliver, thereby making customer satisfaction as top priority.

Q. When and where did you start the business? Are you one of those iconic garage startups? Tell us more about your inception days? How did you arrive at this idea and what made you choose entrepreneurship over employment, given the risks of business?

This is really interesting question. I have been a big time globetrotter and loved staying in home stays and service apartments. So my initial feeling was that this idea will be a great success in tier 2-3 cities of India as well. Indians generally love to travel in groups and love to socialize as well, so idea of service apartment with great hospitality should do great here. Apparently the journey started in November 2016 when Demonetization was announced by the Government. The money that I had parked with a builder friend couldn’t return back, and asked me to take 3 flats (1BHK), 20kms outside the city. I could do nothing with them. There was no rental yield nor was anyone interested to buy. So I thought of furnishing it and use as my weekend home.

Since I am big time traveler and use only service apartments across the world, I thought this can be a fantastic idea to let travelers use my property for cheap price. A bigger apartment for a smaller price. So I listed it on various online platforms and started yielding returns. Apparently a 12 lakhs, 1BHK flat was sold for Rs.1500/- per day for about 13-14 nights and I started getting 2-3% ROI.

So I thought it can be a great business model for every individual who has invested (or forced;) in flats but either there is no yield or low yield. If we share 70% with the host, it is hassle free income for him and guests are very happy to get a bigger place with great hospitality at a very affordable rate. So I again thank our honorable PM Shri Narendra Modi for giving me a great business idea by announcing Demonetization.

Q. Tell us about your first customer you acquired and how? Tell us about your first customer you lost and why? How difficult is to sell your concept or product? How did you find your easiest way out?

For guests, they are less aware especially in Tier II & tier III cities. This sector does not have many professional companies to run and manage serviced apartments owned by individuals. At present, many individuals who let out their houses as serviced apartments manage it themselves because of which travelers have had bad experiences.  But we have hosted more than 1000 guests in last 1 and half year and now they know we are professional who are here to do business for long and we have created many loyal customers as well.

We do small things to make guests satisfied like giving them a complimentary goodie bag with Maggie, biscuits, chips etc. We keep fresh milk in refrigerator and baby food if required. All these add lot of brownie points for guests as they pay heavy for such things in any hotel.As far as hosts are concerned I just shared my idea of generating higher revenue for their apartment than traditional rental income plus avoiding hassels of brokers, maintenance, police verification, cleaning etc. It was an easy crack !!! 

Q. What are your product or concept differentiators and how do you see it having sustainable growth?

Our apartment are well-equipped properties that are fully furnished, are suitable for both short term as well as long term accommodation need of individuals, families, business travelers, etc. for a quality living. Our properties are elegantly built and have decent standard of facilities like housekeeping services, round the clock security, home appliances, kitchen needs, laundry service, refrigerator, Wi-Fi/ internet, toiletries, power backup system and much more. These apartments create the environment in a way that one gets a feel of being at home. As India’s economy expands, the demand for serviced apartments will increase along with the floating population. These apartments can also become a preferred choice for those seeking a luxurious lifestyle. With demand rising, more developers will start offering facility management services, either directly or in collaboration with hospitality firms.

Q. Who are your competitors? How do you perceive competition? What do you do to avert or outgrow it?

OYO and other home stays listed on Airbnb are our competitors. We have managed them all by providing best and “Personalized” services. We provide one dedicated Apartment Manager who can assist them in specific needs relating to car hire, ticket bookings, getting around tourist places or get grocery from nearby store. Also, we are extremely particular about hygiene and cleanliness. So we would go the extra mile to ensure that guest’s temporary home feels clean, smells fresh and is holistically amazing. We provide daily house cleaning, clean linens, fresh towels and hand towels.We make extra efforts to arrange for pets as this is a niche market capture by our company. No other hotel allows pet stay.

Q. What obstacles did you face as a Startup Founder and how did you overcome them? Were there any roadblocks that you could not overcome? What was the outcome either ways?

Police verification for different apartments on daily basis consumes lot of time and hassle for service managers. We are working with police department to make it an online procedure. Like for foreign guests, filing C form is mandatory which is now a totally online procedure is. We will soon do this for Indian guests also.

Q. Is your business India-focused or international? What is the consumer segment that matters to your business most? Why and how did you choose your target segment? How do you see it growing?

To start with we are India focused business. We want to make our business a self sustaining model like it is now and not enter into exponential expansion using equity funds. Yes, our business model is currently India-focused. All segments are equally very important to us. But there has been a sharp surge in business travel over the last few years with India becoming more integrated with global economy. Executives from India and abroad frequently travel to business hubs and spend weeks and months working from different locations. Another big segment that has started using serviced apartments is visitors for medical tourism, education and entertainment. We can separately discuss over target markets which can be a big discussion as well.

Q. Do you have your vision and mission? Can you share it with us? How do you see the changing times affecting your business? How ready is your business to take on the trends?

This market is growing very fast, particularly due to the services sector and increased penetration in not just primary, but secondary and tertiary markets as well. This demand is expected to rise with the projected growth path of the Indian economy, further penetration in other aspects of the services sector, setup of operations across secondary and tertiary cities and fast increasing domestic leisure travel, where people/families may prefer to rent apartments rather than stay at hotels.

Q. Do you believe in 996 (9 to 9, 6 Days A Week) or the 4 Day Work Week model? What’s your take on the both?

We are in a service industry so customer satisfaction is our top most priority. Our team is available 24×7 to solve guests/hosts query online and offline. So time is not model in our business.

Q. How do you reward and develop your team? Do you believe in continuous improvement and engagement of teams? Do you have a HR for your startup?

Yes we have hired a dedicated consultant for the same. HR and training are key integrates for any startup to grow and we very well acknowledge that masters of such field should only do this job.

Q. Do you have a mentor / advisor for your startup or yourself? Do you believe in learning and guided intervention as a vehicle for success in business? If you have a mentor, how did he/she help you to wade through the good and bad times? Do you want to mentor a fellow startup founder?

We are looking for one.

Q. What is that ONE PURPOSE of your business which keeps you going? Where do you see yourself in the next 3 or 5 years?

My love for travelling and staying in a place just like home are 2 things I will always cherish and want people around the globe should also do with my little effort. In next five years we will have our presence in 50+ cities across India and we will be managing 300+ properties.

Q. How did associating with ‘Chatur Ideas’ help you? Do you recommend startups to associate with Chatur Ideas or similar communities on their way to growth and success? If yes, why?

Devesh is a great friend and mentor who had helped me selflessly since our 1st meet. We would love to have a bigger association sometime soon.

Q. What is your one liner for the readers and startup enthusiasts?

Go slow and steady. Run for excellence and not money.“An organizations journey to excellence begins once it ceases to sacrifice quality for speed”.