Imagine living in the wilderness amidst flora and fauna, away from the light pollution of cities and from crowds, safe from transmission of covid and flouting of social distancing. Isolated homestays in the heart of nature may just be the answer to the revival of the hospitality sector as well as the rural economy of India. Svanir is a start-up which is doing just that.
Who is Svanir?
Svanir is a hospitality start-up based in Bhubaneshwar, Odisha. Founded by ‘Indrani’ and ‘Soumya’, Svanir literally means ‘own home’ which is the founding principle of the start-up. Their homestay service ‘Svanir Wilderness Ecostay’ is an eco-friendly boutique homestay.
Why was this start-up conceptualised?
The start-up was conceptualised on a shared dream by its co-founders to create a living space that was close to nature. The idea quickly took shape in the form of a homestay in the outskirts of Bhubaneshwar.
Empowering the neglected village of Dalua
The start-up shares its address with the village of Dalua. Dalua is a poor and largely neglected tribal village with its inhabitants being mostly impoverished. Svanir is empowering the local community by employing their staff, especially women and training them to assume various roles in the hospitality industry like chef and even to become entrepreneurs.
Cosy eco-home hiding in the outskirts of Bhubaneswar
Their cosy eco-home hiding in the outskirts of Bhubaneswar consists of locally sourced, air-conditioned cottages, designed in traditional tribal architecture. It is aimed at giving guests the experience of living like a local in the village of Dalua along with the benefits of a homestay experience.
Svanir’s main differentiator is that unlike a traditional hospitality and travel start-up, they’ve been able to retain their employees and even hire two or more women staff during the pandemic. Since they operate to fulfil an important cause and are located in an off-beat location with close to zero competing establishments in their vicinity, even a single reservation or stay booking will be beneficial for the disadvantaged staff in the premises to skill up in hospitality and earn a sustainable living.
Svanir is empowering the local community by employing their staff, especially women and training them to assume various roles in the hospitality industry like chef and even to become entrepreneurs.
What’s in it for me?
The ‘live like local’ trend is working out well for tourism and hospitality sectors as more people realise the presence of exotic vacation destinations in their surroundings rather than in expensive foreign locations. Start-ups that are curating a local experience for travellers are providing a two-way advantage:
- They are fulfilling the market demand of travellers seeking a low budget, fulfilling respite from the endless lockdowns.
- They are solving a major challenge among locals in hard-to-reach, or impoverished areas by creating jobs, and supporting small business owners during these tough times.
Start-ups are relocating to hideaway locations in India to start their own cosy home or cottage getaway home for travellers. If you own land or a heritage ancestral home in an interior location abundant in nature, transforming it into a homestay is a good idea. Small towns and villages are ideal locations to set up homestays. Unlike a generic hospitality offering, a homestay is not burdened by expenses of managing a hotel. It’s a humble and sustainable service in the travel/tourism and hospitality sector that can survive the pandemic.
There is drastic change among traveller behaviour in India. People are no longer flying out of the country for exotic holidays on a whim. They prefer ‘slow travelling’, a trend for choosing small properties over bigger hotel chains for their stay. They also prefer an instant connection with the area and a local experience is the fastest way to experience it. Starting a homestay is a sustainable option for start-ups venturing into the hospitality sector. It doesn’t require bank loans to run and can be easily set up with minimal infrastructure which only adds to its charm. Homestays also harbour natural abundance which is also their key USP.