StayVista is redefining India's luxury travel market

StayVista is redefining India's luxury travel market

While Indians love luxury and service, we still want to feel at home wherever we go. Ankita Sheth caught that market sentiment and co-founded StayVista, a luxury home rental platform, to provide for it.

Tsunami CostabirUpdated: Monday, May 20, 2024, 10:16 AM IST
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India has a booming hospitality and service sector with a lot of potential. We’re people who love cultural experiences, exploring and taking our large group of family and friends along. StayVista was founded in 2015 by Amit Damani, Ankita Sheth, and Pranav Maheshwari. From Kashmir to Kerala, they offer 500+ luxury villas in 50+ locations.

How did the idea of StayVista come about?

In India, we have the 5-star hotels and then the Airbnbs. But Indians need bigger homes to accommodate their friends and families and are also used to being serviced. So, we saw a gap in the market for luxury homes with services. As for homeowners, who are also our partners, they don't want to deal with guest handling, taxation etc, and that’s where we come in. At the time, we didn’t see much innovation happening in the travel and hospitality space, so we wanted to bring in something new-age through technology. 

What are some changes in customer behaviour you’ve noticed in this space? 

Pre-pandemic, luxury home rentals were a newer concept. But among consumers, at large, there is a trend where people are exploring new things. This would apply to every segment - from makeup to fashion or even food and stay. 

During the pandemic, we saw a spike in rentals because people wanted bigger spaces and were staying longer as they could work remotely. Homes were a better option than hotels because you could choose the people you have in your vicinity. Post-pandemic, people are still experimenting, but we have seen a slight dip in bookings.

Gen-Z is an influential segment when it comes to group decision-making. They are well-informed and early adopters. People are also interested in knowing what others are doing. So, rather than seeing a celebrity ambassador, they are more influenced by reviews and their social circles.

On the owner's side, more people are buying second homes. Before, it was seen as a white elephant. But now, with this system, it takes less of a toll on their pockets. So, there has been growth on both the demand and supply sides. 

How have StayVista offerings evolved over the years to suit the Indian consumer?

With the curation of homes, we’ve gone from a 100-point checklist to a 1,000-point checklist. The more you know, the more picky you get. So we’re not just offering a home with a pool; we’re defining the size of the pool. We’re particular about the furniture, crockery, glassware, linen, upholstery, food and service. 

So, the location, design and StayVista standards have changed. We’ve even gone from a simple caretaker to a uniformed and trained person servicing you. At the same time, we also have to look at costs and ensure that the home-like experience isn’t lost. We want to keep the uniqueness of each home while maintaining our basic standards. So apart from choosing homes, we’re also spending on them to get the product right. 

Do you focus on responsible tourism and sustainability in your homes?

We do a couple of things but always want to do a lot more in this area. We put up signages for electricity and water saving and reduce printing by using plastic laminates. We also use wall-mounted dispensers for toiletries like body wash, shampoo etc, rather than using the smaller sachets and soap bars. With bigger packages, you’re saving both the packaging and the product. 

In certain locations, we have an on-ground team that does waste segregation. Depending on the region, we run different initiatives. From a community aspect, since we work in remote locations, we do scholarships for caretakers’ children and pay for their school fees and health checkups. We focus on locally sourcing all our products and in remote places, even creating entrepreneurs who can stock items we need. 

For example, Wada in Palghar is not a typical vacation place. And when it's not the farming season, the youth are unemployed and migrate to other places for work. So we picked up a few homes there and created employment by recruiting people for the homes. For the first 6 months, we didn’t get any bookings but the place has picked up since. 

How does StayVista differentiate itself from competitors?

We have the largest portfolio and the highest coverage. From Kashmir to Kerala, we are present in all leisure destinations. We’re also diverse in terms of price ranges and service offerings and take full ownership from both the guest and owner sides.

What are some key things you’ve learnt in your journey with StayVista?

Over the last nine years, as the business has grown, we’ve seen the importance of hard work and perseverance. You also have to be agile. If you’re doing something that’s not working, change it. Or if it is working, do it faster. 

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