Meet The SHEROES: QnA With Tejas, Founder Of Saffron Stays
Tejas Parulekar of Saffron Stays shares the story behind her venture with us today:
Tell us about yourself
I am born & brought up in Mumbai, I am a Chartered Accountant by training and I spent a couple of years in Ernst & Young, where I did my internship. From there, I joined the banking sector. I spent 8 years in ICICI Bank and thereafter a brief stint at HSBC.
How did the idea of Saffron Stays come about?
On a holiday in Europe, my husband, Deven, and I realized that our kids enjoyed their stay at a farmhouse in Spain and a Chateux in France more than any hotel they had ever stayed in. It gave us privacy, space and most importantly freedom to our kids to run around freely without disturbing others. An idea was thus conceived to create a discovery platform for homestays, private villas and heritage bungalows. India had many beautiful homestays to offer, but no unified platform to research, find, and book these. Once we started of as an aggregator, we were approached by many home-owners who wanted us to operate their homes as well as market them. We realised this is a real need and a problem waiting to be solved. We started with our flagship property, The Parsi Manor, at Matheran and all of this eventually led to the SaffronStays Leisure Home Network.
What is the core service / product offering at Saffron Stays?
Saffron Stays is creating a network of ancestral homes, villas, luxury vacation homes. It’s called The Leisure Home Network. Often, these are ancestral homes that still echo the sound of childhood summers spent there by the family. Or are second-homes that are built with great love and care. We prevent these beloved homes from falling into disrepair by operating them as vacation rentals. On the traveller side, we give other families the opportunity to make new memories without having to invest and take the headache of maintaining one.
These luxury homes offer a family the vacation they want in the perfect environmental setting away from the traditional setting of a hotel or resort.
As a result, we are able to solve the problem of both the home-owners, who while emotionally attached, invariably end up neglecting their second- home and discerning travellers, who are bored of the sterile hotel holidays and find comfort in the warmth and privacy of a home.
How long has it been since you started the venture, what have your major challenges been?
SaffronStays started in 2013 and the challenges… where do I begin? Our first stumbling block was tech itself. The agency working on our website walked off just 2 days before our pre-launch date, we did not even have a landing page! In hindsight, we thank them for saying no to us, because we did it ourselves. Not wanting to see our dreams crash, Deven, my husband, investor and mentor in SaffronStays took up the challenge, re-learnt coding from scratch and literally over many nights spread over many months coded the entire platform as it stands today. That apart from his highly demanding role as a Practice Leader for Cyber Security at Ernst & Young LLP.
The next challenge which moved us to our current pivot was the quality of the homestays itself. We realised there is no standard quality and hence travellers are often weary of booking. They feel ‘safe’ in hotels, feel a quality is assured. However, fact is, below a 5-star hotel, the quality just plummets. We noticed that luxury homes/ villas are a preferred choice when families travel together. In India, we always travel in groups, cousins, office friends, school friends, parents of kid’s friends. We have numerous social circles. And we like to take short quick breaks with them. At such times, a whole bungalow or villa to your own group is the perfect idea.
Can you tell us about the entrepreneurial journey to date?
The journey has been like trying on different pairs of shoes. Some things have worked out and many things have not. As an entrepreneur, the first thing you need to tell yourself, is you don’t know anything. Learn, absorb like a sponge, adapt. We have been lucky to have been mentored by the best in the industry. As an entrepreneur, you want to do everything, you feel you can do everything. Our mentors have kept us grounded, and true to our cause. It’s been one thrilling journey and we know we are just at the start of it.
What future plans do you have for yourself and the venture?
SaffronStays was originally built to disrupt the market of renters and hotels by offering travellers a different staying experience. It was to help discover and book homestays. However, SaffronStays has evolved to tap into the unique market that does not exist - offering families luxury, heritage and culturally rich homes. We are building a Leisure Home Network, the first of its kind. A Blue Ocean.
We have built a great story here. I really want SaffronStays to make an impact. I want to create a national footprint in giving travelers an opportunity to stay in a luxury home away from home, and at the same time, build an exclusive SaffronStays Leisure Homes Network. Within 3 years, we aim to have national dominance and expand internationally thereafter.
When it comes to women and entrepreneurship - what are your thoughts.
I think entrepreneurship liberates women from the shackles of the corporate world and the stereo-typing that comes with it. It’s a true level-playing field. I am thrilled and inspired to see so many women entrepreneurs finding tech solutions to real problems.
What is a typical day at work like for you?
Entrepreneurship is 24*7. You eat, sleep, breathe your dream. Deven, my husband, is our mentor, investor and my sounding board (apart from being the closet coder). So we end up having a lot of work related discussions even at breakfast and dinner table. What’s interesting is my kids (10 years and 8 years old) occasionally throw in a suggestion or two. I am happy if my journey has this impact on them and makes them problem-solvers of tomorrow.
Any thoughts you would like to leave our readers with?
Build something; create something the world needs. Get consumed by the idea. And execute relentlessly.