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Diwali Special: Holidays for hire

As Indians take to weekend getaways and multiple holidays in a year, new subscription models for vacation homes are on the rise

Suvarna Sangam, a pet-friendly villa in Udupi, Karnataka. Photo: Saffronstays
Suvarna Sangam, a pet-friendly villa in Udupi, Karnataka. Photo: Saffronstays

The Nextflix model of living doesn’t just extend to home, but also holidays. SaffronStays, a Mumbai-based micro hospitality collective founded in 2014 by former banker Tejas Parulekar and Devendra Parulekar, a former cybersecurity expert, operates over 65 premium vacation homes, from pet-friendly villas in Karnataka and Maharashtra to a 350-year-old mansion in Goa. The discovery platform has now launched the SaffronStays First Family experience, a subscription plan that gives members access to multiple holidays in a year. As the model launches during the festive season, the start-up’s co-founder Tejas tells Lounge about the subscription model. Edited excerpts from a phone interview:

How did you come to launch a subscription model?

We realised that we were bringing real value to guests when we could control and vouch for our service promises, and quickly moved away from being a marketplace to actually operating, managing and marketing vacation homes. We have been doing very well over the last three years, but are looking to create a bigger disruption in the timeshare or the subscription model. We have started an annual subscription that will give members access to all the properties. We are also building a network of properties around areas we identify as a capital market—for instance, Mumbai—so that customers can visualize having three-four such vacations a year.

How is the market for homestays and holidays changing in India?

There’s a massive market in Mumbai itself looking for good getaways. People love the idea of spending a weekend (away), but they want nicer places, bigger spaces, better amenities, more options, and comfort. On the supply side, there were homeowners who don’t have time to look after their properties. Usually, homestays are managed by the owners themselves. But many homeowners don’t have time to manage operations and bookings, and look for avenues like ours.

Homestays are trending today. What sets vacation homes apart?

We are more about vacation homes than homestays—guests (virtually) own the home for the period of booking. First, the whole concept of privacy is paramount, and guests have the entire space to themselves. We have a whole range of properties and do branding specific to the place and property—a heritage property requires different branding from a luxury vacation home. But we promise a certain level of service, privacy, home-cooked quality meals and homelike hospitality.

What are the consumer trends that contribute to the success of a subscription model?

A lot of people who love to take holidays over weekends are not just looking at one such holiday. They take multiple short vacations through the year, with not just family but various social circles—friends, colleagues, peers from their gym, etc. We have also noticed that a lot of younger clients, millennials as well as those in the 35-40 age group, aren’t necessarily looking at buying a vacation home anymore. Everyone romanticizes the idea of a home in the hills, but no one wants to go through the whole process of buying, construction and maintenance. Having a vacation homes membership allows them to enjoy it without the hassle of owning it.

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