Inspired by the biography of MS Oberoi and the love for hotels, entrepreneur duo Manish Sinha and wife Shilpi Singh started Cinnamon Stays, a bed & breakfast (B&B) offering in Gurgaon 18 months ago. Today, Cinnamon Stays is ranked number one on Trip Advisor among 90 budget hotels, B&B’s and guest houses in Gurgaon. The concept of B&B is catching up in India, given the rise in domestic and international tourism. Swati Maheshwari found out more about the venture from Manish, for YourStory.Tell us about Cinnamon Stays. How did the business idea occur to you?
Cinnamon started after I shifted to Gurgaon from Mumbai and serendipitously, discovered space in a Gurgaon ‘kothi'. The Commonwealth Games triggered the concept of Bed & Breakfast (B&B) and Cinnamon Stays was born.
How big is the Cinnamon set up?
We started with three rooms. Now, we have eight thematic rooms, all with their own unique story and name - the Grand room, the Green room, Unwind, Doodle and Puraani Jeans. My wife and I wanted to give a story to each room rather than a number.
The entire look and feel of Cinnamon is that of an 'Unhotel' - the conveniences of a 2-3 star hotel with the warmth, friendliness and quirkiness of a home!
Globally, Airbnb, which matches travelers with B&B options, is creating a lot of buzz. What do you think is the scope of Bed & Breakfast kind of accommodation in India?
Not many people are familiar with this concept. The Commonwealth Games did popularize home stays a bit. But the average guy still sees either a hotel or a guest-house as options for accommodation. Awareness is something that we need to work upon.
The current market size of the Indian hospitality sector is US$ 23 billion, accounting for 2.2% of India’s GDP. It is estimated that by 2018, it will grow up to US$ 36 billion. Given that India will receive 5 million tourists by year 2015 (as predicted by World Travel Organization), I see massive potential for growth in the Bed & Breakfast industry.
There is no better way to sample a country's culture and cuisine than to stay with the locals in their homes. The fact that the stay is extremely personalized and that it fits within the budget are added advantages. In a B&B, you also get the insights and local wisdom of the hosts that is invaluable. We invariably end up giving tips on shopping, eating out, making travel plans as well as recommending real estate agents and schools!What was the initial investment required to start Cinnamon Stays? Also, how competitive is the space?
We started with an investment of about Rs.2,00,000, which largely went into furnishings. Along with that, there was a lot of investment made in terms of time and online marketing. Actually, I think Cinnamon is in the 'Unhotel' category driven by online and social media marketing and within that space, there is less competition in India at the moment.
But we are usually slotted in the budget hotel/ guest house category which has greater competition, at least in Delhi-NCR. However, the supply of good budget options still lags behind the growing demand for the same, given the increase in eco-tourism, agri-tourism and medical tourism from the West.
How big is the team behind Cinnamon Stays?
We are a mom-and-pop brand at the moment. So, the team includes my wife, our manager, a cook, a cleaner and me. And yes, the life of Cinnamon is our seven and half year old son, Neo.
What are the major trends that you believe are changing the face of the hospitality industry in India?
The most crucial phenomenon is social recommendation-led travel. Cinnamon is a live example of a small brand thriving purely on the basis of sites like Trip Advisor, search and display advertising and social media platform.
We don’t use offline marketing at all. Yet, in the last 18 months, we have had travelers from 16 different countries – from Kazakhstan to Japan, from Czechoslovakia to Afghanistan and many more. Our guest reviews have pushed us to the No.1 spot on Trip Advisor and that has ensured a steady stream of guests from around the world. Our Facebook page has more than 5600 fans.
The future of many businesses is social media led. When it comes to travel, I would say the future might already be here!
The other major trend is the demand for customized & personalized experiences. Plain vanilla destinations, stays and events will simply not cut the ice with the growing number of young travelers. They are constantly looking out for something 'different'. Destinations, hotels and packages must work twice as hard to have an engaging story to tell. I feel boutique properties with a story will see a rise in demand and travelers in a connected world will Google them out.
So, is Cinnamon Stays going to venture out of Gurgaon in the near future? What are your targets?
We are still scouting for interesting budget properties to take the Cinnamon story beyond Gurgaon. We are looking at Goa, Dharamshala and Calcutta to expand.
We are looking at a turnover of Rs.3 crores in 3 years and that’s not too ambitious from a scaling-up point of view. But I would want to grow slowly and steadily and curate the 'Unhotel' brand with caution.
We at YourStory wish Manish and the entire team at Cinnamon Stays much success. To check out this quirky B&B accommodation option in Gurgaon, check outwww.cinnamonstays.in. Also, do let us know what you think of this story by writing to us at email@example.com.