Ex-senior banker launches Muskotia Retreat in Nainital to boost ‘service vacation homes’ in India

Gaggan Anand

Gaggan Anand is a banker who has spent more than two decades with the likes of ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank. It was somewhere early in his career when Gaggan bought a piece of land in the Kilbury Forest, Nainital. “It’s a big piece of land and we’d taken it thinking that we’d build a vacation home some time,” says Gaggan. Time went by but Gaggan and his wife Rukmini couldn’t actually make the move. It was in 2011 when Gaggan and Rukmini decided to finally take the plunge and do something with the land.

The hospitality industry is highly capital and labour intensive. The payback period is long and it is not a segment everyone can play in. However, Gaggan met Hemani, who had a treasury and consulting background, and wanted to do something experiential. “We started researching and attending possible conferences and exhibitions, visiting resorts and hotels to understand the trade for 15 months before we sat on the drawing board,” says Gaggan. They zeroed in on ‘Full Service Vacation Homes’ believing it to be a win-win model for the investor, hotel operator and the asset management company.

Muskotia Retreat’s Full Service Vacation Home is a highly developed model overseas. “The model abroad has evolved into a fractional and shared ownership where there can be multiple owners for the same property,” says Gaggan. There are three key stake holders in Full Service Vacation homes – developer-turned asset management company, buyer of the vacation home and the hotel operator. The buyer gets regular returns from the property as it would be rented out on a daily basis; AMC gets management fee, and the hotel operator gets an asset light model and percentage from the revenue. For the buyer, the Muskotia Retreat apartments are priced at INR 50 lakhs. “Returns tend to be far superior to any commercial investment. As capital gets more expensive, this is the best model for sharing returns and at the same time growing resort properties in the country,” says Gaggan.

The current location for the pilot phase is the Kilbury Forest, Nainital, which is situated at a height of 2200 metres and overlooks the Himalayas. It is an international birding destination with over 550 species of resident and migratory birds. The idea is to create vacation homes that make financial sense and are also built sustainably. Gaggan had researched for more than three years to land on their current location. Gaggan and Hemani have put together a team of 16 comprising offbeat architects, interior designers, energy and green consultants, etc to see Muskotia come to life. The construction is underway and is scheduled to be completed by late 2015.

“The core to every project we develop is: holistic wellness covering mind, body and soul, and a cultural centre to promote local culture and handicrafts,” says Rukmini. Gaggan feels that sustainability and commerce can go hand in hand, provided we are sincere towards the same.

The Muskotia Retreat website is password locked which is not something you see in the current age. “Nine out of 10 people ask us to change this but we believe that the product is such that only the interested ones should get complete access. Everyone cannot relate to the idea,” says Gaggan. Starting out with Nainital, the team has scouts in other exotic locations who are identifying areas where more vacation houses can come up. The vision is to create 500 vacation homes in the next five years.

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