This 22-year-old’s agritourism startup will take you far from the city’s madding crowd
Pune-based agritourism startup Meyome Rustic which offers experiences like farming with the villagers and going swimming in the village river.Debolina Biswas
A quiet siesta on a hammock by the countryside, dinner cooked and served by villagers, and a short performance with local musicians - if this is your idea of a perfect weekend getaway, Pune-based Meyome Rustic has got you covered.
The agritourism startup promises just this and much more, far away from the city’s madding crowd, by taking you to untouched pockets of villages.
Founded by Chintan M Patel in March 2018, Meyome offers experiences like a stay in local wada (ancient homes), arranges dhol-tasha performances, farming activities with the local farmers, and also going swimming in the village river.
It currently serves in three locations – Bhor and Velhe in Maharashtra, and Bakor in Gujarat.
Behind the scenes
Having spent seven years of his childhood in a village in Gujarat, Chintan was aware of the beauty of Indian villages, and wanted to showcase it to the rest of the world.
“For international travellers, I wanted India to be more than just concrete, cheap shopping malls,” he says.
While pursuing his second year MBA at Symbiosis Centre for Management and Human Resources, Chintan received a research grant from manufacturing company 3M and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). It is then he started working on Meyome.
“By the time I finished MBA, Meyome had reached 500 customers,” he says.
Chintan partnered with Platinum 52, an agritourism centre in Chikhalavade village near Bhor. For the pilot project, “We worked out synergies to optimally use Platinum 52’s operational skills and our marketing skills to start operations in June 2018,” he says.
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The startup finds properties in villages, which are mostly agritourism centres, to establish the entire set-up.
“We keep points like logistics, local staff availability, natural scenery, and cultural element in mind while selecting the destination,” says Chintan.
Meyome then standardises the rooms and in-house activities.
“The next step is to involve the local community in making the guest’s stay more memorable and adding village element to it,” he says.
The meals are cooked using freshly-grown vegetables from the village farms, and is prepared by the village people.
The packages are mostly designed for weekends, and range between 12 and 72 hours. And the packages are priced between Rs 1,600 and Rs 3,000 per person, per night, which includes all the activities.
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However, recruiting local staff and training them has not been easy for Chintan.
“The village way of life is different, and their definition of privacy is different. Sometimes it gets difficult to create processes to train them, which not only allows optimised use of space but also experience for the visitors,” says Chintan.
Similarly, ensuring hygiene in the areas of operation and winning the trust of villagers was a challenge for the team of 25.
“We tried convincing them with data, but these situations are a little tricky,” he adds.
It is for this reason Meyome ties up with local agritourism centres whose owners already have a good relationship with the villagers.
Meyome’s major target audiences are families and corporates. Chintan says, corporate houses including BMW and TCS have previously availed their services.
“Our first hundred customers were from my college, which we got by mail-marketing,” Chintan says.
Interestingly, he says that even family trips have majorly contributed to the revenues and that many of them come to make their children aware of the village lifestyle.
Numbers with an impact
Meyome has served more than 10,000 customers since it began operations. According to the startup, the website sees 100 unique visitors each day. Between October 2018 and March 2019, Meyome has operated on 100 percent capacity on all weekends.
The startup has also been responsible for directly employing more than 20 families in the villages.
“Indirectly, villagers are benefiting by selling their produce and offering experiences to the customers,” he adds.
Initially bootstrapped with Rs 25 lakh investment, Meyome has recorded a revenue of up to Rs 83 lakh in the first year of operation itself.
“We have majorly reinvested in property standardisation and marketing,” Chintan says.
The startup is targeting a Rs 2 crore revenue for next year.
Market overview and future plans
According to IBEF, the Indian travel and tourism sector’s contribution to the GDP is expected to increase from $234.03 billion in 2017 to $492.21 billion in 2028.
Broadly, Meyome competes with all travel startups including the likes of MakeMyTrip and Cleartrip. The startup also directly competes with Pahadi House, Grassroutes, Eclogin, and India Untravelled.
According to Chintan, what sets Meyome apart is “The simplicity and human touch throughout the stay of the customer. We have trained local the communities in such a way which makes the guest feel homely,” he says.
Currently operating in only three villages, Meyome now wants to expand operations to surrounding villages in Pune and Mumbai.
“We also have plans to expand to Gujarat and the Northeast India,” he adds.
As local food has been a great hit for Meyome, it plans to bring more delicacies under one roof based on customer feedback. Meyome is also looking to raise funds.
(Edited by Megha Reddy)