Braving Shimla’s snowy weather, Woodays is building a wooden-hut resort for the perfect Himachali experience
At some point, we have all considered going to Shimla in Himachal Pradesh for a vacation in the summer. Beautiful hills, forests, and snow are just the beginning of the typical Shimla experience. The city itself is well-planned, clean, and makes for the perfect holiday retreat.
When budding entrepreneur Avesh Sharma (33) was working as a product manager at Intex Technologies, he decided he wanted to set up a resort of his own in Shimla. But he knew that most middle-class tourists stay in Shimla only for a few days. Going back to their fast-paced lives in the middle of a congested metro city has its own sense of comfort through familiarity.
Avesh Sharma, Co-founder and CMO, Woodays
If Avesh had to take the traditional route of setting up a resort, he would have to target these people. But he wanted something different. He wanted to bring the complete Himachali experience to tourists so that they’d stay for longer.
“I remember talking to my school friends about this idea. All of us were in different sectors but we all wanted to come together to launch the resort,” he says.
“We intended to meet the customers’ needs for such venues for stay, as they are very few in number, especially in and around Shimla," he adds.
Since Himachal was famous for tourism, and Kufri was an ideal tourist hub, they were motivated to setup a resort there. Avesh had also seen that entrepreneurs from outside Himachal were coming there to setup resorts. But he and his friends were born and brought up in that region. They knew the area very well, had the right connections, and understood its culture.
Further, his friends were from diverse backgrounds, such as engineering, management, hospitality, online marketing and influencing, sales and marketing, etc. Driven by the passion to leverage all this know-how to start a resort, the friends conceptualised Woodays Greenhub in 2018. Under this business, they decided to work on a number of resorts and other projects.
Building from scratch
They combined the words ‘wood’ and ‘days’, to come up with ‘Woodays’. “We chose these words because our dream was to make wooden huts, in Scandinavian-styled architecture, in the beautiful Kufri valley, Shimla,” Avesh says. He describes Scandinavian-style architecture as triangular structures made of wood, and this is what the homes at the resorts are set to look like.
The first of these is Woodays Resort, a premium stay in Shimla set to launch in April 2019. The team wants to deliver an authentic Himachali experience while also ensuring comfort and all the necessary amenities at the resort.
Avesh is bringing his experience with incubating and managing products to the front to deliver on this vision. Apart from being cofounder, he is officially the CMO at Woodays Greenhub Kufri. The other founding members are Ajay Thakur, Abhay Thakur, Manoj Sharma, Lakshmi Mohan Bhagat, and Bharat Thakur.
This group of friends initially invested their own money into Wooday’s Greenhub, but they are currently raising capital to fund their venture. In total, around Rs 1.8 crore has been pumped in to the company, Avesh says.
Challenges and opportunities
But even for this team of enthusiastic entrepreneurs, setting up a resort in Shimla is not easy. The weather is rough, the roads are tricky, and demand is seasonal. “We have a few challenges, and bad weather is one of them,” Avesh says. “Rough conditions in the hilly areas halts construction work, and blocks the road for tourists to reach the destination.”
Starting the construction work in October 2018 and aiming to complete it by March 2019 is certainly challenging. “It is also snowing frequently. The checkpoints we reach after completing a segment of work are milestones,” he says.
This is also Wooday’s first project, and Avesh recognises that the team needs to start building a name for the brand. But to do this, they have to understand their target audience well, focus on acquiring customers, and navigate the bureaucratic red tapism that comes with such a venture.
Staying at Woodays Resort will cost around Rs 7,400 per night. Avesh says that despite being a premium stay, they do not want to charge a higher amount. “This is because GST is 18 percent at present, but if we increase the price beyond Rs 7,400, GST increases to 28 percent, and the whole rate becomes expensive,” he adds.
He anticipates that a lot of the resort’s revenue will come from lengthy bookings. These will come from the set of target consumers comprising middle aged people who are looking to unplug from the hustle-bustle of daily life, Avesh says. “If we provide them with the same, high-quality facilities and amenities they have in their city homes, they will stay longer, even upto one or two months,” he adds.
To reach them and other audiences, digital mediums are going to be a key components of Wooday’s marketing strategy.
“We plan on reaching customers via digital platforms such as OTAs, website, social media reach (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), mail subscriptions, etc. Also, digital software will be used everywhere needed.,” Avesh says.
“Further, locks on the doors of huts will be digitally-automated via security card. We also plan on utilising booking software, inventory management software, and more technological advancements,” he adds. He hopes the resort will appeal to boutique resort lovers, food lovers, travel enthusiasts, nature lovers, biking expeditions, destination weddings, corporate gatherings, and more.
The resort also has several other unique elements. Avesh points out that the ambience of the wooden huts, luxurious rooms, quiet location, and beautiful view of the hills would make every stay memorable.
“Staying with us also helps people feel rejuvenated, and experience traditional Himachali cuisine as well as see occasional live performances by artists and bands,” he adds.
The majestic view of snow-clad peaks and thick deodar forests are certain to make patrons feel at bliss and closer to nature. “For such a venture, it is critical to do your research. Take time to reevaluate your decision,” Avesh says.
“Strategise well because well-planned is half done. Go all in. Cater to the needs of people of a specific field. And finally, don’t go after money but after customer satisfaction,” he adds.
The April 2019 launch of Wooday’s Resort will see Avesh and team’s strategies and plans put to the test. The business also plans to establish more resorts across Himachal and neighbouring states soon. The team is also thinking of starting a budget resort for backpackers to bring the authentic Himachali experience to several more travellers.