From running a dhaba to building a 33,000 sq yards resort: how this Ludhiana entrepreneur tasted success
At the young age of 13, Ankush Kakkar (now 38) took up the responsibility of helping his father run his woollen shawl business in Ludhiana as the family’s income wasn’t stable enough to hire a helping hand.
Recalling the old days, Ankush says that the family had to struggle a lot, and he had to manage both his studies and help with the business. Right after school, he would go to his father’s shop and help with supplying products to the customers and continued helping like that for two consecutive years.
But he realised something needed to be done to make the business financially stable. So, after three years in 2000, the father-son duo decided to set up a dhaba near Ludhiana bus stand. Ankush was in Class XII and had acquired the skills to run the business.
“We got a patch of land to run a small dhaba where we’d feed bus and truck drivers. This gave us enough of a kick that within two to three years, we bought another property to build a small hotel of 20 rooms,” he recollects. One thing happened after the other and in 2006, Ankush and his father bought another hotel in Ludhiana.
Going the extra mile and fighting tooth and nail to make his dream of growing business come true, in 2020, Ankush built a 33,000 square yards resort called Treeoise in Baddi, Himachal Pradesh.
Treeoise Resort, Baddi, Himachal Pradesh
From running a dhaba at a bus stand to building a premium resort, Ankush has come a long way. Around a few years back, he took a formal study in astrology and is also a renowned astrologer in the city.
He says he invested around Rs 3 crore in the resort from his years-long savings and the income generated through his hotel business in Ludhiana.
The 20-room resort is built on leased property, and also features four banquets, four cottages, a restaurant and a resto-bar, cafe, gym, play zone, and an outdoor seating area.
Conceived in 2019, Treeoise was inaugurated on February 28, 2020. Ankush says that by the time he built Treeoise, he had another 42-bed hotel running in Ludhiana.
Treeoise is situated at the hilltop surrounding the healthcare industrial area in Baddi, where Ankush says he operates among the key competitors including Lemon Tree and Sarovar Portico.
Overcoming the pandemic
In February 2020, when Ankush inaugurated the Treeoise resort, little did he know that the COVID-19 pandemic would poise to sink the business. He tells SMBStory,
“I remember on March 22, 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed ‘Janata Curfew’. We had got a sense that a prolonged lockdown would be imposed and we shielded the staff staying in the resort with essentials; however, the successive lockdowns posed severe challenges.”
The hotel industry was badly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a report, In 2020, the occupancy rate in hotels across India was 34.5 percent. The year started with an occupancy of 57 percent.
That was significantly lower than in the first quarter of 2019 when nearly 70 percent of rooms were occupied. Due to lockdown and travel restrictions, the rate fell to 15 percent in the second quarter. Towards the end of that year, the occupancy slowly increased again.
Treeoise Resort's restaurant and cafe
Amid the lockdown, Ankush says travelling from Ludhiana to 120 kilometres away in Baddi to support his 35-people staff in the resort was challenging. “No one went home as we were providing them accommodation but reaching them was a task, but somehow, after taking government permissions, I was able to manage that. But the business was zero,” Ankush tells SMBStory.
After two to three months of the lockdown, Treeoise resort could start operating when Ankush offered the space as a quarantine zone. “We tied up with nearby Malhotra Hospital which would refer patients that needed a quarantine facility to us.”
As the lockdown restrictions were lifted, Treeoise’s operations started running smoothly. Today, Ankush claims that as of March 2021, Treeoise resort had sales of Rs 1.2 crore with a net profit of Rs 13.44 lakh.
The resort has also been rented by the entertainment industry to shoot videos of Punjabi songs.
The way ahead
Talking about the future plans, Ankush says that he wants to further develop the resort and is planning to open a spa on the premises soon and a swimming pool by early next year.
Treeoise Resort's banquet hall
He also plans to open a shawl factory by next year to further scale his father’s old shawl business that is still run by his father and operates out of the small shop that sits in the busy lanes of Ludhiana.
When asked to sum up his entrepreneurial journey so far, Ankush recited an idiom in his native language, Punjabi – summing up his rags to riches story.
“Jamde koi ped nahi hunda, banada beej toh he hai (No one is born as a big tree, one has to nurture through seeds only).”