Incubated at AICGIM and scaling heights in Ladakh: The rise of The Verda Group of Hotels

Hyderabad: The Verda Group of Hotels, a hospitality start-up which began its journey on the shores of Goa in 2011 has become the first hotel chain to get a foothold in mountainous Ladakh, one of India’s latest Union Territories and a virgin market as far as the hospitality industry is concerned.

The Verda Group of Hotels is an invigorating success story, which was nurtured at the Atal Incubation Centre at the Goa Institute of Management (GIM), one of a series of incubation centres promoted by the NITI Aayog to promote innovation and entrepreneurship the country and create scalable and sustainable business enterprises.

According to Avinash Parmar, co-founder of the Verda Group of Hotels, the growth of the hotel chain which currently operates twelve properties in four states, lies in not just upgrading existing small properties by standardising their room quality alone, but also enhancing standard operating procedures in hotels to international calibre, ranging from coaching hotel staffers in polite engagement with guests, as well as training chefs and application of efficient Human Resource, Accounting and Business Management practices.

“Our core effort is towards making the customer experience delightful. Customer delight doesn’t only come from a standardised room alone. At Verda Group of hotels, we take complete charge of the property. We implement strict standardised SOPs which cover upping guest relations, ambience, housekeeping, food and beverage practices, developing quality amenities and incisive training of human resources,” Parmar said.

Essentially, the Verda Group of Hotels fill in the gaps which major hotel aggregators tend to miss out on. “While established hotel aggregators focus on standardising just room quality, they have a limited control over the overall experience of the guests in a budget hotel. Things like quality of food, politeness of staff, SOP’s for overall operations, consistency in branding, etc, are not managed by other room aggregators,” he also said.

Commenting on the hotel chain’s latest foray into Ladakh, the first by a hotel chain in the Northern Union Territory, Parmar said, that the niche tourist destination has been attracting national and international tourists.

“We saw an opportunity to be an early part of the growing tourism story there and create a network of hotels with international standard services. We are overwhelmed with the acceptance and superb support of the locals,” he said. “We signed our first hotel in November with ‘The Verda Driftwood’. Today, we have four hotels there covering the circuit of Nubra with ‘The Verda White Sands’, Pangong with ‘The Verda Driftwood Lake Homes’ and Durbuk with ‘The Verda Driftwood River Retreat’,” Parmar said.

The next target is to focus more on tier two and three cities with properties of up to 40 keys and venture out into two international destinations by August 2020.

“We are already present in four states. This year, we plan to cover at least one property in all 29 states and seven Union Territories of the country. We have a target of adding 50 more properties by December 2020. We have been bootstrapped till now and contrary to the usual start-up notion we are profitable. Since we are planning hyper-growth in 2020, we would also be raising external investments,” Parmar said.

Asked about how the AICGIM helped him incubate his project, which seems poised to make rapid strides, Parmar said: “We are the part of the first cohort of AICGIM and the B-school has been working with us as an extended team. The strategic support and access to a wider industry network is very helpful”.

He also said, that the AICGIM team helped to refine their business model and supported to create a go-to market strategy.

“Apart from this, the various start-up community activities and events which AICGIM hosts, provides an exposure to a mature start-up ecosystem and an opportunity to create a much engaged local start-up ecosystem. Since AICGIM is operational, we have witnessed the team bringing in external experts and investors from across the country. Goa is definitely progressing significantly in the larger start-up ecosystem.

Said Ajit Parulekar, Director, GIM, “The Incubation Center at GIM will continue to serve as an active knowledge and resource catalyst for the development of promising entrepreneurs and will aid in accelerating the growth of early stage organizations from ideation to marketplace success.”

Goa Institute of Management (GIM) one of the premier B-Schools in India, was selected by the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog, for setting up an Atal Incubation Centre (AIC) under the Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) scheme. The AIC at GIM has created world class incubation facilities at its campus in Goa.

NITI Aayog’s Atal Innovation Mission including Self-Employment and Talent Utilization (SETU) is one of the flagship programs of the Government of India to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship. AIC-GIM provides pre-incubation facilities, common infrastructure and services such as technology development assistance, networking and mentoring, funding access, training and development, business support services (entrepreneurship development, marketing, finance and accounting, research, legal, regulatory, etc.) to innovators and start-up entrepreneurs for developing solutions.