White Mushroom Holidays is a boutique chain of hotels and villas
Please introduce yourself and your startup White Mushroom Holidays to our readers!
White Mushroom Holidays is a boutique chain of hotels and villas and aims to provide a consistent product at affordable rates. It operates in leisure destinations and also provides a variety of holiday packages at these destinations.
How did you get the idea of White Mushroom Holidays?
The idea of wanting to put together something in the travel space has been with Sunil Sreedharan since 2001, however, it was not until 2011 that the company was started.
Why did you decide to start with White Mushroom Holidays?
Sunil Sreedharan’s wife Monisha Bhaskar alongside another friend did the initial spadework and started small with just 3 rooms as their inventory in Mumbai.
Monisha had worked with a multinational for 10 years which she quit for parenthood. As her child was growing, she itched to get back to work but wanted to do something on her own. She joined the education sector and was managing a Montessori Nursery school as the Principal for 10 years.
Sunil joined the company in 2015, after a long career spanning 30 years in the corporate world. Having worked in senior roles at various multinationals, he worked on the back- end process initially to ensure that the company had the technology platform to scale up.
Meenakshi Pandey, another professional with a long career spanning 30 plus years joined Sunil to scale up. As we had worked together at Accenture, it helped as they knew each other’s style of working. She then set up a call center and then along with Sunil worked on identifying the customer base that they wanted to attract as also the kind of hotels that White Mushroom wanted to associate with.
What is the vision behind White Mushroom Holidays?
White Mushroom Holidays believe in providing luxurious stay, hostility, and ambiance to the tourists at an affordable cost which culminates in a value for money experience.
How difficult was the start and which challenges you had to overcome?
As a startup, it is difficult to provide decent brand value, monetary benefits and work culture. Hiring and retaining good talent is one of the biggest challenge for any startup besides raising capital.
Who is your target audience?
At White Mushroom, we have always quite clear about the kind of guests that we want to attract. A family, groups, corporates, couples have been our focus group, and we have consciously stayed away from stags, even at the cost of letting our rooms go vacant.
What is the USP of your startup?
We concentrate on the guest experience. The industry (the lower end of the hotels ie) is also evolving. Some of the newer players, flush with funds, churned the market and made it free for all by selling rooms much lower than the costs. They acted as an aggregator and simply went about selling rooms cheaper than its cost price. This led to huge issues at the lower end of the spectrum and has at times resulted in a sub-quality product being offered by hoteliers as they were unable to recover their costs.
There is no real short cut to providing a good guest experience. A customer who looks for the cheapest deal would desert you, for the next cheapest deal, thus it is all about providing quality service for which a certain price has to be maintained.
Can you describe your typical workday?
The day starts with reviewing the diary for any appointments. This is followed by a morning meeting to review the previous day’s performance and take stock of the open leads at the call center and also that of our sales force.
This is followed by an internal discussion on
– Funding (status, progress made etc.),
– Status on sign up of new properties and speaking to the owners
Post lunch is Operations related issues at various centers, followed by meetings.
Where do you see yourself and your startup White Mushroom Holidays in five years?
A lot depends on our funding plans. We do have a big picture but would like to take small but firm steps. And we are not trying to be in the race to get to sign the maximum number of rooms. We did rather create value for all our stakeholders’ viz. – our guests, our employees – our investors, etc.
What 3 tips would you give to the founders?
You need to be passionate about what you are doing because when the going gets tough – and mind you it does get tough…in fact very very tough at times- the only thing that would see you through is your passion.
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