[Startup Bharat] This Siliguri-based hotel management company wants to become OYO of northeast India
When OYO Rooms, run by Oravel Stays Pvt Ltd, wowed the startup ecosystem in 2014 by raising huge seed rounds, budget hotels were touted as the next big thing. While many gamers have entered this space – including Zo Rooms,and – only a handful of them were able to survive.
By 2018, based on Gurugrambegan to expand into China and Indonesia, and planned to enter Japan. When many began to recognize OYO’s signature red and white logo, Rahul Chaudhury and Jaydeep Bose in Kolkata were in the process of setting up their own hotel management service.
“Most budget hotels in 2018 were managed by OYO; there were hundreds in West Bengal. But the Northeastern states were not as penetrated by any of these companies. That’s where we saw an opportunity,” said Jaydeep, co-founder of SayRooms. Your story.
A former Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) executive, Jaydeep has teamed up with Rahul Chaudhury who previously handled sales and operations at OYO for North Bengal and Sikkim regions. Both startedin March 2018 as a seeded startup, using their expertise to run hotels.
“Anyone can build a hotel, but running one is a huge task,” says Rahul, founder of SayRooms.
So far, the founders have invested around Rs 70 lakh from their own pockets to start the startup and have a 10-member team running it from Siliguri.
Managed by Say Trip Hospitality Pvt Ltd, SayRooms provide upstream and downstream support to hotel owners, from providing connections to source good quality linen at affordable prices to managing online customer support.
“Many small town managers sometimes don’t know how to answer questions online. One of the properties had received a bad review on Google and the manager responded by saying ‘Thank you’,” Jaydeep quips.
While fixed expenses are the responsibility of the owner, SayRooms takes care of day-to-day operations and management. The company generates leads from owners who contact them directly, as well as through travel agents operating in Tier II and Tier III cities.
Overcoming the disruption of the pandemic
Between 2018 and 2020, the company was able to integrate more than 25 properties under its belt, including hotels and homestays. But the pandemic disrupted his plans and hit the business hard. Although the startup hasn’t disclosed its revenue, it says that because it takes a commission from bookings – which disappeared during the pandemic – its revenue has also been impacted.
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“We had to close most of our properties during the first wave. We reopened when things calmed down a bit, but the second wave was really bad and travel was halted again,” says Jaydeep. “We finally decided to reopen in August 2021, but then the Omicron wave came. Luckily, the third wave wasn’t as bad for us,” says Jaydeep.
Registered in Kolkata, SayRooms currently manages a dozen hotels and bed and breakfasts and claims to have a occupancy rate of 45 to 48%. Prior to COVID-19, occupancy was 70-75 percent.
Projects for the future
But the founders are extremely optimistic about how things are going in the travel industry. They are betting on the resurgence of the travel industry.
“There are so many revenge trips and people want to live in quaint homestays, and the northeastern states are very much on the travelers map,” he adds.
According to the Indian Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), India’s travel market is expected to reach $125 billion by FY 2026-27, up from $75 billion in FY 2019-20.
The startup aims to scale 30 propertiesof the current 10, by the end of April 2022. SayRooms, which currently has a presence across Siliguri, Kolkata and Gangtokalso targets other cities across Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya and Sikkim. “We want to create a presence in all seven sister states,” says Jaydeep.
The startup is also planning to raise a funding round. SayRooms is currently competing with IPO-linked OYO Rooms – backed by Softbank, Fab Hotels and a group of backpacker hostels, among other budget stay players.