Chirag Bansal, Founder at LivingStone Stays
Great Companies: How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
Chirag Bansal: We started with the intention of doing a small experiment. The experiment was to operate a boutique hotel at a very remote location in the mountains. The genesis of the experiment was the desire to do something in the mountains so that one gets a chance to experience them fully. That experiment went well. Since then we have been evolving based on the gaps and insights that we are identifying during the course of business.
While operating a boutique property, we realised that there are many such beautiful properties which are not been able to reach the right audience. Therefore, we took the road to become a marketing partner of such boutique experiential properties. One major challenge that we realised during the marketing and selling of those boutique properties was how can we help people to discover those properties. As accommodation is just one component of a holiday and there are other components as well - selection of destination and activities at the destination; And the whole holiday planning starts with the discovery of the destination. In order to solve this problem, we started building our own platform to provide a solution for a complete holiday. It is a platform to discover and book experiential holidays. We have already spent about 2 years ideating and designing the platform and we are expecting it to go live in the next couple of months.
Great Companies: What are the various services provided by LivingStone Stays
Chirag Bansal: We are an experiential holiday company. When we say an experiential holiday - it means a holiday where all the components of a holiday are in-line with the experience. For example, if someone wants to go on a Relaxing holiday - then the destination should be offbeat, having peaceful surroundings; the accommodation should give the feel of serenity and the activities should be like Nature Walk, Bird-Watching, Massage or something which brings calmness. We have broadly categorised the experiences into 6 buckets -
(5) Spiritual and
We are offering complete packages for all the defined experiences. And these packages cover both domestic and International destinations.
Great Companies: What makes LivingStone Stays different from hundreds of other similar service providers?
Chirag Bansal: There are particularly two things which I want to highlight:
1) The way we help people to discover holiday experiences. We are using WhatsApp to drive structured conversations to help people find the right product. Based on the experience and budget, we are suggesting destination and package.
2) Our passion to design and curate a memorable experience - we are bringing differentiation in bundling different components of a holiday. We are making sure that the destination, accommodation and activities enriches the overall experience. E.g: A romantic experience would consist of a romantic destination like Maldives and accommodation would be within a private island resort. Services like Candle night dinner on the beach, sparkling wine and bed decorations would be a part of it.
Great Companies: What were the struggles and challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
Chirag Bansal: I think the biggest challenge for any business is to stay afloat and keep the core idea intact. It's a survival challenge. And we are dealing it with creating the right culture within the company. We make sure that all the team members are aware of the challenge at hand. I think the whole idea of survival is very strong and once it is realised by the team members then everyone work towards it with their full capacity.
Great Companies: How do you plan to grow in the future? What does 5 years down the line look like for LivingStone Stays?
Chirag Bansal: We want to be a best Holiday company on the planet. We are making sure that our foundation is very strong so that a sustainable and scalable business can be built on it. Right now, our focus is on 3 things -
(2) Processes, and
We are adding differentiated products to our portfolio; adding right set of people to our team; and making our processes strong so that we do not leave any gap for error. In next 5 years, we see LivingStone to be one of the leading player in leisure travel segment at least in India.
Great Companies: If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Chirag Bansal: I would suggest to keep eyes and ears open. We need to do things differently to create a strong positioning in the market. And that can only be done if we are thinking unconventionally. Unconventional thinking comes when we take inspiration from varied kind of systems and bring that perspective in our business.