Vista Rooms Talks About Its Sri Lankan Business
Vista Rooms has been one of the first Indian startups to head to Sri Lanka and set up a dedicated physical office and team.
Photo Credit : https://www.vistarooms.com/,
As a VC investor from Sri Lanka, Prajeeth Balasubramaniam says, “It is easier for Indians to come to Sri Lanka and set up business than for Sri Lankans to go to India and do the same, maybe it’s because Indians are more aggressive”.
We speak to former OYO head of acquisitions and current cofounder Ankita Sheth of Vista Rooms for Vista Room’s take on about what it was like to set up a budget hotel aggregator business in the island nation.
1. Why did you decide to take your operation to Sri Lanka? It’s not a big a market as India.
We want to establish a trusted brand for quality-assured. Affordable stays across South Asia. Sri Lanka was a natural progression for us as tourism in Sri Lanka has been growing rapidly over the last couple of years, particularly in the budget travel segment. More than 75% of guest stays have taken place in 3-Star and below category of accommodation in the past year.
What we are excited about is the rising international as well as domestic travel market. More and more young Sri Lankans want to get out for long weekends with their friends and families and Vista's network of private villas, guest houses and resorts can serve as an ideal choice of stay wherever and for what every reason they may travel.
We have also had great mentors and advisors, such as Mahesh and Rakhil Hirdaramani of Hirdaramani Group as well as Dimitri Sheriff of Quickee.lk, who have spared a lot of their time to help us understand the nuances of the Sri Lankan tourism market and help set up our operations here
2. How is setting up business in Sri Lanka different to setting up in India?
I think the team makes or breaks an organization. We have been fortunate to build a young, passionate team in Sri Lana that is motivated to solve this problem of unpredictability in guest experiences at budget properties. Initially, it was a challenge to find the right people who can join and grow our operations in Sri Lanka. We wanted a small yet effective team and therefore were really selective.
In India, we had a strong network that we could tap into at any given point whereas in Sri Lanka, we have had to build this network and our mentors and advisors have been of unbelievable support in connecting us to the right people.
3. Are there any customer differences, trend differences between Sri Lanka and India?
The biggest difference is that India is primarily a domestic tourism-driven market whereas Sri Lanka is an international tourism-driven market. This has an impact on the standards of properties as well as the service provided. We have been very impressed with the standards and the hospitality provided at small guest houses and villas in Sri Lanka. In India, there is a lot more hand-holding required to improve the standards of properties.
4. How is it working with a Sri Lankan team different to working with an Indian team?
I have been in Sri Lanka for so long that it feels the same :) I think our Sri Lankan team is as driven as the Indian team to solve the problem we have set out to solve. In terms of skills, mindset or experience, both teams are as qualified and passionate about working at a startup that is trying to solve a large problem.
Differences are primarily from the perspective of communication styles and cultural nuances that one has to understand when interacting with team members. We might be glorifying ourselves but we do see the importance of focusing on team dynamics and culture as an important factor not only for the organization but also for building better relations between both countries. As we expand to more countries across South Asia, we are cognizant of the fact that relations between countries have not always been amiable and showing a strong, cohesive team culture across regions is a micro representation of the potential of working together.
5. Share with us business growth details of Vista Rooms in Sri Lanka
We have over 1000 properties across India and Sri Lanka. We are launching in Maldives this month and are very excited to offer customers boutique properties at less than 75 USD. In Sri Lanka, our bookings are growing 50% month on month. Operationally, both in India and Sri Lanka, we are profitable on every booking. We believe in sustainable growth rather than deep discounting and are focusing on delivery quality-assured stays to customers.
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