Creating once-in-a-lifetime experience

Mansukh Lamba, the man behind exclusive homestay, BYLOO, goes the extra mile to ensure a memorable stay for the guests

Picture this: A group of friends holidaying together in a hotel wants to unwind in the evening but can’t as their rooms can’t fit in all and there’s no other place elsewhere. They plan their next holiday at a friend’s villa where all of them spend quality time together and have their own private spaces as well. This led to the birth of setting up an exclusive homestay business where an intimate group of friends or a family could spend special moments together. “The idea was so exciting that it just couldn’t be held back and it didn’t take much time for BYLOO (Because You Live Only Once) to take birth,” says Mansukh Lamba, Head Honcho, BYLOO. “We hate designations and hierarchies. In fact, that’s what we run away from, into the hills,” he explains.

As Lamba and his wife, Aditi who is the Chief Happiness Officer now, had attended a hotel school and started their careers in the hospitality industry, both were keen on venturing into this sector. “But nothing had struck us with the momentum to take the plunge till the idea of BYLOO swept us into action. Like all start-ups, finding the initial capital was the challenge. However, we had decided that we wanted to start with our own asset to fully understand the nuances of the business than a rented or leased premises as these come with several strings attached, especially for a first time start-up venture,” shares Lamba, adding that the two, along with his sister, Kamna, who has a background in luxury brands and digital marketing, approached his parents and pitched the idea, requesting them to become their first angel investors. Kamna is now the Social Media Rockstar in the company. “It wasn’t a simple pitch. After several iterations of the plan, we struck a deal,” says Lamba. The idea was simple: Create amazing experiences with the finest homestay money can buy at the most scenic locations where one can get away with family or friends for a truly private and exclusive vacation. And have the entire home at disposal during the stay.

First villa

The first villa, Divyam by BYLOO, is situated in the mountains of Kumaon and surrounded by a reserve forest on three sides with an infinity edge deck area having a view of the valley. “We are around 330 km from Delhi on the road to Ramgarh and Mukteshwar. The property has five luxurious rooms and suites, each of which has a 50-inch smart TV, internet connection and built-in Alexa controls. What takes the cake, however, is the presence of a built-in fireplace in every room. Then we have a dedicated entertainment zone with indoor and outdoor fun activities and a 24x7 tea-coffee lounge with unlimited servings of small bites,” shares Lamba. An all-weather jacuzzi, a bonfire area with seating and a private cafe complete the ensemble of the villa which also offers guided treks on request. 

Enhancing the stay

Speaking about enhancing the experience of guests at the villa, Lamba explains, “At Divyam, it is all about an experiential stay. We don’t allow individual room bookings but rent out the entire villa for one party of friends or family for whom we create an exclusive stay with curated meals, guided treks and excursions, yoga and meditation and fun-filled evenings.” Every meal at the villa, shares Lamba, is freshly made after carefully curating the menu keeping in mind the guest preferences, and the tariff is inclusive of all meals.

Divyam, recognised as one of the finest villas in India by Make My Trip Homestay Awards in its very first year, has been getting most of its bookings either through referrals or social media promotions. “Our largest differentiator is that we personally host our guests, the true essence of a homestay. From fresh flower arrangements, supervision and tasting of every meal, checking minutest details to meeting and chatting with every guest at least once during the day is mandatory. Personal touch is what helps Divyam stand out. It is not a home with a caretaker but is a homestay hosted personally by Aditi and Mansukh,” he shares, adding that it is a pet-friendly property. “There is a huge demand for furry friends and we are there to cater to them. With our outdoor garden and deck area, they are in for a treat once they visit our property,” reveals Lamba.

Future plans

To expand operations, BYLOO is looking for villa owners for homestay affiliations. “We want to be wherever the sun shines bright and rain falls soft. For starters, we want to dot the hills and mountains of Uttarakhand and the shores of Goa with our dreams,” he avers, adding their next three properties will be coming up in these two states soon. 

Kamna, who manages reservations, marketing and social media, will soon be shifting base from Gurugram to Goa. “Hence, it will be our next location outside Uttarakhand where she will personally host guests. For now, we are not looking beyond. We intend to be a boutique luxury player with limited but best-in-class offerings,” Lamba shares. 

Sharing details on how they evaluate and on-board villa owners for affiliation, Lamba shares that each property is evaluated on a case-to-case basis for its potential. “However, the underlying factor is its location, approach, build and furnishing quality. We will make no compromise on the guest experience as we are in the upper upscale and luxury homestay space. As of now, we are looking to grow where we can always serve the guests personally and hence, it will be around our existing location. This will ensure that between Aditi and I, one of us is always able to personally overlook the stays,” he avers.

On homestay industry’s landscape, Lamba says though the concept has been around for a long time, what has changed is the gradual professionalism and addition of upscale and luxury accommodations that are catching the attention of HNI traveller. “With more people investing in second and third homes at locations closer to Nature and away from the cities, there is a high demand to manage these when not in use and also get better yields. Today, people are looking at private, exclusive and unique experiences. The trend is here to stay with the pandemic being the game-changer. Alternative accommodation space is poised to witness exponential growth over the next few years. Big brands entering into this space is a testament that the future looks bright,” he observes. 

This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled 'BW HOTELIER - THE WEDDINGS & MICE SPECIAL'


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