Shoba Mohan of RARE has been introducing travelers to small, independent hotels that lack the usual frills of a star rated property but offer a unique experience.
Q1. “RARE” represents boutique hotels in India; what is the profile of your travelers like?
A typical traveler to a RARE hotel is someone who is well traveled, and has a diverse and wide range of interests. Someone who adores nature and is set out to explore their desired destination and spend their vacation away from their daily routines. Our travelers are adventurous and are always seeking new experiences. They are also inclined to experiment with numerous new cuisines. In our hotels, one can find joy and solace in the interaction with people from all walks of life. Many people tend to leave with lifelong friendships with the owners and managers of the lodge/retreat, they have travelled to.
Q2. How many hotels do you actually represent ? Which one would you say is your favorite?
RARE represents a total of forty two hotels in India and Nepal; about 14 states and two countries.Each hotel is special in its own unconventional way, so, it is always difficult to single out a favorite.However, I always love a hotel that is as close to being a home as possible, a meticulously run, and gracious and welcoming place where you can enjoy great personal attention.That is why hotels like Sarai at Toria, Kipling Camp, Chhatra Sagar, Shahpura Bagh, and Stok Palace are some of my favorites.
Q3. What is going to be the next big trend in this market?
In terms of trending, the small and boutique, private and luxurious has not reached its zenith yet. Concept hotels are still evolving, ideas are getting more and more interesting, and luxury is being redefined.
Sustainability is now accepted as a norm, community involvement an essential quality and conservation as a core value. Concepts like conscious luxury and indulgent spas are still coming up but set in destinations that are unique and of exquisite natural beauty.
Q4. According to you, what is the take on the new concept of un-hotel?
I like the term implying unlike the usual and conventional hotel. I call it the “non-hotel”. This concept began many years ago but was sought after only by those widely traveled and the more evolved travelers. The whole idea of a “non hotel” is encompassed by the owners of the property, which establishes the character of the hotel evolved around the interests and quirks of the owner and host.
Q5. What have been the biggest challenges in your journey?
The biggest challenge though 11 years of our journey and which still continues to be is to seek the perfect traveler for each of the RARE Hotels and a wide spread awareness generation. Also, to convince the non-hotels to stick to their niche and not fall prey to number game by getting into dynamic pricing, random online promotions etc. Though we understand the compulsions of revenue, we advocate higher and inclusive tariffs, with exclusive value additions.
Q6. What has been the biggest success?
Our biggest success has been among the foreign travelers from UK, USA, Australia, France, Germany etc. choosing experiences over standard cookie cutter hotels. We have been able to achieve this through our training and promotions to the inbound tour operators, bloggers and international publications.
Q7. What is a typical work-day for you? Any productivity tips you would like to share?
My typical day begins with a to-do list, some social media updates, writing a blog or two. Most weekdays are spent in meetings and training sessions but I like to spend time with my young team engaging with them and directing them to think creatively, manage time better, and keep their eyes and ears open for detail and personal development. It is amazing that you should ask me about productivity, our Friday sessions for the last couple of weeks have been on productivity.
“My belief is that productivity is all about time management, focus and creativity.”
Q8. What advice would you offer to women starting out their careers today?
Women starting out in marketing which ever profession they may be in travel, hospitality, fashion or advertising should always remember to keep their eyes and ears open and to never give up the will to learn though travels and meeting people. I believe that women should develop hobbies, keep fit and read. These are things that open their eyes to opportunities and help them evolve.
Q9. What is that one change you wish you could see in India or in Indians?
I wish India to be free from garbage and pollution, so that our cities, towns and villages are pure and pristine, and offer spectacular glimpses of a rapidly developing India. I hope that Indians can travel but leave behind no litter, explore the jungles and be aware of the sanctity of our jungles, and can travel to RARE hotels with our thinking that if they have paid for their hotel room, they own the property.
Q10. If you could offer any advice to yourself 10 years ago, what would you say? Anything you wish you’d done differently?
Over the 11 years I have made many mistakes but I have learnt along the way and have evolved to be one of the biggest collections of small boutique independent hotels under one banner. The only thing I would have liked to have done differently is to have a better revenue model in place.
Q11. Which is your favorite book and why?
I love historical novels, travelogues and biographies. Since, I read so many books it is very difficult to pick a favorite. Some of the best books I have read are Cuckold by Sudhir Kakkar, Ramanujam’s biography, Curry – a story of cooks and conquerors; these are books I love to refer to in my training sessions and review meetings.
Q12. What do you like to do to unwind and spend your free time?
Bird watching is something I love to do when I have some time to myself. Other hobbies of mine are sketching and writing which is now reflected in Facebook posts, blogs and letters.
Q13. Who is your inspiration? Why?
Not any one person, people in general inspire me. Of late, I am inspired as much by children and young people as I am by older people. As I travel, I seek opportunities to speak to people from various walks of life.I am always inspired by how people eke out a living and live through hardships in our cities and villages. Even if you speak to people living in America or Europe you will be amazed at their life style and their challenges.