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nitin-agrawal-co-founder-ceo-funstay

“We are a bunch of travelers ourselves and have traveled extensively in India, backpacked in Europe and SE Asia and experience all kind of stays in all sorts of places. We wanted to be a part of changing travel culture in India and largely it was the thrill of converting our passion into our jobs that brought Funstay to life” says Nitin Agarwal, founder of FunSTay

As the name suggests, Funstay.in is an online marketplace offering unique experiential stays. It is an online platform that lets you choose the kind of experience you are looking for and the activities you want to engage in while on vacation, by providing an extensive list of relevant suggestions from its wide portfolio of unique stays to choose from. The portal with its plethora of exceptional stay options is setting new benchmarks in the hospitality segment. Its national/international collaborations can be leveraged to enhance your travel experience multiple bounds.

The journey

Funstay.in was founded in early 2015 by Nitin Agrawal and soon joined by his friends with similar interests and passion for travel and entrepreneurship. “When we started, funstay.in was more of an informational site. We rolled out the booking module towards the end of 2015” says Nitin.

In one year, Funstay has evolved itself first to an aggregator of homestays and more recently to an experiential accommodation provider. Unlike most of our counterparts, they focus on unique stay experiences rather than just a place to sleep/ rest. The whole idea is to help travelers explore the wonderful places while staying at equally unique accommodation whether it’s a colonial bungalow surrounded by coffee plantation in serene Coorg or wooden cottage among the snow-capped mountains in Himalayas.

Funstay.in operates an online marketplace business model where unique experiential stay providers can list their properties along with activities that a guest can engage in while staying there. Their main revenue driver is commission on these bookings. They have partnered with various other services (bike/car rental, free data roaming, local adventure activities) through extensive tie-up with other organizations having synergy with our offering.

The founders

Nitin, 31, is the brain behind the idea of Funstay. Having completed his MBA from University of Strathclyde, Glasgow in Entrepreneurship, Nitin was always interested in starting up is own venture.

Anurag is the legal counselor in the team and also overlooks the business operations.

Parag Rane, an engineer and Business management graduate from University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, overlooks IT and Analytics vertical at Funstay. Mahim Mehta, an engineer and business management graduate from XIMB, involves in long term and short term planning, business strategy, Marketing & PR.

Marketing strategies

Their marketing so far been digital media focused, they use various communication media to reach out to our potential customers including PRs, direct engagement on Facebook Page, twitter and other social media accounts. “As this is a new concept, credibility is higher when you get to know about the service from a known source, so word of mouth has played a important role in garnering initial traction” explains Nitin.

They have also started lot of cross platform marketing through tie-ups with various organizations having synergy with our services, like adventure activities providers, transportation services and bike/car rental companies, roaming services providers, photography clubs, travel communities to further enhance their reach to end users through cross platform cooperation.

Challenges facing

The biggest challenge with the experiential stay is that it is highly unorganized and scattered. “It was tough to find whole lot of such properties and getting them onboard as they are used to operating the traditional way of getting business through local agents. Finding unique experience out of properties was again a huge challenge. We approached the challenge one block at a time and started with onboarding hosts from Shimla, Himachal Pradesh. Initially the hosts were skeptical about the genuineness of platform and it took us some time and effort in explaining the business model and gaining their trust. Slowly but steadily we were also able to make the hosts understand on the benefit of association” explains Nitin.

“While we were able to get a large number of stays with unique experience from the region on our platform, it took a lot of time. We knew that if we had to expand our listing to cover a larger geography, we need more people. When we went south we realized that there is huge language barrier that we need to solve for explaining our model and gaining the trust. It is then we started recruiting local teams for parallel covering multiple locations and within a few months we were able to cover over 70+ locations and had listed over 2000+ properties with over 7000+ room listings” he continues.

Currently their focus is on creating awareness and driving sales as their supply side is well established. So there are various challenges typical to any startup focusing on growth. “We have been utilizing all possible means to our dispense and taking guidance from industry experts and other startup founders to find best way to achieve the desired results. Lot of hard work, support from family & friends, some luck and most importantly being true to our goal has helped us continue and expand even though challenges are a part of daily life” says Nitin.

Future plans of expansion and on start ups

Funstay is expanding their presence in India both in width (locations) and depth (properties). They also plan to expand to countries outside India especially SE Asia by next year. They are also working to continuously to improve the experience of traveler and host through their product and tie-ups with complimentary service providers. They will also be adding more services (paid/unpaid) that will make travelers stay even greater fun.

So, although challenging it is immensely satisfying to bring our dreams to reality. Funstay is bootstrapped and been funded from external sources.

We are still learning ourselves, but if we have to share from our own experience, we’ll say that it’s very easy to get carried away by our own ideas’ worthiness but for commercial success, it is important to evaluate the idea objectively on its merits and taking external views into consideration. This will help to fine tune the idea and support its evolution over a period. It is also important to evaluate it from external point of view. At funstay.in we constantly question ourselves on these lines and that’s how the business model has evolved over time.