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The Bnbme business model is simple - creating a wow experience for every guest staying with them

Entrepreneur of the Week: Shilpa and Vinayak Mahtani, founders of Bnbme

Shilpa Mahtani

What were you doing before launching your start-up?

We have always worked together in the hospitality industry. What we were doing before Bnbme and continue doing so is managing our other company UPI, which specialises in supplying high end amenities, linen and other items to hotels all over the Gulf region.

How did the idea for Bnbme holiday homes come about?

We have an apartment on the Palm, where we were facing issues with the tenant staying long term, thereafter we decided to manage the same on Airbnb. Seeing the stupendous success we took over managing the properties of a few friends, that’s when the business idea for our start-up was born.

Why does the market need this start-up and what makes it unique?

Every industry sees the disruption of holiday homes as a classic example to the traditional hotel industry. Travellers today prefer staying in holiday homes where they enjoy the benefits of bigger spaces and more add-on services that might not be available while residing in a hotel. A start-up like ours not only benefits global trotters, but also takes care of the property owner whereby we manage everything for them, keep their property well maintained and earn them higher returns.  We are unique because we are attempting to create a platform which gives the guest all the services of a hotel but in the comfort of a home.

Vinayak Mahtani

What is your business model? How will you make money?

Our business model is simple- creating a wow experience for every guest staying with us. We believe in delivering high-end luxurious homes to our travellers and providing a host of services to them such as room service, chauffers, babysitters, butlers, chefs, personal shoppers and numerous other services. Our team’s core value is ‘to make it happen’ and we strive our best in achieving this.

What are your main challenges when it comes to operating your start-up in the UAE?

Regulation has been our biggest challenge. Being one of the first comers in a new industry, we are learning and creating regulation as we go.  When a situation arises or an event takes place and there are no rules around it, it gets created.  Luckily we have a very supporting proactive government body, the Department of Tourism and Commerce (DTCM).

Tell us a little bit about your funding journey. How is the business funded and what has been your experience in attracting investors?

The seed funding has been put in by ourselves and has brought us to our current level.  We are currently seeking outside investment in a Series A round to help us scale the business.

How has your start-up been performing since its launch?

Amazingly well. They say actions speak louder than words and the same has helped us on-board numerous properties. Having said that, we do say no to managing more properties than we say yes. It’s very important for us that the properties we manage are a right fit to our portfolio of delivering premium luxury and impeccable service to all of our guests.

Any expansion plans in the UAE, GCC and beyond?

Yes we actually do have plans to go international in the coming future.

AirBnb properties in Dubai are more expensive than those in New York

What are your predictions for changes in this sector?

Technology will play a major role going forward.  It can be a huge asset when making critical decisions.

How was it breaking into the online/e-commerce sector in the UAE?

We do not consider ourselves to be a full-fledged online business. I would say we are as much as a hybrid one can get. Technology is used to manage and assist in our decision making but at the core we simply offer a service to visitors visiting Dubai.

If you could go back, what would you do differently with your start-up?

Nothing.We are on the right track and have proof of concept with a strong foundation. We make a great working team together and are now ready to scale the business.

What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?

The worst thing that can happen if you try something new is to fail, which is a great achievement in itself.

What is it really like being an entrepreneur?

We don’t know any other way as both of us come from entrepreneurial families. This has helped us both to smoothly ride the highs and lows from owning one’s own business and has also given us the strength and agility in taking our start-up to new heights of success.

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