Brushing Aside Failed Ventures and an Aborted Bollywood Dream, He Started India’s First Pod Hotel
The story of Ravish Ranjan is not just of a man who is credited with starting the first pod hotel of the country but of the grit and determination of a man who failed several times but got up again each time to win the game called life.
He opened the Pod N Beyond hotel in November 2016 with the occupancy rate of 19 nights per month but has raced to 600 nights a month in one year. In the five months that constituted FY17 for the company, they touched a turnover of Rs 5 lakh, and the future looks bright.
“I have finally found my peace with the hospitality venture,” says Ravish, who has tried his hands at many businesses. “The aim is to establish 20 capsule hotels across the country in the next five years, and reach a turnover of Rs 100 crore.”
Born on 23 January, 1974, at Samastipur in Bihar, Ravish was the youngest of three siblings with a brother and a sister. His father, K.K. Jha, was an engineer at the Bihar Electricity Board posted at the Barauni thermal power station. His mother Bina Jha was a homemaker.
“Father took great care of our education,” says Ravish. After clearing class 10 in Barauni, he went to Delhi Public School in Delhi for his class 12 and completed his graduation in Political Science (Hons) from Delhi University in 1993.
“Soon after completing my graduation, I came to Jamshedpur and set up an IT training institute. I was just a teenager then but I always wanted to become an entrepreneur,” says Ravish, as we sit and chat at the Pod N Beyond hotel at Sakcchi in Jamshedpur. “I never wanted to do a job.”
He took Rs 3 lakh from his father and loaned another Rs 3 lakh from a bank at 12 per cent interest per annum to start the Indian Institute of Hardware Technology in Jamshedpur in 1994. The institute trained students in computer hardware.
“I took a 900 sq ft area on rent in the city and hired four B.Tech students to start my institute,” remembers Ravish. “I knew nothing of IT but wanted to start something. My gamble paid off and the first year’s turnover was Rs 7 lakh. By 1998, the turnover jumped to Rs 56 lakh with 70 staff members. We had four branches by then.”
At the same time, he also ventured into other businesses and established iCan, a manpower consultancy service dealing in corporate training, consumer research, and brand promotion, in 1998.
However, in 1999, his businesses collapsed and he was nearly bankrupt. He candidly concedes that success went to his head and made him arrogant.
“I was too young to have tasted so much success. It went to my head. I purchased four cars, a lavish house, had several staff. I considered myself on the top of the world. To be honest, I became arrogant and refused to listen to anybody. Eventually, I had to pay the price for it when all my businesses suffered heavy losses,” reveals Ravish.
He took wrong financial decisions that cost him dearly, and had to sell off all his cars to pay off debts. That was not the only setback. The stress of failure led to an eye hemorrhage, anxieties and other health issues.
The years 1999-2002 were particularly bad. “I slowed down and squeezed the size of the businesses though I didn’t close them,” says Ravish. “I scaled down my expenses – there was no money left for any excesses. I used to walk for kilometers just to save a few pennies.”
His fortunes changed from 2002, when his businesses started showing a profit again. “I started working on productivity and got rid of the arrogant attitude. I calculated profit and expenses carefully,” says Ravish.
“My business touched a turnover of Rs 6 crore by 2007-08 with offices in Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata and other cities. I had learnt the bitter lesson and was leading an ordinary life despite earning well again.”
Ravish got married to Shubra Ranjan, also from Jamshedpur, in 2001. She is a homemaker and the couple has a son, Rishaan.
“My business was flourishing and life was prosperous. My wife conceived in 2007 and she needed good care. I decided to focus on my wife’s health and the business took a backseat again... I didn’t come out of the house for the next nine months till my child was born,” says Ravish.
Their parents were too old to take care of Shubra and Ravish lost all interest in work and became obsessed with his wife and child’s health. The business collapsed in his absence. He landed in financial trouble once again and it became difficult to bear daily expenditures.
“I continued to struggle for the next three years and just somehow managed to make ends meet,” says Ravish.
In 2011, he decided to become a film producer and shifted to Mumbai. “My wife and child were still in Jamshedpur. She was against the decision but I went ahead with it anyway,” he reveals. “I started shutting down all my businesses as I became attracted to tinsel town and had rosy dreams of becoming a film producer.”
Things, however, didn’t work and eventually he left Mumbai and came back to Jamshedpur in 2013.
Not one to be defeated for long, in 2014 he decided to do something new again. “I thought of getting into the hospitality business then,” says the 43 year old entrepreneur.
“I started researching for the type of hotels that could work and zeroed in on pod hotels, which were first launched in Japan. It was a completely new concept in India. I rang up three friends working in multinational companies for money because I needed cash to start a hotel.”
His friends immediately agreed and transferred the cash. The investment was around Rs 3 crore. At present, there are five partners with three of them with 15 per cent stake each, another partner with 3 per cent stake while Ravish’s stake is 52 per cent. He used one of his training institute buildings to build the hotel. The construction began in 2015 and the five-storey air-conditioned hotel was opened in November 2016.
The hotel can accommodate 40 people in different sized rooms such as capsule pods, double pods, bunk pods, and more.
“This is the first hotel of the country that started taking bookings on an hourly basis,” says Ravish. “We charge just Rs 199 for one hour with free wi-fi and laundry facility.”
The minimum rate is Rs 199 and the maximum is around Rs 1,699. “We have bookings of 600 nights every month now – we started from 19 nights in November 2016,” says Ravish. “We have tied-up with travel sites such as Go-ibibo, Planmytrip and others for online bookings.”
He started with a staff of 14 and still has the same number. He is eyeing a turnover of around Rs 1 crore in the current fiscal.
“We are coming up with 20 new rooms at an investment of around Rs 2 crore. The focus would be on business travellers. I plan to open 20 such hotels in the country in the next five years with a turnover target of Rs 100 crore,” Ravish reveals his future plans.
His mantra for budding entrepreneurs: “Never be arrogant and always be down-to-earth even when you have everything.”
Life has taught him a true lesson.
This Article is Part of the 'Super Startups' Series
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