In Conversation with Sameer Mutreja

Founding Director, Scapes India
Wednesday, 22 Nov 2017
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Sameer was tagged as one of the top 20 Experientialists by Impact, and is said to have pioneered the thinking behind the term. He began his career in the hospitality sector after having graduated from the Institute of Hotel Management. He then moved to Marketing and Events, where he crystallized his concepts of experientialism drawing from his experiences in Hospitality and Events. He is the Founding Director of Scapes India which has initiated the first project in Villa Hotels, Villa Living, Retired Homes in emerging markets. He also is a Charter member of The Indus Entrepreneur; the prestigious non-profit global network of entrepreneurs and professionals and serves on the MICE advisory board of the Starwood Hotels.
About
Sameer was tagged as one of the top 20 Experientialists by Impact, and is said to have pioneered the thinking behind the term. He began his career in the hospitality sector after having graduated from the Institute of Hotel Management. He then moved to Marketing and Events, where he crystallized his concepts of experientialism drawing from his experiences in Hospitality and Events. He is the Founding Director of Scapes India which has initiated the first project in Villa Hotels, Villa Living, Retired Homes in emerging markets. He also is a Charter member of The Indus Entrepreneur; the prestigious non-profit global network of entrepreneurs and professionals and serves on the MICE advisory board of the Starwood Hotels.

What led Scapes India to get into the luxury villas and the retirement homes segment?

I was looking for a space for myself in Goa and found a clear mismatch between the price point and the way several of the available villas were designed. I observed two things with regard to design of these residential properties: One, there were design flaws with villas built around a pool in a circular format. Two, there were old Portuguese villas, the sorts that were extremely challenging to maintain after some years. As a consumer, I realised that while there was a growing interest in Goa as a destination, for consumers who wanted to invest in homes there, there were huge gaps that needed to be addressed. That’s what led me to the idea of building good quality, eco-friendly, luxury villas in Goa.

Would you agree that your strategy to ‘think like a consumer’ allowed you to create a winning product?

Yes. When you look at a destination like Goa, you typically want to spend 7-10 days, maybe a little longer. In those days, you don’t want to spend time “maintaining” your home or investing in people/staff who will look after your place while you’re not there. So, second homes – especially those in exotic destinations – require very insightful strategies by those in the business. It’s not simply “real estate business”, it’s much more involved than that. The strategy and thought process at Scapes India has always been this: “We are not real estate developers, we are experientialists.”

How should brands, in your view, innovate? Could you illustrate this with what Scapes India has been doing?

Like I said, we are “experientialists”. Thinking from a consumer’s point of view, thinking as a consumer, and then developing strategies in business has helped Scapes India to grow. For instance, no one wanting to invest in a destination like Goa would want a 120 sq mt apartment. Our target consumer aspires for a luxury villa but without spending a fortune for it. Scapes India identified a price category for the consumer base, identified her expectations and then created villas after a lot of research and planning that took nearly half a year of our time.

How should brands, especially those in the luxury segment, strategise and execute their planning?

Always put the consumer first, study the market thoroughly, understand the target consumer thoroughly and do backward integration of how a product should be built.

In the case of Scapes India, we questioned which area of Goa we should be in – north Goa, yes, because our target consumer wants a social life but also wants to experience peace and tranquility. Luxury should be about choices. So our villas in Goa are in an area which is the best of both – you can party but you can also experience peace. You have access to the beach but the villas from Scapes India will not be in a noisy area. Then there is the element of design that’s crucial – it has to bring in natural light, greenery and the natural surroundings on the inside. We managed to crack these elements by two things; by the layout and by the design. But our biggest win is in ensuring that we remain an eco-friendly and a responsible luxury brand with our sewage treatment plant, rain water harvesting techniques, sewage treatment plants, etc.

How should brands identify areas of RoI in your view for consumers?

Return on Investment (RoI) is important in our case because any consumer spending a few crores on her home wants a return on it. Here’s how we identified our strategy of ensuring RoI for our clients while also ensuring that the villas got maintained: Typically, most luxury holiday villas lie vacant on most days and we figured that it would be a good idea to encourage our clients to get villas rented and get a return on them. Through this simple and effective strategy, we cover our maintenance costs while the owner of the villa makes money on the property when it’s lying vacant.

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