She has the will to win, the desire to help, and the urge to pursue every little idea with sincere effort.
Shylaja Shetty, the charming owner of The Dense Resort in Pollachi, is one of the few women that the Indian travel trade looks up to. However, her journey to the top wasn’t easy. It required stepping out of her comfort zone and mastering the art of self-discipline with a determined approach.
“It has been a roller coaster ride,” she says.
“From friends telling me that this is too challenging an industry for women to work in and facing that to taking that up as a challenge and creating my own product,” recollects Shetty.
Service is one area where she does not require any training as it comes naturally to her. “That’s the key to hospitality,” says Shetty, who worked in the service industry for six years.
“After my stint in the service industry, alongside marketing, I felt building a business of my own will give me the freedom to execute my ideas and that was my beginning to a whole new experience in the field of hospitality,” reminisces Shetty.
However, the transition from a service professional to an investor was a whole new ballgame.
“As an investor, you are on a totally different platform so we tend to look at things from a different perspective. Though the issues we face are the same, the way we handle it will be different. It’s been a continuous learning process ever since,” she says.
The making of The Dense
Nestled on the foothills of the Western Ghats near the Anaimalai Tiger reserve, The Dense Resort is one of the most sought-after properties in Tamil Nadu. A plain terrain was turned into a beautiful mangrove near the dense Anaimalai hills.
“Every time I traveled, I realized that women from small towns and conservative families did not have a complete holiday in crowded hotels or locations. They never had the freedom to wear the appropriate outfit due to various restrictions. This led me to create The Dense, a resort which would be an exclusive small cozy place for small groups or families that can enjoy their privacy,” says Shetty.
Love for nature and sustainable responsible tourism was another reason that led to the creation of the resort. Although Shetty realized her dream of creating a spectacular property, the challenges remain.
The resort has made a conscious decision to work with locals who lack hospitality or tourism background or formal education. “Training them and keeping them in the system for a long period, especially when they begin to think they are indispensable because we hire only them, is a big challenge,” she says.
Hotels need to coexist
If there is one thing that Shetty would change about the Indian travel trade, it would be the very way it functions right now.
“Every hotel must remember that we are just competition and not enemies and we have to profitably coexist. It’s this dangerous attitude that has given rise to middlemen in any form who work on commissions to sell your product,” she says.
Unlike most hotels and resorts, The Dense is not on any OTAs nor do they work with travel agents. “This is a conscious decision that we have made. The funniest part is that if every hotel has a sales team, why would they need middlemen? If your sales team can’t innovate new ideas to showcase and sell your property or do it through various B2C travel exhibitions, why to have them in the first place?” she asks.
Words of wisdom
In order to succeed, one must build a strong product first, says Shetty.
“Set a vision and a mission no matter how small you are. Let it be so good that you believe in it so much that you are convinced that your guests will sell it for you through word of mouth. It’s not easy, but remember a river cuts through a rock not because of its strength but because of its persistence,” signs off Shetty.
A look at The Dense