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Synergy Weekend Homes: A business of Dream Homes

Synergy Weekend Homes: A business of Dream Homes

Lead:

A lush green and peaceful surrounding environment, a singing water stream nearby, chirping birds all around, a cold breeze, and in the centre of all this a small bungalow of your own. This description is enough to take us into that bungalow. We dream of living there with our loved ones. But within a moment we realize that such houses are seen either in paintings or on the silver screen. Farmhouses, weekend homes are luxuries only a few wealthy people can afford. How could we even think of them? This is how we let our dreams fade. There is a large middle class that dreams and then forgets those dreams about such houses. Synergy Weekend Homes decided to help fulfil such dreams, and a unique business was born. 

Matter:

Synergy Weekend Homes is a renowned construction company started in 2010, owned by four partners, namely Rajendra Awate, Ganesh Jadhav, Mandar Devgaokar and Amruta Devgaonkar. It works in the field of construction and hospitality. A partnership firm runs a construction business, whereas a private limited company provides hospitality. (You might wonder how hospitality and construction are connected here. More on this will come later!) Rajendra Awate and Ganesh Jadhav have been successfully running Gangotri Developers in the construction business for many years. Based on their experience, they sensed the need for weekend homes. They felt that in order to utilize this idea best, they need to implement some unique concepts. This is how Synergy Weekend Homes was born. 

Most of the customers preferred the coastal areas of Konkan for their Weekend Homes. Some preferred cool places like Mahabaleshwar. However, if we consider the belt of the Western Ghats area, there are many scenic places to be found. They are comparatively closer to Pune and Mumbai. It is also commercially viable to build these weekend homes on areas near dams and forts.

In fact, the concept of weekend homes was introduced to us long before that. It was first limited to only demarcating land plots and constructing homes in certain places. There was little attention given to the maintenance and amenities post-construction. It was a difficult task for people who bought these homes to look after their property. They faced various problems. Firstly, they could not afford to give time for the maintenance of their property, as many of them had jobs and businesses in cities. Then if they were to go to their property for recreation, the first thing they would do is to clean it up. Appointing a caretaker poses trust and security challenges. Hence such customers would avoid buying a weekend home despite the will and desire. 

The people at Synergy thought this in great detail and prepared an attractive scheme for weekend homes. Under this scheme, the responsibility of taking care of the property falls entirely on the shoulders of Synergy. But it is remarkable that the property immediately becomes a source of income. In addition to that, one can spend their weekend at leisure any time they want. Let us look at this scheme in detail. 

Currently, there are two schemes in the process developed by Synergy Weekend Homes in the vicinity of Bhatghar dam, in Bhor nearly 1-1/2 hours away from Pune. Around 50 bungalows have been completed in both schemes, and the remaining bungalows are under construction. The customer buys the bungalow which is immediately taken on lease by Synergy, paying them a monthly rent. The customer can spend 30 days on their property throughout the year. Rest of the time, Synergy gives the bungalows to tourists. Of course, there is another option. If one wants to stay in their property for more than 30 days or go there any time, there is a revenue-sharing option. By which, the revenue collected from tourists would be divided 70:30 between Synergy and the owners. Synergy takes complete care of the bungalows, arranges meals for the tourists, and organizes special events. That’s how construction and hospitality work in tandem. 

There are three types of bungalows under this ongoing project in the villages called Pasure and Kurunji near Bhor, namely 1/ 2/ 3+ bedroom signature villas. Similar projects are going to be inaugurated shortly in Velha and Khandala Pargaon. The collaboration of hospitality has complemented both the businesses wonderfully. It is highly rewarding for a customer to buy property over there. Since it is going to be used by tourists, the customer must ensure landscaped gardens, high-quality artistic furniture, appliances like TV, refrigerator etc. in their bungalows. Tourists will only choose these properties if they are furnished with these amenities. Hence they are mandatory. 

Synergy has appointed trained staff on every site for the maintenance of the bungalows and tourist hospitality. They provide the best catering service along with organizing various events for the tourists. In June, they organize a firefly festival called CHASE THE FIRE. Tourists are also taken to the nearby rice fields for rice paddy planting. Synergy also strives to organize environment centric programs for tourists, which would be informative as well as entertaining focusing on local fairs and pilgrimages. To promote Synergy Weekend Homes, they had invited dignitaries such as Kiran Purandare (environmentalist), Pandurang Balkavde (Expert on forts) and Ramakant Paranjape (Violinist). By organizing such events, Synergy broke the stereotype around weekend homes or farmhouses that they are party homes or liquor houses of the rich people. Synergy has also laid down specific rules regarding the number of accommodations of the tourists in a bungalow. This has ensured quality for both the tourists as well as the bungalows. The rates for the tourists are reasonable. Obviously, individual and group booking rates vary. 

It is allowed to select land for weekend homes within 500 to 1000 m from dams or forts. It is necessary to have tourism NA for these lands. Similarly, all other legal requirements also need to be fulfilled. Otherwise, one may face problems getting financial support from the banks. Besides, it can lead to further problems in future. Hence it is a Synergy policy to work within the framework of legality. Permanent constructions on plots nearby a river, dam or the sea are not permissible. But there are certain options provided. A land very close to a water body falls into the category of the temporary construction zone. Synergy has offered three different variants of houses in this zone, namely Bamboo cottages, container houses ( caravans) and Swiss tents ( a big lavish tent). Bamboo cottages, as the name would suggest, are made of bamboo. Container house is a big vehicle transformed into a luxurious house. (You may remember Shah Rukh Khan’s caravan in the film Swades). Swiss tent is a big house designed in luxury. All these three options are available for use near water bodies. 

Since these houses are very far from cities, there is a lack of infrastructure, primarily roads, electricity and water. Water issues can be solved up to some extent. But for roads and electricity, they have to rely on the government. There is no other option. But there is a silver line to this. The villagers stand by us for the project and also bring roads and electricity to their villages. Also, local villagers get employment in these projects. 

There is a difference between constructing residential colonies in the cities and building weekend homes. In cities, all construction is primarily vertical. Hence some of the expenditure in development is shared and thus saved. However, every unit in weekend homes project is separate; hence it is constructed horizontally incurring independent costs. But it is beneficial in some ways as every unit can be innovative and unique in design. There are strict timelines for the transferring of possession in cities. Whereas in weekend homes, by earning the customer’s trust, one can buy some time. 

For this business to reach the breakeven point, MTDC or Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation has declared certain criteria. According to that, a minimum of 1-hectare land must have a minimum of 20 units. But based on their experience, Synergy claims that a minimum of 40 units stabilizes the business to reach the breakeven point. Often a group of 40-50 tourists need places for picnics. Such events are only possible if they have a minimum of 40 units. It is also cost-effective to appoint staff at these units then. Similarly, more than 50% occupancy at the bungalows is profitable. More than 70-80% is excellent, but more than 50% is the basic requirement.  Maintenance needs to be done daily, whether there is any occupancy or not. 

This business is profitable to those who own their lands as their investment on the land is nil. Such entrepreneurs can best utilize their imagination and skill in hospitality. However, as mentioned earlier, it is to be kept in mind that legal requirements need to be fulfilled. Also, one must study their potential customers. One can build either luxurious bungalows worth crores or units that will fit the middle-class budget as weekend homes. Hence there has to be clarity on which class one is catering to. Whatever that class may be, there can be no compromise in quality. There can be no discrepancy in the information given in brochures and the actual construction. One needs to understand the difference between selling plots and selling homes, along with maintenance. 

Branding and marketing are crucial for the promotion of such weekend homes. Synergy uses social media for the same. Marathi NRIs are especially drawn towards weekend homes. Considering this phenomenon, Synergy is in touch with the Marathi community residing abroad. Synergy promotes its projects through classical music festivals or other quality entertainment programs. They get an excellent response through these activities.

But moreover, it also helps them ward off misconceptions about farmhouses, as well as reinforces the belief that the budget and joy of owning a farmhouse is within reach. Team Synergy is striving to make your Synergy stay a family leisure experience. Their project sites are built on lands that produce bamboo. There is an organization that teaches bamboo craft. Synergy sent local artisans to this organization for training, and now these craftsmen are making different bamboo items after their return. They give easy-to-make demonstrations to the tourists. Also, visits are arranged to the nearby fort Rajgad. Local youth work as guides on these visits. These events give the joy of nature to the tourists while offering jobs to the local people. Synergy is presently considering the set up of solar panels to overcome load shedding. This will solve the power issue at the projects and also give surplus electricity to the villagers. 

Any business is bound to go through ups and downs. Demonetization had its effect on Synergy as it had for other companies. It was natural as people had doubts about the state of the economy. But this phase too passed. Any entrepreneur has to show patience during such times. Synergy did the same. Therefore today they are successfully running the business of creating dream homes for the people.  

Block: A bungalow at a Synergy project was used as a shooting location for a daily soap on Zee Marathi channel called Tula Pahate Re. This video became viral, and Synergy received a lot of enquiries for bungalows. This development helped Synergy for its marketing. 

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