While working at his family-run Royal Orchid chain of luxury hotels, Arjun Baljee, now 30, realised there were hardly any budget hotels in the country that would appeal to young people. He decided to launch his own chain to fill the gap. "There weren't any cool places to stay at which were reasonably priced," says Baljee. "I wanted to create a brand that was cool, not intimidating."
Founded in: 2009
Founder: Arjun Baljee
What makes it cool: With their trendy looks yet reasonable tariffs, these hotels are a unique chain
Mirchandani's take: It is in a niche market which has good potential to grow. Analysis of the performance of individual hotels will give an idea of the ability of the entrepreneurs to execute such a business.
This was the starting point of Peppermint, a unique, high on design, budget boutique brand that won the "Best Budget and Economy Hotel" award at this year's Hotel Investment Conference South-Asia held in Mumbai in April. It has set up three hotels so far - in Jaipur, Jodhpur and Gurgaon - but has a target of 10, along with 30 restaurants, this year.
With their iPod docks, customdesigned mattresses, quirkily named restaurants (Aiyayo and MingSingh, for instance) and much else, Peppermint hotels are a class apart. "We have designed for the MTV generation," says Baljee. "We have tried to combine the design sensibilities of the West with the service ethos of India."
Thus, at Peppermint hotels, there are no separate telephone numbers for room service, housekeeping or other services - all legitimate needs are met if the guest dials a single number. "At home in India you have one maid who does everything," says Baljee. "It should be the same in a hotel."
Baljee founded the Peppermint brand in August 2009 with initial investments of Rs 5 crore raised from family and friends. The first Peppermint hotel came up in Gurgaon in 2010. "We hope to reach Rs 70 crore in revenues this year and that should double by 2013," he says.
He is considering overseas expansion and is also in talks with private equity investors, but says he will start actively looking for funds only after he has built seven or eight hotels. "What helps us is our adaptability," he says. "We don't have size limitations. We don't have legacy issues. We can be anywhere and everywhere within a certain price band."