Abedin Sham – Owner of a Stunning Villa and Venue for Sunburn Festival in Goa


Abedin ShamParts of the Bollywood movie Rush (to be released tomorrow), starring Emraan Hashmi, Neha Dhupia and Sagarika Ghatge were shot on the property! And that’s not all…the property is the venue for the forthcoming Sunburn Festival Goa 2012, starting December 27. Meet Abedin Sham, the owner of this stunning villa near Goa’s Candolim Beach as he speaks to us in an exclusive interview.

The interview…

[kaltura-widget uiconfid=”534″ entryid=”1_laa0o3yd” width=”600″ height=”480″ addpermission=”” editpermission=”” /] Please tell us something about your background – Personal and Professional.
Tennis is my passion. It’s something I grew up playing, to the point where I’ve had to miss family holidays to travel to small towns instead for tournaments in the midst of summer! I left home to pursue tennis at the age of 12, and lived, traveled, and schooled in the United States over 12 years.

I moved back to India permanently in 2006 and set up a fast food model called Wich Latte. At the time of conception, I noticed a gap in the sandwich market and thought this was an idea that would work. I spent about nine months doing research with my chef and another six months getting the kitchen and café ready. I’ve been running it for five years now, and we’re in the midst of a revamp and an expansion. We’ll be opening six more outlets by the end of this financial year, and hopefully expand to a total of 25 cafés by next December.

Can you tell us a bit about the property and its history? When did you acquire it?
Goa has always been a favorite destination, and having studied hospitality, coupled with the tourism boom, I figured it would be a great place to start something small.

The land was acquired in 1986, but had been lying dormant. I wasn’t completely familiar with the property until I vacationed in Goa in 2007. I was with a friend, Nikhil Chinappa, and whilst walking on the land he came up with the idea of a music festival, now come to be known as Sunburn. I also wanted to have a second home in Goa, so we decided to build a small place for us to come and stay when we visited. Construction on the property began in 2008, and the house was semi finished in December 2010.

When and why did you decide to turn your property into a holiday home/ homestay? How did you start out? What are the small changes you made to change from a home to a holiday home?
I’ve only actually begun using the villa on a consistent basis from May 2012. Whenever friends would visit me whilst there, or stay with me, they’d always tell me to let the place out to them privately. When I finally decided to go ahead with the idea, I figured that the property would have to be upgraded, considering the profile of guests that would be staying there. I have now employed a full time cook, caretaker, added wi-fi, new upholstery and a sound system—everything one would require for a comfortable stay.

Can you please tell us how much involvement is required from you (as the owner) to successfully run a vacation rental business?
Initially a lot of time is spent looking into the nitty gritty and individual tastes and preferences of each guest. As I am new to this business, I will learn as I go along, but I’m confident of providing folks that do come by with a memorable experience.

According to you what makes your property unique? Why do you think travelers should rent out your property?
The villa is situated on eight acres of land, sits right on the beach, is surrounded by coconut trees and has uninterrupted views of the sea. If that’s not unique enough, the Sunburn music festival is held here every December

The house itself has been designed in a Moorish style, in 2009 by Patzchke Designs. The villa is stark white, with splashes of colour and intricate details such as traditional marble finishes, antique Indian furniture, and a beautiful mosaic floor laid on the roof terrace in the shape of the zodiac. The front doors are teak wood, salvaged from an old Indian palace, and restored with hand-made iron locks.

The villa sits right in the heart of Candolim, and the beach is literally right outside the door. Candolim has some of the finest bars and restaurants in Goa, which are all not more than a five minute walk away. The Candolim Road also has a lot of shops where guests will be able to choose from local souvenirs, amongst many other things.

I think all the above make my villa a great option when choosing a luxury vacation home whilst in Goa.

What is the present level of activity in the real estate sector of Goa? Would you recommend it as a location for holiday home buyers and homestays?
The cost of real estate has increased drastically in Goa, especially in the prime regions, beaches, and river fronts. Coupled with the increased cost of construction, and increased operational costs, a better option at this point would be to rent out a holiday home instead.

You must have been interacting with several kinds of visitors who had stayed in your home? What kinds of guests, according to you, are suitable for staying in a holiday home?
I think all types of guests, except business and convention travelers are suitable targets for staying at holiday homes. People want to stay in a place that offers them a greater value for money. Holiday homes give you more space, allow guests to personalize their vacation by way of unique meals, flexibility on time, etc

What is your philosophy that drives how you run things in your property? Do you have any set rules or ideals that as a holiday home owner you must follow?
It’s simple, really—just treat the property as you would your own home

Unlike hotels, in a holiday home rental, you are opening up your home to guests, most of whom you have just interacted with or have never met before. How do you ensure or how do you build the trust that makes you believe that a particular guest is best for your holiday home?

It all comes down to the basics.  I always start with a phone call—it acts as a buffer and gives you a better idea as to what the guests are expecting. Also, websites like tripvillas help just in case things don’t go quite as planned from either side.

Trust is a very important factor when it comes to successfully run a holiday home rental business. How do you ensure that all guests coming to stay in your property are trustworthy?
You can never tell, but the best way to safeguard yourself is to take money upfront, or when guests check in, that way you get a slight advantage. Hiring the right kind of staff is also important. They need to know how to deal with guests, in case a situation does arise.

Have you had any high profile guests? What are important things to keep in mind while handling them?

As the property is located where Sunburn happens, we do have a few high profile folks who drop by. Unfortunately there’s no more I can say on that subject as the privacy of my guests is paramount.

Have you added any amenities on the luxury side? What are ones that you are eying?
To take the luxury home to the next level, we are in the process of tying up with local spas and even adding a beach volleyball court on the property. Also, I would like to tie up with the PADI school to offer special deals to people that get to stay at the villa and get certified over a four day course. I think that will be a pretty cool memory to create.

What are present rates that you charge? Where would you like to see this go in the near term and what do you think we as an industry can do to get better rates?

Currently we charge INR 20,000 per night, which is inclusive of breakfast. The only changes that would help guests would be the taxation and employment issues. Right now there are a host of different taxes that guests have to pay.

What percentage of your business comes from travel agencies? Social Media? Friends ? Regular clients?

About 50% is word of mouth, while the rest of my business comes from agencies, websites, etc.

Any tips for other vacation home/ homestay owners?
I’m still learning, but what I think is important is for both sides to be clear on exactly what they want and what they’re expecting from their stay. This way, things can be arranged accordingly and everyone is happy.