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Managing Expectations with Vinayak Mahtani

George Grombacher June 9, 2023

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Managing Expectations with Vinayak Mahtani

LifeBlood: We talked about managing expectations in service of providing a world-class vacation rental experience, what it takes to scale to hundreds of units, how to differentiate yourself, and how to plan for the future, with Vinayak Mahtani, CEO of bnbme, a luxury vacation rental management company located in Dubai.     

Listen to learn how to effectively do business across different cultures!

You can learn more about Vinayak at bnbmehomes.com, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Vinayak Mahtani

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:01
Well, hello, this is George G. And the time is right welcome today’s guest starring Paul Vinayak batani Vinayak. Are you ready to do this? Sure. All right, let’s go. Back is the CEO of b&b me it’s luxury vacation rental management company he co founded in Dubai 2018. Today, they manage over 150 homes and Dubai and employ over 70 people. But ag excited to have you on tell us a little bit your personalized more about your work, why you do what you do.

Vinayak Mahtani 0:32
All right. So hi, everybody. So I grew up in Germany, in the UK, to Indian parents, Indian entrepreneurial parents.

our dinner table discussions were always to do about business and how the business was running. So I grew up at a very young age, knowing that I’m going to be an entrepreneur, I started my first business when I was 18 years old, in between high school and university, ran that for several years did quite well, ended up closing it down and then going to university to learn how to run a business. I lived in Hong Kong, China, India. And now I live in Dubai, of course, the UK in Germany growing up as well. I set this business up five years ago with my wife because of a problem or we were in a situation with one of our real estates, real estate apartments, and we came up with a vacation rental to generate revenue off did really well. And it’s just grown into a full fledged business.

george grombacher 1:35
I love it. So you start a business when when you’re really young man 18. And then you said that that went well. And that you went to university to learn more about it? How was the formal education did that actually benefit you? Sometimes it’s theory versus practice.

Vinayak Mahtani 1:53
So I think the fact that I had set up a business and experience running a business before going to university was probably the best move I did, simply because when I went to university, and the professor was asking us to, let’s talk about creating a p&l statement. I knew the practical behind that p&l statement, I knew why they were asking us to create the p&l statement, and I could look into the p&l and understand what the numbers meant. Whereas if you were just learning the theory, you can understand what’s the practical usage of it. So I think the education point was very critical.

george grombacher 2:28
Yeah, well, that certainly does make sense, versus just going in having no experience at all. And then it sort of sort of makes sense. But you don’t have any practical knowledge of it. So I get it. So you were having a personal problem with a rental that you owned, and you start to look into it and say, You know what, I think that there might be a pretty good business here. So how was that transition?

Vinayak Mahtani 2:51
Well, so we had a, we actually had a property and the tenant left us after renting it for three years. Left us overnight, so kind of ran away, left the apartment in a really, really bad condition. And you know, this is a nice apartment with a private beach overlooking the sea. So it’s really, really top end apartment, and she just destroyed. And in Dubai over the summers, the markets generally start to dip because people leave the city because it gets so warm. So my wife and I said, Look, there’s no point, trying to find a long term tenant, because we’re just gonna get low balled, why don’t we Airbnb it. And back then in 2015, and 16, it was unheard of in this part of the world. The they didn’t, there was no regulation, there was no business around it, there was nothing. But we did. And in our first year, we did double the revenue of our long term rent. So then what was and when we started it, we said you know what, we don’t want to put in too much money. So we just went to Ikea and bought some basics, and just created a very basic apartment. And we did it we did double over long term. So the second year, we should hang on a second, let’s try to upgrade this. And then we went out and bought better furniture, we put some wallpaper years and paintings, their agenda floorings upgraded in the entire apartment. And we did even better than before. At that time, we still didn’t think let’s make it into a business. We just said you know what? They will manage our portfolio. But then friends of ours came over and said, Hey, listen, can you do it for us as well? And other friends said, Can you do it for us? All of a sudden, we were managing 10 or 12 properties. And we were looking at the numbers of them. It was profitable. They’re making money. So we said you know what, let’s let’s let’s try to build a business out of this. Let’s add more people on. Let’s grow the portfolio. And let’s figure out what we want to do. And we said we want to be the most luxurious vacation rental business in our in the territories. We work in where we offer the guests, and the property owners have the best experience possible. So our goal isn’t to be the biggest. We’re not interested in having the maximum number of properties, but we want the highest guest satisfaction score out of everybody and We’ve been so far successful that we’ve just won the international travelers Award, which is an award voted for by guests three years in a row. So I guess we’re on track. Here. gratulations. Thank you very much was the team, not me?

george grombacher 5:15
Yeah. Well, you set out to do something, and you did it. So I think that that’s always a pretty cool thing.

Vinayak Mahtani 5:21
Yeah, it’s been good fun. The journey has been amazing. How has How has

george grombacher 5:27
the rental market expanded, you talked about how when you started, nobody else was doing it.

Vinayak Mahtani 5:36
So let’s say 2018, when we incorporated as a business after tough negotiations in setting up, because Dubai had no idea about this industry, so the banks wouldn’t even open a bank account. But once we got that done, I would say there were about 3000 properties, or 4000 properties on the Airbnb market in Dubai, and the vacation rental market. And today, five years later, they’re just about 20, some 1000. So that shows you the scale of the growth that’s taking place.

george grombacher 6:07
Fascinating, all right. And you recognize the opportunity to provide this really high end luxury experience, were you did you look at just, instead of doing that, say, let’s just get a ton of these things. Instead.

Vinayak Mahtani 6:27
It did cross our minds. But my wife and I and our firm believers that you can only do a business or you can, especially if the service are consumer facing, and you’re trying to create a brand of something you believe in. And we personally understand the luxury market more than the mass market. Now, that’s not saying that either one are bad, or one is better than the other. But it’s what you really understand. I don’t, I mentally don’t understand the concept of no customer service and volume business, where it’s all about getting bums on the beds, and moving that around, and you sacrifice on cleaning cleanliness, you sacrifice on customer service to the extent where you don’t give bad customer service, but you just don’t have the budgets to give great customer service. So that mindset just doesn’t relate to us. And we understand creating better experiences being more hospitable, you know, offering the guests higher, better value. So So we generally like for example, we don’t give discounts. But we’ll give you a free airport pickup. And we will do what it takes to to enhance your experience. But we’re not going to give you a discount. That’s not what we believe in.

george grombacher 7:46
I think that’s great. And I also love the term bums are bums on the bed. I think that that’s that’s awesome too. So you you touched on, we’re not going to offer a discount, but we will come and pick you up at the airport. What are some of those other features or ways that you are providing this this this this top tier experience we have

Vinayak Mahtani 8:06
our most popular one is for example, daily cleaning. If you’re a regular guest of ours and you stay with us frequently and we have some sort of an agreement or we offer you free cleaning, if you book certain properties of ours will clean it everyday for you. So that’s probably the biggest one but there’s tons of stuff you know, I mean, if you’re coming from let’s say China for example, the Chinese like to eat the rice so we provide them free rice cookers, we provide them chopsticks instead of normal Western culinary. We provide them soya sauce instead of salt and pepper. So we be spoken adjust the experience to the profile of the guest

george grombacher 8:48
which makes all the sense in the world as as, as as I’m listening, but it’s just that extra step which which which you’re taking and you’re doing the extra work of appreciating the fact that people that are coming to Dubai are coming from literally every corner of the world

Vinayak Mahtani 9:05
now and that’s why we charge $1 Extra $2 Extra but we guarantee you a great experience.

george grombacher 9:13
Wow think that that is I think that that is great. And from a customer service standpoint have when you are having so many international travelers come Is there a language barrier has that has that ever come up just communication from a cultural standpoint.

Vinayak Mahtani 9:31
So I think we speak within the company 13 different languages or 15 different languages. So we cover most part of parts of the world which is great and that helps a lot. But yeah, you still get an occasional language from somewhere which you’ve not heard of. But I guess when the AI tools today we have a whatsapp AI tool where language is converted automatically. So you can take whatever language you want, will read it in English will take back in Do whatever you want.

george grombacher 10:02
Amazing, small little things that are that are helping you to do an even better job. So I think that that’s great. As as you’ve been scaling, what? Well, what? What does the future hold? Um, is it 300 homes? Is it 500 employees?

Vinayak Mahtani 10:21
Now we’d like to be, we’d like to be at what we say 1000 homes, hitting an average of 90% in terms of guests review scores. So we want to hit 1000, because we feel that’s a decent number. But more important is we want to make sure we have a 90 90% approval rate from guests.

george grombacher 10:43
What is what is common on an approval rate across Airbnb? Or if that’s even knowable?

Vinayak Mahtani 10:51
So Airbnb rates, you out of five? To be a superhost, you have to be 4.8, which we are. We are 4.8 I think the average is anywhere between four to 4.5. For companies our size 4.5 4.3 is probably an average. So we’ll read about that.

george grombacher 11:14
Yeah, well, which certainly makes sense. And in terms of where it is that that that you’re needing to add from when you were at five homes and X number of employees, how did you identify the areas that you needed to staff up and or get more resources in.

Vinayak Mahtani 11:34
So from an entrepreneur perspective, you know, when you start, you do everything. And then as you as you start growing, you start adding on doers, the people who do the job. And then as you grow, you need to add supervisors to make sure that the people are doing their job or doing their job. And then you need to add managers to make sure that supervisors and the people are doing their job and the department’s been taken care of. And then you add on people who sit and talk strategy with you. So it’s kind of like a pillar base up pyramid that you that you start building and you create. And there’s still parts of the business where I do the part where I haven’t hired anybody do it, because I enjoy it. And it’s what gives me the highest satisfaction. But there are parts in the business, which I used to do four or five years ago, which I just overview once a month now. Because I’m not needed for that I can hire somebody to do that job. And generally, when you hire someone to do the job, I just had a manager strategy level, you got to hire somebody to do the job better than you otherwise, you’re the best person in your company, and then your company stuck. So as you hire have to be able to do the job of their department better than you could do it. Otherwise you don’t need them.

george grombacher 12:57
What are some of those things that you really enjoy?

Vinayak Mahtani 13:01
I love this business development, or guest services, I love checking guests in and talking to them about their experience, talking to understand why they’re coming in what they’re expecting from their vacation. I love that part of the job. I love the part of the job when an owner is buying a new property about talking to them about new property and, and helping them understand the short term market and how we can add value to them. I think those are the two my two goals that are parts of the job.

george grombacher 13:31
How much of your your top rating and winning those three amazing awards is properly managing expectations.

Vinayak Mahtani 13:42
90% if you if you manage the expectation from the start correctly, rather than giving a false picture 90% job done. If you if you if you build up an expect unrealistic expectation, and then you don’t deliver on it, you failed. But if you build up an unrealistic expectation and you deliver on it, that’s where you get to the point where we want to be. So we don’t want to downplay the expectation, manage expectation to a very low level and then give them a better service. We want to make them dream of it. And then we want to make those dreams come true. And then you’ve magic.

george grombacher 14:22
You mentioned just a second ago that you enjoy working with potential new owners. How does that process work? How are you working with potential new owners?

Vinayak Mahtani 14:33
I mean, if there’s a business development lead, I don’t I don’t the new owners I generally don’t work with but if there’s an old, old investor we’re managing a property with and I know them personally and they’re looking to reinvest or invest further than I will deal with them. But the process is the new property owners coming through business development and then my wife Shilpa she takes care of that entire department. She takes care of the key account retention, and also new business.

george grombacher 15:04
Got it. So you’re at roughly speaking 150 homes you’re interested in getting to 1000 Do you have an idea of what percentage that you will own, and then that you will be managing the portfolio for other owners.

Vinayak Mahtani 15:22
So we, so we manage for others, we don’t own any of the properties, the company doesn’t own any of the properties themselves. My wife and I may own individual properties that we get the company to manage. But as a business model, the company only manages.

george grombacher 15:38
Got it. So there’s an opportunity for people who are current owners, or who are would be owners of properties in Dubai, to work with you.

Vinayak Mahtani 15:49
100%. And we’re not only in Dubai, we also operate in India, and recently started are about to start Saudi Arabia.

george grombacher 15:58
Is that easy to do to just

Vinayak Mahtani 16:03
start, I probably picked the easiest country to start in Dubai, in terms of entrepreneurship and business is probably the most ideal place in the world, because of the support system. Saudi Arabia and India have probably the most difficult places, but it’s the challenge that gets you excited. Right. That’s what’s very comfortable.

george grombacher 16:25
Yeah. I think that’s fascinating. It just, there’s so many different layers, obviously, when, when whenever you’re endeavoring to do business in a different, different place, so many different new things to learn about and opportunities and challenges. So I imagine that that is for somebody who likes business development, the super engaging thing.

Vinayak Mahtani 16:48
Yeah. ensures you got the right.

george grombacher 16:52
And sometimes maddening venac, to help. And sometimes maddening as well drive you crazy. Yeah, yeah. So what are you most excited about? What is What are the next five years hold?

Vinayak Mahtani 17:10
Getting to those 1000 properties, and we’d love to list the business on the stock market. That’s our eventual goal. But at the moment, it’s getting to those 1000 properties with a 90% review score. The reason I say 1,090%? Because if we’ve got 50 properties that are under 90%, that’s not 1000. For us, we want 1000 with that 90% score.

george grombacher 17:34
Well, I think that if there’s anybody that’s going to do it is going to be you. So thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? And how can they how can they engage with you and b&b me

Vinayak Mahtani 17:49
so they can come onto our website b&b homes.com. They can also connect to me through LinkedIn, and Vinayak, Sima Tawny on LinkedIn, undeviating, BB holiday homes, and any message in LinkedIn, I can promise to reply back to

george grombacher 18:06
Excellent. Well, if you enjoyed as much as I did show vernacular appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas, go to b&b, mi homes.com. And check out everything that we’ve been talking about today and find out if there’s an opportunity for you to partner up and also offer this incredible experience to your existing clients or to your future clients find Vinayak on LinkedIn and he is Vi n AYAKCMHTAN I think’s going back.

Vinayak Mahtani 18:44
Thank you very much. Have a great day. You

george grombacher 18:47
as well. And until next time, remember, do your part by doing your best

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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