Karan Vaidya is developing his wellness resort in his hometown in Nepal. During a search for management company Karan and I met and we talked a lot about hotel management companies, branding, wellness, Nepal, and business. I couldn't help but ask him to feature in our Up Close & Personal even though his resort is yet to open.
Karan graduated engineering from Purdue University and holds a Master's degree from MIT. Karan did his thesis in hospitality which has been his passion since the very beginning.
"While doing my MBA thesis at MIT, I knew I wanted to pursue my passion for hospitality, and that I wanted to make my impact on the world within it. That's why I wrote my thesis on it and was certain that I wanted to eventually build resorts like my grandfather. And since then I have never looked back." said, Karan.
"My thesis is not just about a hotels, but a hospitality model that can be implemented in any hotel or resort. I call it the Moksh Model. In its essence, the model encompasses guest / employee well-being, profitability, and sustainability achieved through core concepts of Shared value, Circular Economy, and Ownership Quotient. This is the core of the model which is further enclosed by guidelines for rural development and green architecture."
In 2015, while working in Singapore, an earthquake struck Nepal. That's when Karan made the decision to come back to Nepal to do whatever he could to help the country recover and this is how The Kaivalya started.
He used his own model in developing rural areas in Nepal through creating beautiful properties in a unique location while adding gender equal jobs, eco-friendly strategies, and all the while being a profitable business.
His family is no stranger to hospitality. Karan's grandfather built Nepal's very first resort in Dhulikhel, a town about 30km from Kathmandu 50 years ago.
"In his youth, as a tour guide, he used to take his travel groups to that place to show them the magnificent panoramic view of the Himalayas. And with the help of the local villagers, that is where he made the resort.
Today, the whole town has been transformed and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Nepal. Being a part of this resort from a young age, I have seen the impact a single resort can make in the lives and economy of rural places. It generates a large number of jobs with gender equal employment, and creates a whole new economic ecosystem."
While trying to remain as positive and focused as possible, just as any other owners would, Karan is no exception when it comes to being faced by challenges, especially as a first time owner.
"The major challenge that I faced was in the design of this property was the terrain. The property is located on a sloped hill-side terrain in Kakani, 20km from Kathmandu, and has a splendid view of Thansingh Valley and the Himalayan mountains ranging from Annapurna to Everest.
However, I strictly wanted to minimize our structural footprint and maintain the flora and greenery of the area. Therefore, we had to come up with innovative ways to place our villas in sloped terrain without creating massive retention walls, that would end up damaging the area. So, we used, lighter construction materials to build the villas and bio-engineering to maintain the slopes, without risking land-slides.
The end result is stunning, and I am certain that our guests will appreciate our effort to minimize environmental degradation while maintaining the aesthetics of the resort. Now, we have a beautifully designed resort harmonized with the surrounding greenery and with a theater-like view of the magnificent snow capped mountains." he explained.
It appears to me that Karan knows what he's doing, but with Nepal re-focusing in hospitality with 2020 Visit Nepal Year and 33% yoy growth, Nepal aims to welcome two million tourists by 2020.
His plan is not just to remain in Nepal. He plans to develop his resorts throughout South Asia too.
"South Asia is still very young in terms of hospitality, especially the kind of hospitality I am envisioning. In terms of urban hospitality, we have the big brands coming in slowly and entering the market. Overall the South Asian hospitality market is under-saturated. However, this is already changing in countries like Nepal and Sri Lanka, where we have had a huge influx of major brands in the past 5-7 years. Myanmar is slowly picking up however, its political instability has hindered its development. However, Bhutan is a stellar example in terms of hospitality in South Asia. They have done an outstanding job to encapsulate high-end tourism." Karan elaborated.
Before we parted, I asked what would be the next big thing for wellness industry in Asia?
"Escaping from the ever increasing pollution. The other day's headlines in the local Nepal Newspapers reported that at least 35,000 people die every year in Nepal due to the increased pollution in the country. 9 out of 10 most polluted cities in the world are in India and 45 out of 50 of the most polluted cities are in Asia.
Asia is developing fast, but not without consequence. People are being deprived of the most basic human requirement - breathing. People need an escape and escape just to breathe. This is where wellness hospitality will come in. Just a few hours at my project site re-energizes my mind and body completely. I have felt this every single time I have been there. We have forgotten what breathing clean air feels like and this can and will have a tremendous effect in the wellness of an individual and will definitely be one of the next big things in the wellness industry in Asia"