“Follow your Soul. It knows the Way.”
The Unhotel Company is a new age ‘Experiences’ company that does hand-picked accommodation, uncommon trips & treks and some very cool events.
All the 50-odd unhotels have been referred to them by friends or experts in the travel trade. They have been to each one of them. Spent time with the hosts. Sampled the food and snooped around the local area. The founding team has led trips to most of their unhotels.
Unhotel is a Story led Experiences company.
Narrating the stories of places, people, culture, food, forests, rivers and the magic of India.
Quality, integrity and creativity in our products and services matter most to them.
As they say on their website –
Our Core Values:
The Fun is in the ‘Un’ – always a Creative take on the familiar – unhotels, unlearning, unplanned, unbound possibilities
Through our products and services we help ‘strangers become friends’
We believe in the power of Stories – of people, places, culture and art.
We love to Collaborate – everyone we will ever meet knows something we don’t.
Make Promises we can Keep.
We aim to be a Planet Positive company.
Everything that we do should add back more to the planet than we take away.
No, we are not yet-another-list-&-book-site.
Our experiences range from – wellness & yoga retreats, adventure trips, wildlife safaris, mountain treks, food trails, cultural and music events. These are all curated by domain experts and special interest groups.
At the Unhotel Company we do both fixed date departures (that’s how they say in the travel trade) as well as bespoke trips and experiences. And refrain from giving cookie-cutter travel solutions.
So, in the odd event that you come to us looking for the best deal, we are not the right place !
Our focus is to offer authentic and local experiences in all parts of India.
Don’t club us with the regular travel company. Given our corporate background with people-facing jobs, we know the mind of the new age traveller better than most.
We are often asked this question – How did it all start, why is it called ‘Unhotel’?
So here’s our story…
In 2009, we (Shilpi, me (Manish Sinha ) and our 6 year old son Neo) moved from Bombay to Gurgaon. An adman, with an HR wife looking for a house in a depressed realty market. We had a surfeit of choices. Found a largish villa that became the first of the Unhotels – ‘Cinnamon Stays’ – a bed & breakfast in concrete Gurgaon and a haven to indulge my artistic self; but most importantly a place where ‘strangers become friends’. In 2014 – Cinnamon was ranked 15th amongst all homestays in India by Tripadvisor.
That year we also started Granny’s Inn – a small inn run by my feisty mother-in-law in one of the most ancient, spiritual and chaotic cities of the planet – Varanasi. Granny’s inn was nominated for the Outlook Responsible Tourism awards in 2018.
In the middle of 2016, while doing a workshop on Krishna Consciousness we decided to become a Travel Company instead of merely running homestays. And the Unhotel which had been an ‘idea-in-the-head’ for the longest time began taking shape. The Unhotel (unlike-a-hotel) to us is a warm, friendly accommodation with loads of character and creativity. Along the way, we decided we would create a chain that cares for the planet more than profits.And is focussed on people rather than just an ROI number !
Today, we are a growing business, with a few dedicated verticals. #reclaimyspace – where we focus on trips and treks specially designed for women.
Unlearn is our playful and outdoorsy learning vertical. It’s here that we mash up travel and learning – outside the rigid boundaries of a classroom or a corporate boardroom.
And finally Unbound – our cause and give-back-to-the-planet vertical – here we do voluntourism, work with NGOs, companies, individuals and families similar in ethos to us.
Today, we work with almost 50 unhotel partners, dozens of corporates, freelance artists, Sahpathi – an early childhood and primary education program, that envisions to bridge the learning deficit in India and StriveOn – a mobile app based company that creates location aware interactive engagements !
Founder and CEO : Manish Sinha
Co-Founder : Shilpi Singh
Manish Sinha – Linkedin
“I call myself an experience architect and not just the CEO of a travel company”
Manish Sinha was an ad man for 20 years,
where he helped build digital marketing & communication strategies for the likes of Airtel, Samsung and Nokia. Stints at JWT, Ogilvy, Leo Burnett, Mudra and finally as Chief Strategy Officer at Digitas.
He had graduated from REC Surat in the early nineties and then went on to do an MBA which introduced him to the world of advertising.
“I did engineering because it was one of the two safe and respectable options for a Bihari boy in the 90’s” says Manish.
He always had this creative bent and that’s what made him excel at creative strategy and a flourishing career as an adman.
Manish was also interested in travel and notes of hotels. Being based in the concrete jungle of Gurgaon in India, he noticed that the travelers coming to the city were often looking for alternatives to hotels. And he also saw how there were many beautiful apartments lying vacant.
Connecting the dots, he started up Cinnamon Stays along with his wife Shilpi Singh.
Cinnamon stays completely depended on social media and SEO which Manish handled himself.
Manish was also multi-tasking his consulting and also decided to explore his creative side.
While strolling at one of the many malls in Gurgaon, Manish came across an artist who was making wonderful hand-painted posters. He chatted up with him and eventually ended up hiring the person.
The two of them collaborated for designs and Tikdam came into existence.
Tikdam was a pop-cultured creative studio that specialized in hand paintings, fusion craft, Bollywood art and branded art.
Along with these three self-employed projects, Manish also was the co-founder of a travel and stay startup, and mentored Ritesh Agarwal with his venture Oravel, which was into providing alternatives for hotels.
It later became the now famous OYO
“The goal is to grow together. This kind of an attitude is beneficial to all and helps foster the entrepreneurial community,” believed Manish.
Manish designed Oravel’s brand identity, a brown teddy bear. And then when Oravel wasn’t getting enough bookings on the Internet, he came up with the idea for dial-a-room for non-hotels. Most important, the idea of OYO, low-cost standardized inns, was his.
The story of Manish being smartly played out of Oravel is an underground legend in the Delhi start-up scene.
But Manish walked on and followed his heart and build his home stays one by one before Unhotel happened.
And his experience in OYO was poetically encapsulated and sent as a thought to the cosmic past, in an Uber cab on September 1st, 2018.
The Master’s Honey
The young man
Reaches the master’s house
With an empty bowl
And a mind full of malice
The master and his wife
Treat him well at their
Share honey recipes
Show the precious big honey room
Where all the farm honey
The door to the honey room
Is wide open
The young man is gone
So is all the honey
Left with the master
Just the art of honey making
Shilpi Singh – Linkedin
Shilpi is an Executive Coach & Co Founder, Unhotel.
In an era which does not believe in multitasking, she actually wears more than one hat.
She leads the Coaching Practice at Beyond Diversity Foundation.
She has had 17+ years of HR experience with some of the world’s best media companies – Ogilvy & IMG. She has handled PAN India responsibilities and challenging global matrix across multiple industries including FMCG, Luxury, Banking, Telecom, Technology, Manufacturing and more.
She now plays the role of a Performance Catalyst, working with individuals and organizations to help them find their purpose and their authentic self.. Shilpi has been trained and certified by Results Coaching System (Australia) and is amongst the early believers and practitioners of executive coaching in the country.
She is also a certified Emotional Intelligence practitioner.
Shilpi is also the Co-founder of Unhotel. a boutique travel and experiences company promoting immersive, responsible and slow travel.
Shilpi has been working extensively in the space of Woman leadership since past four years. She is specially committed to working with women entrepreneurs. You can read some of her posts here Why you should watch Wonder Woman.
Her vision is to usher a result-oriented culture within organisations – MNCs, SMEs and entrepreneurial setups by advocating collaborative and inclusive leadership.
Coaching is her calling and she finds her worth with a positive movement in her clients professional/ personal life.
Shilpi is also a Board Member in the well known Delhi-based Non-Profit Sweccha engaged with Environmental Education and Enterprise.
Founders Quotes on Mentors :
Anil K Prasanna – CEO – Axisrooms
A guest at Cinnamon Stays some 5 years back to whom I offered free beer and got a lifelong friend, philosopher and mentor.
Be it advice on hiring, finding our current sales rock star, to finding an affordable lawyer to help with tech and bookings, Anil has been a bulwark of support for Unhotel.
“We met Gurudev Sunny through a Facebook post few years back.
Since then whether through the first booking at Granny’s Inn, random rasa filled gyan on all subjects from funding to taglines for an Unhotel.
Sunny has always been available. The Phone-a-friend, lifeline and 50:50 all rolled into one live-wire individual”
Kashmira Mody – Executive & Life Coach
Shipi’s colleague and a life, business and relationship coach to us. It was her workshop in Banaras that gave shape to the fuzzy idea called Unhotel.
Chief Inspirer, Challenger and Whipper. We owe our latest obsession and the current journey to Kashmira. She has helped us with insights, formal coaching sessions and tons of advice at every stage in our journey!
From Sunny Narang’s Facebook Posts :
5th May, 2015
This is Sooper-Dooper-Unfun
Manish Sinha is a cool dude who did adverts and branding for corps(es) OUAT (Once Upon A Time), then decided it was too Un-cooL, so set up Cinnamon Staysin BOB (Back-of-beYond) Gurgaon in a rented house to turn it into a One Numbari stay on that site aka as Trip Advisor. Then he goes on to make his MOM and MIL (Ma-IN-Law) slave in Benares at Granny’s Inn, Varanasi.
He specialises in building character in a world losing it fast!
The idea is that Manish is desiring an Unhotel Movement and searching for spaces that will be the hubs and his lovelier partner Shilpi Singh who actually does all the reaching out to the Un-hotel inhabitants!
So if you feel that you have a home or a small guest house anywhere in India, even the world, and want to be part of this cool dude’s spaced out Unhotel Movement please connect with him.
6th September, 2014
Nani Dadi ki Sarai !
Manish Sinha and Shilpi Singh are home-stay entrepreneurs . Manish left his career as a crack branding and advertising hot-shot to experience the start-up fever and Shilpi is a part of women-entrepreneur evangelists Biz Divas India. We met via FB, on some common friend’s page and much water has flowed in the Ganga since then !
They have been running Cinnamon Stays in Gurgaon to fantastic reviews since few years and have been exploring tie-ups with other homes who would like to become warm, intimate culture travel spots.
Then they realised retirement is not sitting easy for many people. Including grand-moms.
So now Granny’s Inn, Varanasi is open. For a warm home in a wild city. For home -made achaars. For a small space for silence in the largest and most crowded continuous spiritual mela on the planet.
And friends have stayed here, and they were converted.
22nd January, 2014
When one has a FB id like #SunnySideUp one is contacted by many interesting people all the time. Manish Sinha of Cinnamon Stays fame and we started interacting on start-ups/fun/branding/story-telling/play/design and what kind of new things that can happen. I networked him around and he wanted to do some Tikdam as a gift – and so I came up with an idea on #AAPLageRahoLagateRaho”, on which a small comic strip was created by Manish and team.
This is the #AAPBeeti of this collaboration, open-sourced via FB.
Zuckerberg had no idea of the Funestien he was creating
4th January, 2014
Spent last evening with two bright minds from Bihar. Manish Sinha who went from a top-level advertising career into home-stays and story-telling Cinnamon Stays, who got along Chetan Kapoor, a Punjabi from Patna ! Chetan is Director and Co-Founder of Edulever, a dedicated resource and consulting organization in the education and development sector.
Chetan worked in the corporate sector like Manish and then shifted to tech-start-up in 2000-01, then had to go back to Patna to support his family in their building materials business, before he decided to spend his life in the education and vocational training sector. He was Director of Programs with Pratham, after Pratham, he joined the American India Foundation (AIF) where he worked as the Regional Head of the Digital Equalizer Program, helping merge the world of technology with education.
We had great conversations on the experiments with migrant labour support systems at source and at the new habitat, on how most educational and training state programs leave much to be desired. We now have a whole well exposed professional tribe of young people who have seen the issues both with the NGO, Private and State and are now working to build new pipelines and platforms to reboot everything.
These are exciting times. New possibilities, new enterprises are emerging. Meanwhile the story-teller Manish was trying to see, how all these dry and abstract concepts can be visualised and story-boarded ! You see he runs a story-making company called Tikdam!
This is Edulever’s unofficial blog where Chetan shares his experiences in the experiments they are part of –
A few more questions – on science as well as English – are received with the same fervor: the answers are quick to come in most cases. The few minutes of my interaction with the group are enough to ascertain that there are a number of bright sparks in this class. I end the session by asking them as to what they wish to be when they grow up, and again the enthusiastic answers – teacher, doctor, engineer… A shy little girl sitting in front of me wants to be a doctor, and when I ask her if she will be willing to go to a city such as Patna to study to become a doctor, she takes her time to respond, “अगर डॉक्टर बनना है तो जाना ही पड़ेगा!” (If I have to become a doctor, I will have to go…). Will her parents allow her to go? This time she is not so sure…