Arsh Bansal has a cure for the hectic workweek, the mind-numbing traffic and the tedious routine of city life: a “tiny home” designed to help guests disconnect from the humdrum of the digital age and find peace and calm in nature.
Bansal, who studied architecture in Bengaluru and the UK, says he has always been captivated by the character of specific spaces and why we’re drawn towards them. He says it’s ultimately about how art and design cater to people’s psychological needs.
“Everything starts at home—the roof that you live under,” he explains. “So that was just fascinating: how you can make spaces that people love and enjoy.”
Disconnect To Reconnect
The philosophy behind Tenpy, the tiny home-inspired vacation rental firm that Bansal runs, is to allow people to live minimally and recharge themselves through close contact with nature, which they sorely lack in the big city. The focus is also to have meaningful human connections over hunching over a laptop screen.
“The idea is to disconnect and reconnect with the people that are with you,” Bansal says. “Forget that work email, forget that work call that you’re supposed to have on a Saturday morning.” To that effect, the cabins also don’t have WiFi connections, encouraging real-life conversations.
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Tenpy offers homestays close to the wilderness but within driving distance of large metros like Bengaluru and Mumbai. Bansal says he is extremely hands-on when it comes to designing the space to suit the needs of anyone who chooses to stay with Tenpy.
Bansal says that the design of the tiny homes was inspired by Scandinavian and Japanese aesthetics, with clean lines and decluttered spaces. Bansal points out that design features, such as a large window in the bedroom, can open the space up to nature and create a mood of relaxation. It doesn’t hurt that they also heighten the “Instagrammability” of the space.
The entrepreneur, who hails from a business family, says the company tries to set expectations beforehand, telling guests not to expect a five-star-hotel experience. Guests have the opportunity to take a walk, go out on treks or gaze at the midnight sky instead. He says that it’s more about living comfortably in nature.
The firm also leases out spaces to artists and creatives free of charge to be in nature and get their juices flowing while they work on their next project.
Living Big In A Tiny House
The tiny-house movement has picked up steam across the globe as rents tick up and homeownership becomes unaffordable for many. The concept of a tiny house is centred around small but functional units that are well-designed, more flexible and don’t burn a hole in the pocket.
While the idea is still in its nascency in India, Bansal says these smaller units are much more cost-effective than building a hotel or a resort. “There’s no place where a person can do what he does in camping – which is just very DIY (do-it-yourself) – but at the same time has a comfortable living in the wild, and which is not super far from the city.”
“You can get it ready in 60 to 90 days… your cost of building is around ₹6 lakhs to ₹8 lakhs, depending on the configuration,” Bansal explains. Tenpy partners with people who own farmlands or camping sites close to wildlife sanctuaries and builds a space at no additional cost to them. The existing owners handle much of the hospitality in return and can buy the unit at the end of a contract period while Tenpy continues to list them on its platform.
Tenpy, which began operations in August 2020, saw a huge spike in demand immediately after COVID-linked lockdown measures were eased, leading to a spurt in “revenge travel”, he says. the business has settled into a steady rhythm.
“We are growing slowly, and I don’t think pace is such a big factor,” Bansal notes. “I think we want to be able to find interesting spaces, interesting hosts and people, to tell their stories, and just the right kind of place to set up and design more than anything.” He mentions that several of the company’s homes are breaking even at the moment.
‘Nature Can Be Your Gym’
Tenpy is looking to add more homes around Karnataka, Maharashtra and North India by the end of the year, Bansal says. The company has also launched a sub-brand called Tenpy Homes, which will help property owners that the firm partners with market their listings.
Bansal adds that the business has found its stride but still has to deal with problems like poor infrastructure, local issues and changing management at sites. He stresses that the focus is on building relationships with the caretakers at the properties and building spaces that bring people and nature together.
“The idea is to basically get nature more accessible as easy as going to the gym,” Bansal says. “I think we’re achieving it one day at a time. And, hopefully, in the future, we’re able to do it a lot more.”
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