Death is important.
Perhaps, it is the one time when anyone, even the most remotely connected, upon hearing of it, wants to know, Oh, how did he die? Death is unlike living. Breathing. Nobody asks, how the hell are you living. You just, well, live. But in death, there’s curiosity. You want to know what happened because invariably, in the back of your head you’re calculating—I should watch against that. That’s not a great way to go.
In death, you want to know if there was suffering. Did he suffer? That’s awful. I must watch against that too because if I get that, I don’t just die. I suffer and die. As an observer, there’s one way to deal with the news of death. You shut up. Zip. Lip. Tight. Move on. And then there’s the other way. Where you ask a lot of questions, you meet the neighbours, the last people to have seen him, the one next to the bed and then you put it all together. Just so everyone knows what happened. Just so everyone knows what to watch out for. Just so everyone is prepared.
This is the story of the final months at Stayzilla. Of how an 11-year-old company went out of business, in a matter of five months. This is also a story of failure. It reiterates a simple, inane part about life—that when things start going wrong, they must only get worse. But above all, this is a story of a co-founder introspecting—admitting that he screwed up. Where the sins of his past caught up with him. And in the end, it’s his cross to bear.
The year had started badly. Yogendra Vasupal, the co-founder of Stayzilla, was worried. He kept asking himself. Why isn’t the plan working? Why are so many investors passing? Why are the investment bankers constantly getting the feedback that while investors are interested in the business, they wouldn’t like to commit to anything? Not right now. Later, perhaps. Was it something to do with the go-to-market strategy? Well, that can’t be. The pitch to new investors was simple: Stayzilla is a mass market solution for Indians looking to book a homestay or alternate stay.
Only a few months ago, in August the top team at Stayzilla had travelled all the way to Mumbai. From Bengaluru. For a meeting with its board of directors and its to-be banker, Avendus. The purpose of the meeting was to arrive at a go-to-market strategy. The storyline was thrashed out over a good hour.
Stayzilla does 4000 room nights per day. A 1000 room nights come from the homestay business. Eleven months old, this business is key; the mainstay of the company going forward. This business has a handsome margin of anywhere between 10-15%. No discounting.