A graduate of École hôtelière de Lausanne, and a certified eco-tourism practitioner, Ratika was the natural choice to take up the responsibility for the family-owned conscious luxury Svasara Jungle Lodge located in the district of Maharastra, India. Svasara, a Sankrit word meaning “nest” is what this lodge provides—a sustainable sanctuary sprawling over 10 acres where guests can be one with nature against a backdrop of the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve. Even before the term “social responsibility” became a household term, Ratika was taught these principals and started prioritizing social responsibility at a very young age. She considers herself very fortunate to be able to now pursue her passion of sustainability through her “work”.
Svasara Jungle Lodge is consistently the recipient of Tripadvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Award and Certificate of Excellence year after year. In addition, the resort has also been given the highest recognition by TOFT, Travel Operators for Tigers, a global alliance who maintains a protocol for sustainable practices in advocating and supporting responsible tourism. Learn more about Ratika, what inspires her, and what she is most grateful for.
1. What inspired you to take over your family business, the Svasara Jungle Lodge?
I always had a deep fondness for nature and animals. And, I was always keen to take forward our family's entrepreneurial legacy (especially our hospitality business.) Svasara offered me a role that met both those interests and was aligned to my personal value (sustainability etc.), hence, it was a natural calling.
2. What has been the proudest moment since taking charge at Svasara Jungle Lodge?
Most grateful for the positive recognition and awards from various certification authorities/organizations that we have received for Svasara’s green operations, ethical business practices, and the positive impact we have had on our local community.
3. How has Covid-19 impacted your business? What are some of the changes you had to make in the wake of the pandemic?
Like so many other businesses in the hospitality & tourism space, even we have been impacted adversely. We reopened the property in mid-September with precautionary health & hygiene measures in place for our team and guests, however, the business challenges continue. We are focusing on strengthening our business resilience by exploring opportunities to diversify our income streams. As we strongly advocate eco-tourism, all the opportunities we are exploring will benefit the local community at our destination, making the local economy more robust too.
4. What is something that most people don’t know about you?
Only my close friends and family know about my introversion. People I meet momentarily or in formal networks at times perceive my quiet demeanor negatively.
5. What advice would you give to women who hope to start their own business or step up to take over a family business?
Have a clear vision and let a strong purpose guide your entrepreneurial journey. When challenges or differences come up, it is one’s clarity and commitment to a purpose that helps one overcome tough situations or differences.
6. What are some of the personal challenges you faced this year and what have you found to help maintain a healthy mental balance?
Being in a leadership role amidst the pandemic, especially during the lockdown was a major challenge as I was not able to reach out to the team personally for a long time. Balancing the financial pressures while continuing to provide the team with adequate support, was very distressing. The best self-improvement that I experienced during these challenging times, and what really helped me combat the stresses, was the adoption of a daily fitness routine (physical & mental). I work out every morning between 5 am to 6 am for at least 30 minutes. And for my mental balance, I self-coach by reading on an average 6-8 books a month.
7. What is next for Svasara Jungle Lodge?
We are keen to continue our commitment to responsible / low-impact tourism through conservation-focused jungle lodges across many of the bio-diverse jungles in India. While most projects that we are pursuing will be under our company ownership, few projects are going to be collaborative ventures with other like-minded partners.
8. In a country where males have typically dominated the leadership roles, what hardships have you faced as a female leader? How do you try to overcome those hardships?
I certainly face the gender bias and also the challenges that come with being the youngest in a family of five brothers. What has always helped me overcome the hardship is to be on a parallel continued journey of self-assertion and mastery. By always trying to excel at what one does, and by embracing learning every day, one gains confidence which is a valuable aura to possess as a leader. Slowly, then the divisive biases start taking a backstage.
9. We all know that Mother Nature is amazing, what is the most special thing you have witnessed at your resort?
The transformation from the barren land we inherited to the nature haven svasara is today has been miraculous. We have witnessed the thriving of biodiversity at our property in the most amazing way. With our conscious reforestation of the native tree species, we have become home to umpteen bird life, butterflies, small mammals like rabbits, civets, jungle cat, and we also get visited by bigger mammals like deer, sloth bear, even, leopard & tiger.
10. Given all that has transpired this year, what is the one thing you are most grateful for?
11. Do you have any special plans for this holiday season?
Spending time with family & friends that matter most is the special plan for every holiday season = )