Time, money, knowledge. All are forms of investment and arguably equally important depending on the quality of each. Some seek monetary investment for personal wealth, whereas others may invest time in someone merely as an act of altruism. An investment opportunity can be blindingly obvious, or it can be sought through professional means, though at times it’s a spontaneous gamble driven from an instinct.
Back in 2012, mother and son, Oliver and Jacqueline had been travelling around the south of India for several weeks when they decided to detour to the small town of Marikulum in Kerala. At the time Marikulum had very little mention in any guide books, which are generally a staple accessory for the majority of backpackers, and ironically often remove an element of spontaneity. Though in good spirit and keen for adventure, with the limited information available the travellers discovered a small homestay (a typical means of accommodation in India) called Marari Dreamz. The lack of information, and in particular no reviews made them slightly apprehensive, though at the same time curious and excited. However they needn’t have been nervous in the slightest, as they were immediately greeted by the warm welcome of the homestay’s owners, Allwyn and Jency. At this point neither Oliver or Jacqueline had a clue that they were in fact the couples first guests, hence the lack of reviews. At a later date, Allwyn explained￼ that after taking his first booking only the night before, he had been up all night with family and friends frantically readying the homestay having not expected guests so soon, and were still painting moments before they walked through the gate. Needless to say, neither party were anticipating this to be the unravelling of a truly great and beneficial friendship.
Over dinner the hosts and travellers really hit thing’s off, and as the conversation deepened, it became apparent that Allwyn and Jency’s journey that lead to the opening of Marari Dreamz was far from straight forward. The couple explained how they met in 2006 whilst still studying at University in Cochin, and only after 2 years of friendship moved in together and became official. Initially this begins as a typical love story, however the couple faced an uphill struggle from the offset due to family opposition as the couple were from different casts. Jency is from a fisherman family, and Allwyn was born into a family of landlords, which to a traditional family in India can be problematic. The majority of pressure on the couple to split came from Allwny’s family, peaking in 2008 when they strongly supported an opportunity for Allwyn to fly to Italy with the hopes of building a career over there. He explains that this appeared an appealing path at the time, and with Jency’s support and understanding he made the move, though always with the intention for his wife to join him once he had settled. The rosy façade did not last long, and Allwyn became suspicious of his family’s once seemingly good intentions over him moving to Italy and leaving Jency in their care. The final straw came when he realised Jency would never be able to live there due to political circumstances at the time, and so swiftly returned to India, and to Jency who had never given up hope or support for him during their year apart.
Upon his return to India, Allwyn became aware of the increasing tourism in Marikulum, and noted with only one homestay in the village there was a shortage of accommodation. He had returned straight back to working long hours in a bank, though began to visualise the benefits if he were to open a homestay with Jency. Finding the initial funding and time was hard, but eventually their first room called ‘Coconut Villa’ was built just in time for their guests.
Jacqueline saw something special in Allwyn and Jency, adoring their kind hearts and fierce work ethic, and so suggested that Oliver and herself, along with several other family members invest in the couple. They offered the funds to build an extra room onto their homestay, and agreed on a percentage of the revenue each month which would give them a return, but in no way halt Allwyn and Jency’s development. Delighted by the offer the couple agreed, and in no time they had built a second beautiful room. From there the business gained serious momentum, with consistent 5* Trip Advisor reviews attracting more bookings than they could have hoped for, they were able to save enough money within a year to build a third room.
Jacqueline explains that initially the money was more of a gesture to help out the couple she had become so close with, but in fact it proved to be a great investment, and at the time were receiving much more than they would have from investing their money with a bank. Trust has been key throughout the investment, there was no security through signing contracts, they relied upon each others word, and 6 years later this trust is yet to fault.
Allwyn has numerous stories of times which simply would have failed without sheer persistence, hard work and adaptability. One story that sticks in my mind is another all nighter before their second booking, fashioning a hot water system with absolutely no experience as his guests had promised to cancel their reservation if they could not have a hot shower. He explains it was a long and stressful night, but his perseverance paid off.
Potentially the biggest hurdle for Allwny and Jency was when they did something unimaginable within the deeply religious village of Marikulum, and fought against the church. The daily church services are cherished by most that live in the small village, though over time the music was unnecessarily increased. Allwyn believes this was because of the influence from other business people in Marikulum, though these direct details are not for us to speculate. However, what we can say is that Allwyn and Jency persisted for a long period of time to have the noise reduced in order to protect the business they had worked so hard to build a flawless reputation for. They explain that to have achieved any lasting effect they had to write numerous letters to every minister in India, and eventually the influence they created from the top forced the local authorities to take action. A little-known law uncovered by Allwyn is that it is in fact illegal in India to make noise above 50 decibels, and it is this law which the local church must now abide.
Nothing is too much trouble for the couple who endeavour to make each guests stay memorable, reflected in their Trip Advisor ranking which now sees them at number 7 in the whole of India. Taking into account the tens of thousands of homestays in this huge country, this is a seriously impressive achievement!
Jacqueline believed in the couple, which I why she invested. Of course the money allowed the business to initially grow so quickly, but the belief and encouragement that investment instilled in the couple cannot be undermined. They worked together, sharing ideas and knowledge on every aspect of the business, from website designing to the personalised décor of each room, ultimately creating the truly unique experience of Marari Dreamz.
Yes the business is flourishing, and the investment benefited both parties monetarily, but fundamentally the success of Marari Dreamz demonstrates what can be achieved through trust, great friendship and an awful lot of perseverance. Allwyn and Jency now have a total of four villas, and even manage to find time for the occasional well deserved holiday. They are an inspiration, and we wish them nothing but the success they deserve.
For more information head over to their website www.mararidreamz.com