Sunday, 17 July 2016

Friends of Cinnamon

When I first met her, she was a client and I, a recruitment consultant. What began as a professional relationship over 10 years ago is now something that I can proudly call “friendship”. Meeting Shilpi and getting to know her during my professional relationship was always endearing. When she decided to move from Mumbai to Gurgaon, I understood that I was not just losing an excellent client but would be missing her chirpiness and enterprising temperament.
No sooner had she moved to Gurgaon, she excitedly told me about her journey towards being a hospitality entrepreneur. She launched Cinnamon Stays. When her entrepreneurial venture started to see success, I was extremely happy to see her grow from a single homestay in Gurgaon to a silver startup in Varanasi.  As luck would have it, I too moved to Delhi albeit only for two years and we could catch up more often. I paid her a visit and the full day that I spent with her in Cinnamon revealed to me much more than I thought I knew about her and Cinnamon.
Cinnamon has a soul, it is not just a place you go to stay. It’s a place where you “Sense” and you “feel”. It is a community of guests, travelers, small entrepreneurs all of whom rely heavily on the social media. I was amazed to see that magic of being connected via social media with interesting and like minded people who walk in as guests and walk out as friends.
One day, as we were on a usual chat up call, she excitedly told me about a program called “Friends of Cinnamon”. She told me that this was a unique initiative started by her to acknowledge all her friends who had been a support in making both Cinnamon Stays and Granny’s Inn where it is today. She explained that her friends played the role of evangelists and somehow contributed in making the business flourish.
“Friends of Cinnamon” kick started with an aim to create a safe and reliable network of people who would be guests at both the homestays purely on the basis of referrals and word of mouth.
As she unfolded the initiative, I could not help but wonder how important the safety of her guests was to her. As a friend, I have always spoken so much about her and her work that, invariably some of my friends have booked in her home stays and have had a wonderful experience. In order to acknowledge the same, she decided that for every referral that would walk in as a guest, I would be rewarded monetarily. My work would be very simple and informal. Much of it I was already doing, being the storyteller for Cinnamon and Granny’s Inn. Only, I needed to do it in a structured way, over social media, over my network - personal and professional, connect with travel bloggers and carry out small curated events to spread the word. This seemed like such a fun idea to me. This was no hard sell, only pure sharing with like minded people.
It has now been over a year since I formally became an FOC! I have had the most interesting interactions with other FOCs, have met people who I would never had in the normal course and built “friendships” with some who share the same interests as me. FOC has recently extended its scope as the business also extends. The Unhotel group as they are called is now seeking new properties to bring under their umbrella from Corbett to Goa, Ladakh to Coorg. Give them the same soul that they have. In case we come across any property fit to be an Unhotel (Cinnamon and Grannys), we can just drop in the reference to Shilpi and she will work her charm.
In case this sounds exciting to you, do go through the websites, and write in either to Shilpi or Manish at for more details on how to enrol in the ‘Friends of Cinnamon’ program. Believe me, there is a whole new world out there for us to seek and grow

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