In the past couple of years, farmhouses around Sohna, Gurgaon have attracted city slickers wanting to get a slice of village life. But now they are a hot a favorite with the corporate world too. Corporates use them as picnic spots and training grounds for employees.
It’s not unusual to see busloads of well-heeled corporate executives in the Aravalis for picnics, conferences, family day and training programmes. In fact, corporates forms 80 per cent of the clientele of these farmhouses. There are about a dozen farmhouses around Gurgaon catering to the corporates. Most of these farmhouses came up in the last seven years after the Haryana government launched the concept of farm tourism in 2003.
“They are tired of five-star hotels and resorts, most of which are similar in ambience and facilities. Now they want something different. Here they get genuine rural experience and vast green stretches to relax and conduct their training programmes,” says Deven Srivastav, owner of Surjivan, a farmhouse near Sohna.
Surjivan has a huge mud hut which serves as a conference room. There are other ochre-coloured mud and straw huts where the corporate guests stay for night.
“Unlike the typical five-star hotels, our staff has people from surrounding villages who give our corporate guests a taste of village hospitality,” says Srivastav, a former HR professional.
His farmhouse offers various packages to companies and gets about 250 corporate groups a year.
Another reason why corporates choose farmhouses over hotels is the corporate training that puts a lot of emphasis on outdoor activities.
Farmhouses offer a gamut of adventure sports such as rock climbing, zorbing, paintball game, hot air ballooning and barn bridges to suit the requirements of their clients.
“We offer as many as 15 adventure sports at our farmhouse. Most of my clients are corporates, not just from NCR but also from cities like Hyderabad and Bangalore. We get about 20-25 companies every month. At the farmhouse, companies organise activities like crossing barn bridges and valleys. These adventure are not just for fun; companies organise them to assess team spirit, temperament and leadership qualities of their employees. Many of these young corporate executives have never seen a village in their life, so we also organise activities such as bullock cart rides for them,” says Major S.K. Yadav, managing director, Wanderlust, company that runs Waterbanks, a farmhouse near Damdama lake in, Sohna.
The farmhouses are also a favourite place for off-site meetings for senior executives — a vital tool for companies for recharging management teams and devising strategy and tactics.
“These days the ambiences and facilities at corporate offices are similar to those of five-star hotels and resorts. A farmhouse offers open spaces and greenery which we need for our breakout activities and off-sites. A five-star hotel cannot provide so much space; besides, these farmhouse are not far away from our office in Gurgaon and they much cheaper compared to five star hotels. Even the food is so different. While our young employees love the experience, seniors are a bit wary as they want more comforts,” says Harlina Sodhi, vice-president, learning and development, Genpact.
Adds Rajan Mahbubani, a corporate training consultant and vice-president, human resources, Espire Infolabs Limited, “Most of our training interventions are military-based which cannot be conducted in hotels. We train our employees not by listening, but by doing. So, we prefer these farmhouses.”
While most companies come for day stay at these farmhouses, many come for two to three nights for special conferences, and they come in both small and large groups. “We have hosted corporate groups as small 20 people and as large as 1,000,” says says Atul Vashisth, the owner of Botanix, which is spread over an area of 50 acres and boasts of a various theme gardens.