FLO organised an interactive session Palaces to Boardrooms with two Princesses Mrinalika and Akshata
The 565 royal families or princely states existed at the time of India’s Independence. One family hit headlines for their hospitality project and put their place on the world map. That is the royal family of Bhanjdeo.
Royal descendant sisters Mrinalika and Akshita Bhanj Deo from the family were in the city at the invitation of the FICCI Ladies Organisation( FLO) and shared their journey from Palace to Boardrooms.
They are known for the restoration of their ancestral home into a boutique hotel. The idea struck during a communications stint in New York.
The 31 and 29 years old sisters shared that it was tough for them to convince their father of their venture. But, eventually, they did. Our joy had no bounds when our father said, "What a good time to start a hotel”. Just then revenge travel was happening. The business venture is three years old now.
We don’t know if our story is a story of success or inspiration. We both got into it without having any experience in the hospitality industry, Mrinalika said.
It is not rooms that we sell, we sell experience. We are into experiential tourism, which is now caught up well across world said, Mrinalika. Through this venture we are showcasing our culture, heritage, community, and architecture, they said. The sister's duo were in conversation with Ritu Shah, the Chairperson of FLO.
While we were on this project, I had to cut off from my social connections to focus on the venture. I focused on Yoga. It was the tool that helped me to focus well, think well and have clarity, she said.
We both sisters learnt a lot through storytelling which we would not have been able to learn through books. We learnt to differentiate our property through storytelling.
The Royal Sisters Akshita & Mrinalika Bhanj Deo have put Mayurbhanj On The World Map With the Belgadia Palace
What comes to your mind when you hear Royalty? Luxury, heritage, ........ right. I wanted to stand on my feet, Akshita said. Our family tree goes back to 697 AD, she said. I was a PR professional when I returned from America. Our family has about 1000 years of history. The Belgadia Palace, a 200-year-old marvel situated in the Mayurbhanj district of Odisha, which was home to the erstwhile royal family of Mayurbhanj, was our pilot project. We opened our ancestral home to tourists. We commenced restoration work in 2015 and it was opened to tourists in 2019. We had our own apprehensions. Rajasthan is known for its palaces. But how can The Belgadia Palace stand out and make it special? We had to work hard. We broke the illusion of a Royal family and got into the business of hospitality, she shared.
We set up a foundation, The Mayurbhanj Foundation. It was started by our mother. We help local artisans. We support the artisans of a 2000-year-old metal casting craft in Dhokra. We also support some who work with sabai grass (a plant that was imported by their ancestors from Madagascar and now generates income across three states). The tourists who stay are exposed to local art and culture. Artisans visit our property to showcase their works to our tourists. We hosted the Mayurbhanj Arts & Culture Festival. We have turned the palace into an artist residency. We invite international artists, the sisters shared/
Not many people knew Mayurbhanj before 2019, even though it had so much history, heritage and culture. It was only known for mines. And now things have changed. Now it is known everywhere for its culture, art, glory, history and architecture.
Welcoming the gathering Ritu Shah, Chairperson of FICCI Ladies Organisation said sustainability has to be the way of life and business. Women lead change. They are more concerned about sustainability for a better future. We are gathered here to recognise the inspiring journey of two royal sisters, their venture, sustainability practices in their business and revival of some dying art forms.