When he returned to India in 1992 after leaving his job in the UN, Steve Borgia only wanted to do something constructive to improve the might of the rural India. He was moved by the growing urban-rural divide in his country, and realized the folly of making policies for India sitting in the UN headquarters in New York without understanding the culture, heritage of India. He decided to settle in a rural area on his return and do something constructive and just. “I am an avid lover of art and heritage and liked conservation and preservation of art and heritage. I wanted to do a business that suited my passion,” Steve said. This was the time when most of the original inhabitants in Swamimalai in Kumabakonam in Tanjore district were leaving their village selling their ancestral homes. Borgia bought an old house which was up for demolition. He converted that house into an 8-room hotel. Slowly and steadily, he bought over so many such heritage houses in the same village. Ultimately, Steve converted the whole village into a hotel. Today, his village hotel has 80 rooms with temple, temple tanks, etc.
Borgio wanted to prove that anybody with a passion and drive can build hotels. He wanted to shatter the myth that only Tatas, Oberois, ITCs and Maharajas can build hotels. “Anybody with a passion can come into the hotel business,” he adds. An apostle of Eco-tourism:
A true practitioner of eco-tourism principles in letter and spirit, Borgia built hotels by harnessing the talent and materials available around him and without harming the natural environment. “For every room I build, I add a cow into my dairy farm. Half of the milk is distributed to village women who have new born baby. Every year, I plant a fruit bearing tree and medicinal plant in every household in the village,” he says. The INDeco Hotel he passionately created and nurtured in Kumbakonam is the only Global Eco Tourism Award winning property in India. Borgio went on to create similar experiences in Mahabalipuram and Yercaud later on. Unlike conventional hotels, Borgio’s hotel projects are completed in few months. “We build a hotel in 30 days,” states Borgio. He has completed four-storey block with 50 rooms in fifty days time in Yercaud. He is currently adding a Palace block in his Kumbakonam property and confident of completing it in 100 days time.
“More than 70% of the material is procured from the village itself,” says Borgio, thereby helping and supporting the livelihood of the village folks. “The per capital income of my village is five to six times higher than the district average,” he asserts.
Borgio is currently the President of Eco-tourism Society of India and Advisory Committee member for UNESCO World Heritage Committee. He is also active member of the Heritage Hotels Association of India. “I use these platforms to inspire young people. I propagate my success story. I invite people to come and stay in our hotels for a week and learn about it,” he says. Green tourism is all about attitude, he says. “I stopped wearing suits when I understood the amount of detergents going into cleaning it which ultimately degenerates half-an-inch of earth,” he says.Day Break
Borgio follows early to bed, early to rise policy in life. He goes to bed at 8 in the evening and his day starts around 3 O’ clock in the morning. He spends first couple of hours of the day in reading and writing. A Commerce graduate from Layola College and Post-graduate in Financial Management, Borgio has written so many books, including novels. He compiled a Coffee Table Book on 4000 years of history of Postal service – Pigeons to Post - recently. “There are 1001 temples in Kumbakonam, I try to write a story a day about a temple in the vicinity and post it,” he says. He also finds time for his Swans and Deer in the morning to run with them and feed them.
While our leaders preach ‘clean India’, Borgio preaches and practices it. He goes around the village in the morning picking up all the wastes, thereby setting example for the entire village. “I also find time to meet the villagers for a few minutes and offer my own solutions to their problems,” he informs.
Although Borgio is not an architect, a lot of students see him as their mentor. They work closely with him in his properties. “They share my cabin in my office, sit, talk and eat with me and go back inspired after few months. I try to inspire young people.” Family
Borgio’s wife is a practicing doctor, and they have two daughters. While his elder daughter is a wildlife enthusiast, his younger daughter has completed Jewellery designing.
Borgio is inspired by none other than Lord Shiva. It is not the knowledge that makes you achieve your goals, but the positive energy in you that make you successful, he believes strongly. However, Borgio does not have the ambition to build a business empire of his own. “I can build a palace of my own, but I don’t want a palace for myself. If I can help a bird come and build a nest, hatch safely and take its offspring away safely, I believe I have done my job for my karma,” he says.
By the by, INDeco Leisure Hotels is a 100% debt-free hotel company!