Atmantan is one of the top luxury wellness resorts in the country. While it opened its doors in 2016, it was first conceptualized by founders Nikhil Kapur and Sharmilee Agrawal Kapur back in 2008. The project was completed 8 years after because of a combination of factors such as necessary permissions, clearances, constructing in a hilly terrain and the fact that the founders left no stone unturned to achieve a Gold LEED Certification. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a green building certification programme that recognizes the best-in-class building strategies and practices that are environmentally sustainable and responsible.
Right at the outset, they wanted to ensure that the wellness centre was earthy and energy-efficient. They conducted an extensive environmental study of the property. The results of which led to the implementation of key sustainable measures to maximise natural resources without harming the environment and use it to their advantage.
On World Environment Day, Nikhil Kapur and Sharmilee Agrawal Kapur share lessons they learn from their sustainable hospitality project with LuxeBook.
What kind of sustainable measures are implemented at Atmantan?
Nikhil: Atmantan is spread over 40 acres and is situated in the midst of nature in Mulshi, Maharashtra, which is a biodiversity hotspot. It gets a lot of rain during the monsoons and fabulous natural light for the other 8 months. We implemented a system to heat 40,000 litres of hot water through solar energy. What is noteworthy is that we imported special pipes from Holland whereby the temperature drop is less than a degree over a distance of 1 km. We have a solar zone and from there, the pipes run underground.
Sharmilee: Our buildings and rooms are designed to bring in maximum light because the light is prana or life-giving energy. The glass that we have used for the windows and even our air conditioners brings in light.
Nikhil: I have always been a nature lover and nature inspires me in so many ways. One of the revolutionary things at Atmantan is the way we treat our sewage. We worked with Navin Singh of Energy Tech Solutions, a professor and an M. Tech in Environmental Sciences, to implement the Solid Immobilised Bio-Filter (SIBF) system to treat sewage. In cities where we live, all the waste is treated with chemicals and the footprint of chemicals lingers on in the water. At Atmantan, we push the waste to soil. There are these plants called Jenni Kayne, which are absolutely gorgeous to look at and help cleanse the water. We have planted red and yellow variants. If you pass by, you won’t even realise you are standing in the middle of a sewage treatment plant. The water which comes out has no chemicals and this is used for horticulture and for organic farming at the property.
Sharmilee: Every 21 days, these plants need to be cut. We create our own bouquets using these flowers.
Nikhil: We also have a small vermicompost pit and an organic compost machine to treat our kitchen waste. Every 10-15 days, we get organic manure. We have 4-5 cattle so we use their urine, dry leaves and compost to make in-house fertilizer. This is used across 20-25 acres of landscape. In the last 2 years, we have not purchased any chemical waste for our plantation or for the farm.
Please tell us a little about your rainwater harvesting project?
Nikhil: We realised that not only us, but even the villagers run short of water during dry months. So over 3 to 4 years we did an extensive rainwater harvesting project not only on our land, but on 70-80 acres of land on the hill. We took permission from those owners. When water flows above ground, it flows at 1m/s. When it is percolated, it flows at 1 mm/s, so. More underground water helps us during the dry months of April, May and June. It became like a community project.
We still do rainwater harvesting on a yearly basis with, so that the water doesn’t runoff from the property.
We are also environmentally conscious in our operations. We discourage single-use plastic.
What were the challenges that you faced while setting up the property?
Sharmilee: When we were looking for funding, nobody understood the concept of wellness. They would ask us if we were a hotel and we said no. We are in the business of wellness, the hotel is how we give wellness. Getting permissions were also tough. But yes, being at this end of the project, everything has come through.
Nikhil: The number of permissions required is big. This is frequently voiced by the industry. If I am allowed to build a wellness centre, I should also get a license to run a restaurant, for rooms, and so on and so forth. Each permission has to be applied for with a different authority. This process must be simplified. The duration taken for getting these permissions is very long and it impacts the life the project.
What about organic farming?
Nikhil: Our food is fine-dining spa cuisine and is also therapeutic. The cuisine is absolutely delicious and nutritious. It is designed in such a way that it complements your health programme. Going by our philosophy of getting pure ingredients, we started farming in a small way because we realized that some of the things in the market are not as genuine as they claim to be. We also source from nearby, independent farmers who farm based on our protocols. We get about 20- 28 odd vegetables, depending on the season, from our own farms or from farms nearby. Currently, 50-60 per cent of the produce at Atmantan is organic. Our goal, over the next three years, is to go over 90 per cent.
You had plans to set up a wellness centre outside India…
Sharmilee: We were in talks with some people in Dubai, but we have not committed to it. They were waiting for Dubai’s economy to pick up before taking it forward.
In India, we had two offers – one from Kolkata and one from Southern India – to run their property on the Atmantan model, before the pandemic struck. At Atmantan, we have an integrated, result-oriented wellness approach, which means there is wellness at every touchpoint. We use every possible available science to make you feel better. We use a combination of Ayurveda and modern medicine. That is our USP.
The opportunities in India are huge and going forward, wellness will be more local-centric. We have always been safety and hygiene conscious. Now we will bring in all the other (pandemic-induced) safety procedures as well. There will be a few challenges in the short run, nevertheless.
What is the future of wellness tourism?
Sharmilee: This pandemic has reminded the world about the importance of wellness. In the short term, people who stay nearby within drivable distances will come to our centre. People with co-morbid conditions are going to check into wellness sooner or later.