Many of us love to travel to new places and explore different markets, cuisines and monuments. But when it comes to finding reasonable accommodation, we are forced to rely on backpacker hostels. These places are often filthy and have untidy beds, stinky washrooms, horrible food and no services like television and Wi-Fi. An unpleasant experience like this often sucks the fun out of the entire trip. The horrors of these places may continue to haunt one long after the trip.
Realizing this problem that many young travellers face, IIT and IIM graduates have started India’s first chain of backpacker hostels- Zostel. The company provides secure, hygienic, centrally located and pocket-friendly accommodation for young travellers. It targets young travellers, in the age group of 16-34 years. Zostel is the brainchild of seven young travel enthusiasts. They conceived the idea of such a business due to their own experiences of hostels across the world. They realized that there was a lot happening in terms of technology to make travel planning better in the form of travelling websites and applications but there was not much in terms of on-the-ground activities. The only options a traveller had were either exorbitant hotels or low-priced lodges. While hotels required spending a lot from one’s pocket, lodges simply did not have ample facilities.
The whole concept of backpacker hostels that exists in the West was missing in India and the very few that were present were plagued with problems of unhygienic conditions and lack of amenities. And this is how the idea for Zostel came about. These experiences prompted them to come up with premier facilities that could match the international standards of security and hygiene that are set by the hostels in the West.
These people have brought something completely new to startup system by moving away from the applications and tech products that are usually built by students of these institutions. The bigger vision is to make a dent in the hospitality industry in India, says Dharamveer Chauhan, an IIM Calcutta student and one of the founders. ‘We’re all employees and we’re all co-founders. There is a supremely high level of energy in the team and at this pace, we’re sure we’ll be achieving our targets in the hospitality space,’ he shares.
As it one of the most visited places in the country due to its rich cultural heritage, Zostel is currently operating in three cities of Rajasthan- Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur. The wide array of services offered by Zostel comprise daily housekeeping included in the room rate, neat dormitories and private rooms, secure private lockers, 24*7 room air-conditioning, daily house-keeping, all facility common kitchen, daily laundry facility, Wi-Fi, and a common room.
The initial response that Zostel has received from customers has been tremendous. This is primarily due to the facilities provided in the hostels and the reasonable tariff, which is around Rs. 500. The founders are planning to build similar hostels in 7-8 other cities in the next year.
The startup recently announced an angel round of Rs. 5 crores from a Malaysia based angel investor, Presha Paragash. Zostel has also participated in and won some top business plan competitions like those organized by Richard Ivey School of Business, IIT Bombay, which have brought in extra cash. They have also won the prestigious Wharton India Economic Forum Startup Competition. The founders plan to use this funding for building a central technology infrastructure to streamline processes and hire self-driven people.
Zostel also offers an all expense paid travel expedition across the country for 50 days and a stipend of Rs.50, 000 to shortlisted interns. The fact that their first internship campaign with MTV attracted almost 7,000 applications proves the acceptance and popularity of Zostel as a youth brand.
What makes Zostel different from other startups is the fact that it has revolutionised budget travelling by identifying the problem that travellers face while looking for reasonable accommodation. Zostel has succeeded in providing a unique experience to young travellers. It has transformed the way people look at travelling. One can be sure that the upcoming hostels will be as good as the existing ones. Way to go team Zostel!