At Rise My Venture, We always eager to research about new happenings going on in Indian startup culture. We recently researched about one of the India’s fastest growing startup Stayzilla. There is a famous Tamil saying – “‘YaadhumOorey, YaavarumKaelir,’ Any town is home, anyone is kin”.
This 3000-year-old Tamil philosophy is what Stayzilla seems to be latching on to while venturing into the vertical of alternate home stays segment.
Encouraging homeowners to open their doors and vacant rooms to travelers, Founder Yogendra Vasupal says, “Moving forward, Stayzilla will not just remain to be a marketplace but be all about experiences with the launch of our alternate stay segment.”
According to him, the fragmented stay market in India is short of close to one million rooms. “Today travel is not a problem, real estate is,” he adds. Moreover, through the introduction of this third vertical, the company is planning to rope in a new breed of travelers seeking more customized and personalized options of homestay.
The firm has already opened up 7500 rooms in just 40 days across different cities and townships vying to rack up the numbers to half a million rooms in the next three years. The firm states that in the future 50 per cent of their business might be homestays.
Wondering how this works? Launched only on the app currently, the platform allows you to choose if you are a host, guest, or both. Then comes in a set of likes and interests which the host chooses, accompanied by a few dos and don’ts. These likes and interests can vary from your favorite band to any activity you would like to offer with the stay, say cheese making or basic photography.
There are a few questions for the guests as well. Depending on the interests matched, properties get unlocked. There is also an additional chat platform which is introduced for the individuals to bond and strike a chord with.
Talking about the safety issue, Yogendra or Yogi as he’s fondly known, tells us that while bonding on certain shared interests, the fear of sharing your property with someone comes down to a large extent.
Introducing the concept of community
However, in scenarios where guests do not leave, it becomes difficult for Stayzilla to take a call on the same. Therefore, Stayzilla is creating communities and conducting events where different homestay owners can network, as well as sign up to be a part of a certain community. Depending on the dedication and resourcefulness, a Stayzilla mentor is chosen for the community. On any troubles by any guest, an SOS goes to the mentor who would be able to understand the ground reality better and tackle the problem better. Yogi says, “We can only provide more structure and legal framework to the process. However, the foot on street execution needs to be done by the community. Moreover, home stay owners get to opt in since this isn’t a free service.”
The one-time fee to opt in for the community is expected to be Rs 5000. Stayzilla also provides insurance for your homes for theft and other losses. These events are also a part of their strategy to scale up the number of homestay owners to 5000.
The concept of homestays isn’t new in India, with certain state governments encouraging homestays in India. Replying to why those initiatives never seem to work, Yogi says that the government is not a marketplace with demand unlike Stayzilla.
He adds – “I’m very bullish about this idea. If Indians and senior citizens can open up their homes, it would be much easier to venture into structured markets.”
Moving forward in the next six months, Stayzilla also aims to psychologically warm up the guests about what to expect since homestays typically don’t offer a hotel-like experience.
Usually, Stayzilla has associates, which have an odd checklist for verification. However, there are bottlenecks in terms of leads not shown on the platform due to pending verification.
According to the founder, a plan to eradicate the manual verification model may be on the charts. While rethinking possibilities of allowing hosts to show their property directly without verifying it, Yogi says, “We are thinking of things we can do in the future which allow us to scale without leaving out on trust and safety. This is where we are grappling. We are assessing whether this social interest model is powerful enough in itself, allowing a higher level of verification which will help us to slow down on manual verification.”
The firm has been spending almost Rs 2-3 crores on their marketing in the past two years and surely plans to ramp up the expenditure to Rs 6 crores. Since, Stayzilla is only a marketplace, brand presence seems to be a major factor to their success. Their major point of focus is currently on digital advertising and presence.
The firm has 800,000 rooms across 35,000 properties across India. While they are divided into three market segments – structured, unstructured, and homestays respectively, the firm is hoping that 50 percent of their business might come from homestays.
According to the Founder, each property in the structured category of three stars has 35 rooms and is charged at Rs 2,700; while the unstructured category accounts for 27 rooms per property charging an average of Rs 800. Homestays account for four rooms per property charging Rs 2000.
At present, the portal clocks in an average of 7000 room per day, scoring revenue of $ 4 million in August. They are currently growing at a pace of 15 per cent month on month.
Commenting on the same, Yogi tells us the basic difference between Airbnb and Stayzilla’s idea: “Airbnb has a lot of users but there isn’t any interaction happening between them. It is much more like Myspace. Our idea is different. We plan to make a Facebook of travel rather than a Myspace, with active engagement between users on the platform.”
With a unique idea proposition, Stayzilla is hoping to take its game a notch higher as compared to the other competitors. However, the unique proposition of Airbnb also comes through their cheap and affordable stays when compared to regular homestays offered by Stayzilla.
However, hinting the same, Yogi says that differential pricing might be on the charts. This means that an owner could rent out his room at a much cheaper price if he really likes the guest, based on their shared interest.
With such an idea in head, scalability and moving fast seem to be the need of the hour. For faster scalability, Stayzilla might have to drop the verification process and quality checks which according to the firm are bottlenecks to active leads which can be accommodated. Therefore, Stayzilla might have also created the concept of community to eradicate manual checks. Practically seen, once the concept of manual checks are removed there is nothing stopping Stayzilla from taking it’s offerings abroad, making it a matter of a few months.
This article has been well researched by Rise My Venture team.