Zostel is an ambitious effort by a bunch of IIT-IIM graduates to build a chain of backpacker hostels. The company had picked up steam when we wrote about it earlier in January and is now nearing a year since its launch. The two hostels in Jaipur and Jodhpur have set the foundation and they’ve attracted some positive attention. Their most recent campaign — The Best Internship — that was launched in February 2014 is what we’re going to talk about here.
Zostel is offering an all expense paid travel expedition across the country (>15 states) for 50 days and a stipend of INR 50,000 to shortlisted interns. Keeping in mind the schedule of most applicants, Zostel has ensured the timing to overlap with the vacation period in various institutions. In addition, the selected CEOs (Chief Exploratory Officers) will get featured across media channels like MTV.
YourStory caught up with Co-founder Paavan Nanda to learn more:
YS: What was the intention behind starting the campaign? When did you launch?
PN: When we were backpacking outside India, we realized that there is big difference between our youth vis-a-vis international travellers, who often take a gap year in their student years to travel the world. In the process, they not only end up seeing different things, but also make new friends, learn new cultures, and gain experiences.
In India, such a concept is non-existent. Here people travel with a very conservative mindset, without much room for adventure. Through the Best Internship Ever, we are simply going to make a handful of young folks travel across the country to experience travel in a different way. It is our attempt to spread awareness of the awe-inspiring beauty of this country and give a flavour of backpacking to today’s youth. There is going to be a lot of excitement for the interns as well as those who would be following their journey.
YS: How has the response been? How many students have applied?
PN: The selection process for this enticing campaign started on February 14 with the theme of ‘Love for travelling’ and the response has been phenomenal since then. We received close to 70,000 applications between February 14 and March 20. We are right now in the process of conducting personal interviews to know these candidates better. We have already selected the overall topper of the leader board – Umesh Suresh, who will be one of the CEOs going for the internship.
YS: How did the MTV tie up come about?
PN: Even before the start of this campaign, we had a plan to make it as grand as possible. This got further substantiated when we received a tremendous response from applicants. Owing to our educational background and peer network, we managed to get a foot in the door to pitch to MTV. This campaign found immediate resonance within their team and they were happy to get associated.I would also like to compliment them on being really agile and innovative in their approach even after being such a big brand in today’s youth media.
The way this campaign picked fire, it had all the potential in the world to get some solid media coverage. We wanted to tie up with a brand that has a vast reach among our target audience i.e., Indian youth in the age group of 18-30 years. MTV gave us that kind of platform and extended our reach. Since we didn’t want anybody to be left out of the campaign, we have started the second leg of the selection process — ‘Best Internship Ever – MTV Wild Card’. All those who couldn’t apply earlier or couldn’t make the cut in the first leg must apply here. Frankly speaking, the second leg has made the process all the more easy for the candidates and they just need to do two tasks (write a blog and upload a video) to become a CEO.
YS: What do you expect to emerge from the campaign?
PN: More than us, we are happy that the industry would emerge in a positive light in the minds of the Indian youth. We get hundreds of inquiries everyday about our hostels and backpacking itineraries. During personal interviews, when we are speaking to these applicants, there is lot optimism towards this new-found way of travelling. We had a fairly straight forward goal when we started our chain of backpacker’s hostels – to change the way India travels. It is good to see that this campaign is helping us move closer to that goal.
YS: Zooming out a bit, how is Zostel doing?
PN: Very fine indeed. Zostel is demonstrating a perfect analogy with a year-old kid. While the kid at this age starts to stand on its own feet, we are also in the process of standardizing most of our tech., HR, operations and finance related processes. Just like a toddler starts gaining certain sense of recognition in the community at this age, we have gained a sizeable subscriber base of 50,000 on Facebook and a lot more on other travel communities like Tripadvisor and Hostelworld. Moving away from Cerelac to a more solid diet, we are in the process to now obtain external financial muscles to grow at a faster pace.