IIM Calcutta Alumnus Starts Online Portal for B&Bs - The RoomWale Story
Bored of staying in the mundane hotel room and spending a fortune on it? RoomWale lets you stay with local people wherever you travel. You can make friends with them, learn about their culture and save on money.In conversation with Abhilasha Dafria for YourStory.in, RoomWale co-founder Tanuj Mendiratta tells us how he brings travelers and property owners under one roof!
Tanuj, what is RoomWale all about? Tell us in detail.
RoomWale is a new look at the hospitality sector in India. It provides an alternative to people who don’t enjoy staying in expensive and mundane hotel rooms while traveling. RoomWale is a marketplace for B&Bs and Guest Houses across India, which allows travelers to stay with local people. RoomWale tries to create a win-win situation for both travelers and property owners. The travelers get a large range of accommodation options which suit their budget and taste, while the property owners can earn extra income by marketing their rooms to national and international travelers.
What triggered you to start RoomWale?
I have been in the B&B business for the last two years. I realized that there was a clear lack of any online platform that allows travelers to book B&Bs and Guest Houses across India. Moreover, there is no platform in India which allows home-owners to list spare rooms at their places and rent them out on a nightly basis. Thus the idea for starting RoomWale was born.
What is your prior work experience & educational background?
I have done my MBA in marketing from IIM Calcutta and Bachelors in Engineering from Delhi College of Engineering. Before co-founding RoomWale, I was involved in running my own B&B accommodation in Gurgaon. I have also handled several marketing and design consulting projects for reputed companies in the past. My co-founder, Himanshu Chadha has done his Masters in Computer Science from Oxford University, UK and was working in London as a computer scientist before starting RoomWale.
Where do you offer room booking services as of now? How many places are already listed on RoomWale?
As of now, we offer rooms in 6 cities in India – Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Gurgaon and Noida. We have more than 500 listings for B&Bs, Guest Houses and budget hotels. A few months down the line, we plan to offer bookings in more than 50 cities in India.
Which cities do you plan to go next?
We plan to cover major tourist destinations across India, especially the ones frequented by international tourists. Also on the radar are major tier-2 cities across India.
How big is your team and where are you based?
Currently, we have a small team of 8 people based out of Gurgaon that manages all the operations at RoomWale. In addition, we have a few tie-ups with travel agents across India and are looking to broaden our network of travel agents.
Do you have a team on-ground that ensures listing?
RoomWale, as a platform, allows anyone in India to list their rooms on our website for free. Currently, we do have a procurement team which facilities listings on our website. Though, as awareness about the merits of this platform increases, we foresee that majority of the listing on our website would be consumer driver.
How does the revenue model work?
Listing on RoomWale is completely free. We charge a small percentage of the booking amount as commission fee for confirmed bookings.
How many users visit site daily? How has the traction been so far?
On an average, we have around 200 to 300 unique visitors on our site daily, through there are days where we have got more than 1000 unique visitors. We are starting to see some good traction, though most bookings still happen through the phone number given on our website.
Which technology is RoomWale built on?
The platform has been built on PHP using LAMP architecture.
How much capital was required to startup RoomWale?
Not a lot of capital is actually required these days to set up an online platform. The harder part is getting the initial listings and financing the on-going marketing exercise.
Since anyone can post or book rooms on RoomWale, how do you ensure the safety of guests and hosts?
RoomWale lays a lot of emphasis on the safety and security of both travelers and hosts. Most of the properties listed on the website are government verified B&Bs and Guest Houses. For the properties not verified by the government, RoomWale has a mandatory policy of verification before the first guest visit. RoomWale also has a policy of holding the payment for the rooms for upto 24 hours after the guest’s check-in. This protects the traveler in case the actual rooms or amenities are not as listed by the property owner on the website.
How are you different from similar online B&B portals in the market?Most online travel booking sites offer stays in just hotels. RoomWale allows travelers to live with local people in B&Bs and Guest Houses. Staying with local people is an enriching experience that allows one to learn more about local culture and local cuisine, discover amazing places and make friends in every city one travels to. Moreover, one can do all this while saving a lot on money.
What have been your challenges of scale in this industry?
At the moment, we lay a lot of importance on customer experience on our website, during calls and any other form of interaction. A major challenge will be to maintain that level of customer experience as we scale up. The way JustDial has managed to do this is completely amazing and an inspiration for us. In addition, we are readying ourselves for many other challenges as we look to scale up in the coming months.
Plans to go mobile anytime soon?
Yes, we are in talks with several companies for making iPhone, Android and Blackberry apps for RoomWale. Hopefully we should have one by early 2012.
So, next time you are traveling, do give RoomWale a try!