For 19-year-old Shivani Kapoor, the idea of joining a prestigious institute in Delhi was exciting. But it also meant having to deal with the tedious task of finding a place to stay that was close to college, convenient as well as inexpensive. This meant she had to deal with brokers, tour an unfamiliar city and talk to unknown people.
44-year old Viren Jain faced a similar problem while trying to find accommodation for a relative’s daughter who had come to Delhi for her education. He found his time being spent mostly in visiting several parts of the city, dealing with multiple brokers and checking out different options. He found it surprising that there was no single place to check the status of accommodations, with accurate descriptions and pricing.
“Going through real-estate portals also didn’t help as a lot of them declined providing accommodation to students. That set me thinking and the idea of a platform was born where students could find accommodations,” says Viren.
Viren thus started Studentacco, a students-only accommodation portal that brings the different kinds of student accommodations like PGs and flats on one platform.
Working as an online aggregator for quality furnished accommodation in the student community, Studentacco aims to facilitate an informed, swift and transparent transaction.
While the idea was in place for Viren, who is an alumnus of Manchester Business School and Shri Ram College of Commerce, he found it difficult to convince people to be a part of the portal, as there is a general bias against letting property out for students.
After some convincing on checks and balances, the team was able to work with owners to create clean, spacious, standardised and fully-furnished accommodations.
Viren’s wife Aarti Jain, also an alumna of Manchester Business School, and ex-Director of Rollatainers Limited, soon joined him in his endeavour.
Viren found the third co-founder in Amit Chhabra, who had strong operational expertise. Starting May last year, the trio began to work towards building a stronger base for Studentacco across Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida. Today, the team consists of 15 people.
We are focusing on getting people who understand the accommodation problem that students face. Understand their core needs along with understanding the concerns of the home and PG owners.
Studentacco has been able to aggregate over 14,000 student beds and accommodations across Delhi, Noida and Gurgaon till date. The team is targeting to touch 20,000 student beds in the next three-four months.
Studentacco is working to create branded, ready-to-move-in, fully-furnished living spaces. It works on an aggregator model and charges PG and house owners for every accommodation closed.
“PGs offerings are non-standardised and there is no predictability of the facilities and amenities available at any location. Studentacco strives to provide the same experience across all the accommodations,” says Viren.
Studentacco works by matching students with quality accommodation providers in a trustworthy manner. The team ensures that the offering on the site is fully verified and has authentic pictures, which enable quick decision-making by the student.
Currently bootstrapped, the startup intends to expand across Delhi NCR, and also looking to raise funds for multi-city expansion. The team intends to target the top 10 student hotspots in the next two years.
The market for student accommodation seems to be growing even in India, where it is believed to be worth $3 million. A survey conducted last year suggested that there were close to 50 lakh students enrolling in colleges and universities across 20 cities in the country.
Of these, close to 54 percent were from other cities, and only 4.8 lakh hostel seats were available for the base of 27.5 lakh students. This meant that the remaining students had to seek accommodation at PGs or flats.
Gaurav Munjal founded Flat.to—acquired by Commonfloor—which focuses on helping students find relevant accommodation. Apart from that there also is Housing Anywhere, an international platform that helps students find accommodation as per their requirements in 118 countries and 531 cities. Then there are big players like Student.com and Uniplaces.
In India, hotel aggregator Wudstay is looking to expand aggressively in this space. The company claims to have provided over 35,000 beds since the launch of its hostel and PG network across five cities, starting with Kota in Rajasthan.