In conservative India, a startup is helping young lovers find a room585 views
NEW DELHI: Young unmarried couples looking for some privacy in conservative India are often vulnerable to naming and shaming, and humiliation by friends and family. Sometimes, they fall prey to physical violence by the police. Vigilante groups have assaulted lovers in parks, beaches, and pubs for engaging in any sort of public display of affection. As a result, consenting adults, if they are unmarried, often struggle to find hotel rooms for some private time.
StayUncle, the New Delhi-based startup, is trying to rescue the young lovers from the fear of getting caught and being treated as if they have committed a crime.
Sanchit Sethi, founder of the year-old startup, works with his team and finds hotels where unmarried couples can rent rooms for a duration for as short as 8-10 hours. The idea is to help them find affordable rooms, without feeling uncomfortable or unsafe.
“There is no law in India that prohibits (unmarried) couples from renting a room,” Sethi said. “As long as you have a government identity card, you should be given a room. We don’t live in the 1950s anymore. What we are trying to do is change the mindset of hoteliers.”
“Couples need a room. Not a judgment.”
Sethi’s initial business plan was to offer hotel rooms for shorter duration to travelers as most hotels in India take reservations on a 24-hour basis—a relatively expensive affair. Together with Blaze Arizanov, a digital marketer, the duo launched StayUncle in April 2015. New Delhi’s Hotel Shimla Heritage became StayUncle’s first tie-up.
The company also received its first angel investment of a couple of hundred thousand rupees from Ajay Naqvi, the country marketing manager for Airbnb, according to Sethi.
“What was surprising was that 99% of the inquiries we were receiving were from unmarried couples looking for rooms,” said Sethi, a Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS)-Pilani graduate. That’s when StayUncle decided to re-examine its business strategy.
“We started fresh all over again. This time, with the focus on unmarried couples,” said Sethi.
Dating in India can be tough. Though it is still a challenge, Sethi and his team continue to make profit and keep the business alive in the name of sharing love.