ID proof. Check. 18 years of age. Check. A couple's room for 10 hours? Check that too, thanks to a new hotel-booking portal that's expanding its roster to three and four-stars in Andheri
Cooples need a room, not a judgment, is the bold statement on the homepage of StayUncle.com, touted as India's first hour-based booking portal for unmarried couples. Currently, the website features three, four and five stars in Delhi NCR with an option of two slots — 10 am to 7 pm and 9 pm to 8 am. The USP: Pay only for the 10 hours that you use the room for, which ends up 45 per cent cheaper than booking one for 24 hours, mentions the website. Blaze Arizanov, Macedonia-born, Delhi-based co-founder and marketing head of the portal does the math for us, "A hotel room that would normally cost you '3,500-4,000 will available for '1,800." What about the lovebirds in Mumbai, you may ask. The founders have tied up with three and four-star hotels around Andheri that will soon be uploaded on the website.
The uncle's story
StayUncle was born in 2014 when Arizanov met BITS Pilani graduate Sanchit Sethi at a social media workshop in Delhi. While Sethi is the CEO, software engineer Nand Kumar Singh, who joined the duo a few months later, is the technology head and operates from Bengaluru. Initially, the portal called out to travellers looking for shorter stay options before evolving into a couple's best friend, last September, when the founders realised the problem faced by urban couples looking for a hotel room.
(From left) The co-founders Nand Kumar Singh, Blaze Arizanov and Sanchit Sethi
Arizanov recalls, "First, we checked with our friends who complained that couples with local ID proof are also not given a room, even in the wake of unsafe streets at 2 am. Then, we interviewed couples, our early adopters, social media followers and email subscribers. They shared that often, a boy and a girl are not allowed to stay together even if they're siblings or business colleagues. Colleagues complained that when they travelled with a female counterpart for business purpose, they were denied stay," he shares, adding, "Hoteliers assumed that a male and female together would equate to prostitution even after submitting genuine ID proofs. Girls are most affected because their reputation is tarnished on the spot."
The thought of police raids (remember the incident where cops detained couples at a hotel in Madh island last year?) may deter couples from logging onto booking portals, unsure of a hotel's standards. So, the founders ensure to validate the hotels before cracking the deal, which is on a standard commission basis. "Sanchit checks them out personally. We tie up only with premium, long-established hotels that care about their reputation. On the other hand, we need mandatory government ID proof from both the partners, who should be minimum 18 years of age," he assures.
In your city soon
Having gone viral last week, the portal's social media pages have been flooded with expansion demands and the team plans to feature Kolkata, Bengaluru and Chennai on the list this summer. He adds, "People have also asked for a mobile app and an improved website but we are short of resources. So, we are building India's first crowdsourced startup." The team has put a blog inviting users to submit the names of hotels that fit the bill and even mockups of apps to help them service you better.
Log on to: stayuncle.com
Photos: Katrina Kaif, Shamita Shetty at Mumbai airport
Photos: Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt promote 'Badri...' on 'Dil Hai Hindustani'
In pictures: 15 facts about kissing that will surprise you
Photos: Shahid Kapoor and Mira Rajput at cafe in Bandra
Photos: Deepika Padukone, Neha Dhupia and Soha Ali Khan at event