Karam Veer is a happy teen. This third year B.Tech student of Manipal University in Jaipur moved into a new hostel room on the campus in August and he couldn’t be more delighted. “The rooms are great, it almost looks like a hotel with all the facilities,” he gushes. The fully air-conditioned rooms are equipped with 24-hour wi-fi access, laundry and house keeping services. Toilets have running hot and cold water. Step out and there’s a water cooler for every four rooms. What’s more, if he needs to complain, he can do it online and the caretaker attends to it, says Veer, who hails from Lucknow.

It’s a far cry from the grubby hostel rooms that most students are used to. And, it doesn’t have to be this way, says Mohandas Pai, Chairman, Manipal Global Education Services. Most universities neglect quality housing for students and the group intends to change that. Group company Manipal Integrated Services (MIS) is investing around Rs 800 crore to build hostel rooms for its burgeoning universities.

Many of the rooms, such as those in Jaipur, are up and running. The plan is to build 10,000 hostel rooms for students across the country. “By July we should have 4,500 rooms ready: 1,000 rooms in Bangalore are ready, 200 in Manipal are already done, 1,600 have come up in Jaipur and another 1,100 are planned here as well,” says Pai. The Rs 200-crore company, which has some private equity funding, is a services company as well.

Abhay Jain, Advisor to the group and board member of MIS, says it is in the process of completing the 1,600 rooms in phase-1 at Jaipur, which will accommodate 3,200 students. “Already about 2,400 students have moved in or will move in by this month-end. “Construction in phase-2 in Jaipur consisting of 1,100 rooms has already started and will be completed by July 2014,” says Jain.

In Manipal, MIS has built 208 rooms which were occupied last August. In Bangalore, MIS has constructed about 600 rooms; 400 of them are being used while the balance will be taken over by January. Manipal University trains bankers in this facility. The company, says Jain, has also taken over a property next door consisting of about 500 rooms which it is refurbishing. MIS is also building 500 rooms at its university in Malaysia.

Three-star stay

The rooms, says Jain, are comparable to a three-star hotel. “It costs us about Rs 8 lakh for each fully-furnished room with air-conditioning and all other services. Each room is about 300 sq ft in area. The Jaipur campus is a platinum rated with a completely optimised design for air-conditioning, water and power consumption,” he explains.

Jain says the hostels, branded YoHo, are not comparable to what exists today.

“We have seen some hostels, including those in the IIMs and IISc, but there is absolutely no comparison with any university/educational institute hostels anywhere in the country. Yes, some of the older hostels may be bigger in size, due to cheaper land and costs at that time. However, we have optimised the size of the rooms which are well furnished and designed with best-in-class equipment and fixtures,” says Jain.

The Jaipur campus will have huge landscaped green spaces, top-end gym facilities and both indoor and outdoor sports facilities. The company expects its Jaipur project to break even after three years.

And, what about the fees? Karam Veer, the student who has moved into the Jaipur hostel rooms, says he pays Rs 55,000 a year for the hostel. “In my view, the hostel fees are conservative considering the facilities and quality,” adds Jain.

(This article was published on November 29, 2013)
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