A web site for house-hunters

Navadha Pandey New Delhi | Updated on March 22, 2013 Published on March 22, 2013

The portal also has information such as tiffin services and coaching classes

Web site points to owners willing to take you in as a paying guest

Imagine getting off a train from Kochi to Delhi, taking a rickshaw to Delhi University, and beaming with happiness that you’ve bagged a seat at a prestigious college.

Well, wait. The biggest hurdle — accommodation — still awaits. But, no sweat. A group of students are there to help you., a start-up by a group of Delhi University students, helps students settle down in Delhi.

The founders of this Web site are nine outstation students who had faced similar problems upon their arrival in Delhi.

“Finding the right PG (paying guest accommodation) has always been a difficult task. Students have little or no information. Also, PG home owners have no interaction with students and, hence, rely on brokers. But, most brokers demand a month’s rent in advance as commission,” says Calvin Pinto, co-founder of the Web site. We realised that an online information portal was the best way forward, the students say. In October 2011, these students began working on the idea and started contacting a few PG owners. In January 2012, they started preparing a database as well as a PG owner relation-building process.

When asked about their teething troubles, founder Sana Khan said, “PG owners were initially sceptical about joining the enterprise because they were not comfortable with making their information accessible. Gaining their trust was a painstaking process. But once we assured them of the benefits of such marketing, they were happy to sign up.” Sukrati Gupta, another founding member, adds that collecting, sorting and verifying the information on the accommodations available was cumbersome and time-consuming. . Some of the members even chose to work on the Web site instead of going home during vacations. Eventually, the team tied up with Quintessence Technologies, which developed the Web site and joined them to provide corporate guidance and technical assistance.

The portal was launched in the first week of June last year. And the team ventured on its marketing effort with posters across colleges in North Campus, Delhi University, and visits to the colleges during the admission period. The portal, apart from listing the accommodation details, also has information regarding tiffin services, restaurants and coaching classes in the area. The Web site, its founders claim, has helped about 1,000-1,200 students find a place to stay. They have also set up a helpline number and have helped about 500 students through it.

Tariq Musthafa says the best feeling is when parents approach them and appreciate their efforts.

But the journey hasn’t been an easy one. Raseem Anwar, another group member, says that when it came to assisting students during the admission process, they had planned on distributing pamphlets and setting up help-desks in colleges. However, the Delhi University authorities did not permit this.

The group managed to circumvent these difficulties through on-campus personalised assistance and other innovative techniques, such as distributing FindYourPG T-shirts to rickshaw pullers.

They were the hospitality partners of Business Conclave’13, SRCC’s national management festival, which received participation from across the country and drew worldwide media coverage for its panel of speakers, one of which was Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. It was also the hospitality partner for Ecostasy, the annual economics festival of SRCC and for ShantiNarayan, the Hansraj College debating society’s annual festival. But, what about profitability? They say in the first year they did not charge anything from the PG owners but later started charging a nominal cut from a month’s rent as commission from the owners.

And, was it difficult managing studies with this venture? Yes, it was, says Calvin. “In fact, we would meet and discuss our progress even during the exams. But, we were able to manage both studies and the enterprise. Our parents, too, were supportive, though they made it clear that academics should not suffer,” he adds.

On future plans, the group says it wants to expand into South Campus and even Gurgaon. “We are also working on further improving the customer interface, such as user reviews on the paying guest accommodations, to make the service more user friendly,” says Naveen Vijaykumar.

Several members of the team will now go for higher education. Others intend to take up a job for the time being. A few wish to remain in the enterprise. But, in the long run, most of them wish to be entrepreneurs.

Published on March 22, 2013
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