When the Delhi/Gurgaon-based startup StayUncle launched last year, it wanted to give people the option of booking a hotel room for even 10 hours, breaking away from the standard practice, which required a guest to pay the full day’s tariff even if the stay was only for a few hours.
But when the enquiries started pouring in, the founders realised they had tapped into an unexpected customer base: unmarried couples.
“We were bombarded with demands from unmarried couples,” said co-found er Blaze Arizanov, 27. “They wanted hotel rooms for 10 hours. They reached out through phone, email and every other channel mentioned on our website. And then we thought, why not!”
The startup began cashing in on public demand from September last year. Their logic was simple: As per the Constitution, a hotel cannot deny an unmarried couple a room, as long as both partners were consenting adults and had valid ID proofs.
They went to hotels and gave them a deal they could not refuse. “We tell them that whatever is the cost for 24 hours, our customer will pay the exact half of that for 10 hours,” said Blaze.
The company has already 60 hotels in its network and makes on an average 300 booking every month. The founders believe that more than the money, it is probably the blessings they get from young couples that help them succeed.
Sanchit Sethi, 26, cofounder and operational head, said: “Couples have two things to tell us: ‘Is the hotel safe?’ they ask, first. And then, ‘God bless you for doing this’. The response has been overwhelming and we are slowly expanding.”
The startup is currently operational in Delhi, Gurgaon and Mumbai, and is moving to Hyderabad and Bengaluru next. It is working on tie-ups in Bengaluru and hopes to be fully functional here in the next two months.
LED BY GIRLFRIENDS
The startup observed that it was often the women who came forward to pick up their pamphlets and explore the advertisement. “We were surprised to see that every time we put out an ad, it was the girlfriend that came to look at it first. She would then make the guy look at it,” said Blaze, adding that it showed women were more open and forthcoming than people believed.
When asked how they planned to handle the moral policing, Blaze said: “We have never received a threat. And even if we do, we will still carry on. If things get too bad, we will offer them a discount. That is our only plan B, as of now.”
The entrepreneur points to their tagline, which he hopes should convey it all: ‘Couples need a room, not judgement’.
If the latest incidents are anything to go by, the conservative crowd of Bengaluru might not make it easy for this free-thinking start-up. If the right-wingers are kicking up a storm over couples from different faiths looking to marry, will this be yet another thorn in their side?