INDIA Calling RELIVING BACKPACKING CULTURE THE ‘ZOSTEL’ WAY
‘The world is a book and those who don’t travel, read only a page.’
A destination is as electrifying as a journey to it. And when a spicy destination is garnished with lodging facilities that are affordable, safe, clean and accessible, it sets the right rhythm for an avid traveller.
Happy travelers at the Agra Zostel
Zostel, launched on Independence Day 2013, is the brainchild of 7 pioneering IIT-IIM-MDI alumni. The whole concept was to introduce the culture of backpacking and hostels in India. Being passionate travellers themselves, the co-founders backpacked in US and Europe where they experienced the uniqueness of the backpacking culture which is when the gang of seven entrepreneurs saw potential to do the same in India, where there was a dearth of options that were clean, affordable, safe and fun at the same time. They have grown from a small team of 20 to about 100 now.
The key factors that the successful chain has focussed on are: safety, accessibility, cleanliness and ambience. Initially, women weren’t comfortable with the idea of sharing mixed dorms, keeping that in mind they developed female-only dorms as well. Turns out, now they’ve seen a big surge in solo female travellers and now they’re all confident in their choice to stay with them. With good people, ambience comes easily who leave no stone unturned to give their best.
Zostel Varanasi’s wall art
In a chat with Daakshi Kushwaha, an ardent member of the team, we asked her about the initial struggles they had to face. She said, “Unlike technology start-ups where most of the work happens in a virtual space, Zostel requires a lot of ‘brick-and-mortar’ work. Choosing a property and location that satisfies criteria like safety, accessibility and cleanliness is paramount. The operational economics needed to be paid a lot of attention. As with any new concept, people who were unfamiliar with backpacking had some inertia but once they experienced the Zostel way of life, they’ve come back for more.”
We further asked her what they looked for in anyone to be a part of this chain. She said, “The first thing that we look for in a Zosteler is passion, creativity and a shared vision to revolutionize the travel industry. We’ve had employees from all walks of life, from different universities, from various places come together to change the way India travels. Our only focus is to bring more rockstars into the team. Doesn’t matter where they’re from, it’s who they are.”
Diwali celebrations at Zostels
The response that this hostel chain got has been great. They have their presence felt on social media and on Quora. It’s not only popular in the age group of 18-35 but they’ve hosted members as young as 6 and old as 60. They want to work to a point where backpacking will be a household name.
“We had a clear vision when we started Zostel and it hasn’t changed one bit – we are here to change the way India travels. The concept of vacations in our country has become boring and stuffy hotel rooms. Why do that when you can go Zosteling and explore the place like a local?” said Daakshi. The travel culture in India needed a burst of freshness; colour and that’s when these people chipped in. With the zest and earnestness in their work, they will soon be the biggest youth brand in the country.
Helpdesk @ Zostel, Delhi
There are a lot of expectations of the people from their brand. Talking about that, she said, “We want people to be true citizens of the globe. We don’t want them to just go and see a place, maybe taste the local food only. In short we don’t want people to be Tourists; we want them to be travellers. Go out, experience a new city through its culture, people, sights, food, all of it. We want to create a venue where they can meet like-minded people as well. Zostelling, travelling is a passion and we want to unearth it and make it breathe.”
They have a sharp eye for the future as well. In the next four months, they are looking at expanding to 40 key tourist spots in the country. By the end of the year they aim to go international and make Zosteling possible far and wide across India and abroad. They want this revolution to be available to everyone across the globe.
Four Zostel members from IIM Calcutta
Looking at the zeal, it won’t be difficult to believe that they are number 1 across various OTAs at most of the locations and even won the HOSCAR 2015, awarded to the best hostel in India.
This is just the tip of the iceberg though, they are in it for the long haul, and the kind of support and encouragement they get keeps them going towards a vision to change the way India travels.