Zostel is taking India by storm - rethinking backpacking in India
This week I met up with Dharamveer, a charming and intelligent guy who is one of seven co-founders of Zostel, India’s first hostel chain. He praised his co-founders and chatted about the fact that together they make the perfect team.
India is currently a country full to the brim with budding entrepreneurs, but as Dharamveer said to me, ‘everybody can have an idea; it’s the execution that matters’. Zostel really have got this execution element so right.
Having begun their research in January 2013, they launched a year and a half ago and already have hostels in seven Indian cities. As Dharamveer told me, they base their hostels on four simple parameters: security, hygiene, affordability and location. Over time, he said, that they have realised location is crucial. In Jodhpur, which was home to their first hostel, they found that their location was only given four stars on TripAdvisor and everything else was getting five. They quickly learnt from their oversights, and when they opened in Udaipur they chose a Lake Pichola view in the centre of town that shares a party wall with the City Palace. I know Udaipur well; this is a prime location.
In Delhi, the security issue is the most crucial of these four requirements for me. Paharganj, where most short term, budget visitors to the city end up, is a grotty area known amongst Delhiites for its lost backpackers, crack dens and cheap beer! Dharamveer asserted that they are determined to introduce a pleasant vibe back into the Paharganj area, and Zostel Delhi definitely does this. The rates are phenomenally competitive, with beds available for 400 INR, in safe and clean dorm rooms and there is an infectious happy go-lucky atmosphere, helped by the cool décor and the football table in the common room.
Dharamveer said that they are particularly passionate about promoting the idea of travel amongst an Indian, domestic crowd. He laughed when I told him that I’d come here on my gap year, and said that ‘it isn’t a thing in India… yet’. With disposable income increasing and domestic flight prices dropping, it looks set to be a realistic option for college kids to confess to their parents that instead of studying for the summer, they would like to explore their neighbouring state. As Dharamveer said, ‘the right way to travel is to meet people’ and at their hostels, where approximately 50% of guests are Indian and 50% are from abroad, this mingling and exposure is surely beneficial to everyone.
I love that this creation is so home-grown, and it certainly looks set to go from strength to strength in the future with plans to open in Pushkar, Amritsar and Jaisalmer.
Zostel is fun, creative and inspiring; do not miss out!
Rates for Delhi:
400 INR for a dorm bed (including women’s only dorms)
1000 INR for a double room