RIYA Saraf’s father had only one pre-condition when the Class XII student first expressed her desire to study in Delhi University: Safety First. A safe place to stay was the first thing on her checklist but none of the apartments and paying guest facilities they visited could meet her dad’s strict criteria. Till they stepped into Stanza Living’s hostel adjacent to North Campus, Delhi University. “My father and I visited many PG accommodations, but we finally zeroed in on Stanza Living because of the safety features—they have biometric entry and CCTV surveillance,” says Riya Saraf, who is now studying for her B.Commerce degree at Daulat Ram College in Delhi University.
With 24by7 security, healthy food options, in-house amenities like laundry services, Wi-Fi and more, Stanza Living promises the students living in its 44 hostels (clusters as it calls them) in 10 cities across India, a home away from home. It has set a target of reaching 1 lakh beds inventory by 2021 but expects to reach this goal much ahead of time, with maximum traction witnessed in Bengaluru, Delhi and Hyderabad – the three major education hubs in India.
“Our rents range from Rs 5,000 to Rs 25,000 across markets in India, depending on the real-estate dynamics of a location. These rents are inclusive of ancillary services and amenities like food, WiFi, laundry, housekeeping, common appliances, tech-enabled security systems and our community-engagement programmes – Stanza Social and Stanza Springboard,” says Anindya Dutta, co-founder, Stanza Living.
Over 20 million students and working professionals move within the country every year, searching for a place to stay. However, dependent on a largely unorganised, shared housing sector, most of them have to settle for cramped spaces, poorly-maintained infrastructure and poor quality amenities. “The idea of introducing a consumer-focused living space for students in India was derived from the first-hand experience I had at Oaktree Capital, a private equity firm in London which had invested and grown a pan-Europe student housing business. While exploring the viability of such a proposition, my co-founder Sandeep Dalmia and I, engaged with over 2000 stakeholders – students, parents, landowners and more to develop our value proposition,” says Dutta, explaining how they hit upon the idea of starting a student co-living venture.
From 95 beds in one cluster at its launch in April 2017, Stanza Living now has 47,500 beds spanning 44 clusters across Delhi NCR, Bangalore, Pune, Hyderabad, Indore, Chennai, Coimbatore, Dehradun, Ahmedabad and Vadodara. Its early success has attracted cumulative investment of $70 million in venture capital and debt financing from investors includingr marquee global investors Falcon Edge, Sequoia Capital, Accel, Matrix Partners and Alteria Capital.
Stanza Living has seven technology solutions which help it source real estate effectively, refurbish products efficiently, manage consumer demand and operate its buildings. Driving process innovations across various stages in its business cycle has enabled it to build a scalable offering by creating a compelling proposition for not just end-consumers but also property-owners/landlords, two segments which have historically had incongruent needs and expectations, explains Dutta.
For instance, its Stanza Resident App, via which students interact with the customer experience team and provide feedback on the services and facilities, helps the startup understand customer behaviour pattern and accordingly modify and enhance its services to meet the growing expectations of the student community. “Stanza Social and Stanza Springboard have been designed to cater to the personal well-being and professional development of our consumers,” says Dutta.
Agrees Rebecca Singh, a first-year law student from Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Bengaluru, who lives in Stanza’s Bannerghatta cluster. “I moved from a regular PG to Stanza Living mid-term because of my friends who were very happy with Stanza Living. Not only is the food tasty but the meal timings are also as per the convenience of the students. The food counters stay open till 10pm, unlike 8pm in other PGs/hostels.”
It isn’t just the students who are a happy lot. Stanza has long-term lease agreements with property owners on a revenue-sharing basis. “Our ability to drive cost optimisation through technology efficiencies across the value chain have helped landlords and property owners realise 2X times the yields on alternate business plans on the same assets,” says Dutta.