Hostels with AC rooms, free wi-fi, housekeeping: Student housing has arrived
Think hostel and you picture crumbling buildings with shared bathrooms, peeling paint and a landlord / landlady looking over your shoulder all the time.
That’s changing. Driven by angel investors and a desire to cash in on India’s huge migrant student population (26.6 million and growing), new companies are setting up student housing facilities — essentially, hostels — with fewer rules and better infrastructure.
Some have foosball tables, and air fryers in the kitchenettes; others have gaming zones and brightly coloured bean bags in common areas. The rooms are air-conditioned rooms with attached bathrooms, free wi-fi, laundry and housekeeping services. Relaxed rules that let you bring friends over, or spend the night out.
Angel investors and an asset-light model means prices are kept low. Companies lease existing biuldings, remodel and run them. Room rates start at Rs 8,000 a month, three meals included. That’s not much more than an old-school hostel (prices start at about Rs 5,000 in metros like Delhi and Mumbai, with paying guest accommodation typically starting at Rs 10,000 excluding meals and housekeeping).
Most importantly, these companies are creating more living space for the student population. Which is important because traditional hostel space can only accommodate about 20% of India’s migrant students. Few colleges have their own hostels, and those that do can generally accommodate only a fraction of their migrant students.
Companies now operating in this space include Your Space, Coho, Aarusha Homes, Campus Student Communities, Bright Youth Student Housing and MSR Ventures.
At Coho, students pay between Rs 8,000 and Rs 25,000, depending on whether they want to share a room with two others, one other, or have it all to themselves. Launched in 2015, Coho currently has 25 hostels spread across Delhi-NCR and houses a total of 700 students.
Common kitchens come with coffee makers and fridges; there’s a rec room and shared washing machines in each hostel. The best part? There are no curfew timings.
“Coho was launched to meet the huge demand for professionally run spaces in the hostel sector,” says John Jacob, marketing head for Coho. “Our occupancy rate is 90 to 95 per cent. The biggest challenge has been to convince people of the villa concept, since it involves paying a higher price but still sharing space. But that is also finding takers now.”
For MA student Rishabh Sharma, 21, who lives in a triple occupancy room at the Delhi hostel, the flexibility is the best part. “I don’t feel as if I am living in someone else’s space,” he says. Adds Sharad Mundhra, 20, a BCom student at Delhi University’s Hansraj College says, “I can even invite guests and friends over, as long as they don’t bother any of the other residents.”
At Mumbai’s Bright Youth Student Housing projects, meanwhile, founder Chander Matta points out that they started out with one hostel, in 2003, and “today we have six leased buildings in prime suburban areas with up to 150 boys or girls living in each.”
Fees range from Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 2 lakh a year, with an additional Rs 5,000 a month for food. There’s housekeeping twice a day and free wi-fi. There’s no restriction on the number of nights out as long as you notify management in advance, but if you’re coming home, the deadline is 10.30 pm.
“In this hostel, there’s a surprise every day,” says Arts student Anisha Jain, 18. “One day, our fridge was full of ice-cream. On Holi, the management threw us a surprise party, and I didn’t miss home at all.”
Aarusha Homes, launched in 2008, runs seven hostels in Pune and has 18 more across Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai. Each hostel has a gym and study rooms. Each room comes with a flat-screen TV.
“Not having to clean our rooms or wash our clothes is a huge relief,” says Kolkattan BBA student Arunava Roychoudhary, 22. “The best part is, we don’t have to pay extra for these facilities.”
“It was love at first sight,” says Gandharvi Rai, referring to the Your Space hostel in Greater Noida where she lives. The 20-year-old architecture student moved here from Madhya Pradesh.
With a bright red reception counter, freshly painted air-conditioned rooms with attached bathroom, free wi-fi, four meals a day (with lunch delivered to college), and transport to and from college, it’s well worth the 15 km commute, Rai adds. A room costs between Rs 1.05 lakh and Rs 1.25 lakh for the academic year, with all meals.
Your Space currently has 70 residents; Greater Noida is its only facility so far, but there are plans to expand to Mumbai and other parts of NCR next year.
“We’re looking to address the gap in the market when it comes to student accommodation,” says Shubha Lal, co-founder of Your Space. “This segment is estimated to be worth about Rs 20,000 crore annually, and remains largely unorganised.”
MSR Ventures is four years old and runs three women’s hostels in Bengaluru, housing a total of 500 students. Prices range from Rs 70,000 to Rs 1.2 lakh a year.
Not having to wash your own clothes — that’s the best part of her hotel-style hostel, says Atyasha Sinha, 22, a student at MS Ramaiah Institute of Technology and a resident of MSR Ventures’ North Point II hostel. “The in-house gym is great too.”
(With inputs from Danish Raza in Delhi-NCR and Vikram Gopal in Bengaluru)