After returning from a Euro Trip in 2013, Pallavi Agarwal (Co-founder and CEO, goStops), fascinated and inspired by the hostel-culture in Europe, wanted to create something similar in India. With only a handful of hostels in the Indian market back in the day and an intense passion for creating social spaces for the youth, she started the first goStops’ hostel in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. Since then, goStops has expanded its presence to 13 hostels across India and has been identified as one of the most loved brands in the country. Currently, its facilities are available at Agra, Amritsar, Bir, Dalhousie, Delhi, Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Mumbai, Naggar, Rishikesh, Udaipur & Varanasi.
goStops is unique for the holistic experience it provides to a traveller. Right from the moment a traveller lands at the airport till the time they leave the city, goStops have got them covered. Besides being a budget accommodation provider for young travellers, various other services like pick-up n drop, travel planning, travel booking, etc. are also offered. THN Editor, Supriya Aggarwal talks to Pallavi regarding the brand, the philosophy and future plans. Read the excerpts from the interview.
1. What is your idea of a perfect trip?
When a traveler gets to fulfill all his/her travel desires within their budget range. Commute and stay are two of the most expensive parts of travel. goStops has made the latter portion significantly cheaper keeping the premium quality accommodation aspect intact. A traveler can book a bed within INR 400 – 800 and avail premium quality services such as comfortable beds, clean rooms, 24×7 security, 24×7 front desk and the like. Moreover, I believe that a great travel experience is incomplete without making a few friends along the way. Here at goStops, the common areas enable a traveler to do just that.
2. Your presence is majorly in North India. Is it a conscious decision or you plan to enter the Southern market as well?
Except for goStops Mumbai, all the remaining 12 of our hostels are located in the Northern and Western parts of India. Since our central team is based in New Delhi, it seemed more sensible and easier to initially expand to Northern destinations. However, expanding to Southern cities is definitely a part of our plan and we’ve already begun looking into it. Another region we’d like to expand is to the North-Eastern parts of India. This region, in particular, have little or no hostels and is increasingly becoming popular as a travel destination with young Indians.
3. Any plans to go international?
In the long-term, we’d definitely like to expand internationally; especially the South-East Asian market. However, currently our major focus lies in expanding across all regions within India.
4. What is your primary target group? Why?
goStops is a youth-friendly brand that caters to the aspirational lifestyle needs of the youth population in India. Since the popularization of Social Media, young Indians aged 18-30 have been exposed to global cultures and lifestyles, and as a result, their lifestyle aspirations have also become very high. They want a premium experience at an affordable price. This is the gap goStops is bridging for the youth and this what we keep at the centre of everything we do.
Our spaces are vibrant and colourful and, our services maintain a certain standard in terms of quality (security, bedding, cleanliness, etc). All our hostels are equipped with a commonly accessible recreational zone that has various games like Foosball, Table Tennis, Pool Table, Board Games, etc. There is also a mini-library for guests to read books and a mini-amphitheater area where guests can sit with their friends and watch movies/Netflix/sports matches, etc.
5. How do you ensure the safety of your guests?
We have addressed this issue by using a combination of using high-end technology and a few simple solutions at all our properties. We have CCTV cameras installed in all the alleys, common spaces and outdoors area of the hostels. There is a 24×7 security guard on-duty at all our hostels who ensures the safety of all our guests. We have refrained from using cameras within the dorms to maintain the guest’s privacy. However, every guest has a spacious locker available (included in basic facilities) to keep their valuables safely. Moreover, we ask all our guests to keep their valuables within the lockers as soon as they check-in. Besides these, to enhance guest privacy, we have added curtained-beds at most of our hostels with individual reading lights on every bed. This way, every guest gets their own fair share of privacy whenever they need it.
6. I noticed that you have a Franchise model of your website. Many leading hotel chains struggle to ensure quality of service in such cases, how do you plan to deal with that?
Quality is of utmost significance for us which is why we follow full stack model. We lease, manage, franchise real estate assets, which we design, transform, market, sell, and. This model allows us to not only have control over quality but also maintain consistency across the properties.
7. Your experiences are centered around the city, is it also applicable to the food served within the hostel?
In short, no. We have a fixed menu across all our in-house goStops cafes and the items do not vary according to the city or the cuisine. We have carefully crafted an exclusive traveler’s menu by finding a sweet spot between taste, health-factor, and price.
8. Since a hostel puts strangers in one room, is there a prior verification required?
During the time of check-in, we require one valid ID proof from all our guests be it Indians or foreigners. Additionally, they are also required to fill a C-Form that documents all their personal and travel details such as a permanent address, the purpose of visit, where they came from, where they’re heading to, etc.
Although 98% of the time, no issues arise from putting strangers together in a dorm, once in a while we do face travelers who cause issues that may cause discomfort to other guests. In such cases, our ground team enquires more details about the issue and if needed, terminates the stay of such problem-causers. goStops is highly committed to creating a safe-space for all travelers regardless of age, gender, religion or nationality and we go the extra mile to ensure that all our guests feel safe and secure.
9. How is the hostel scene in India different from Europe?
There are two major differences between the Indian and European hostel markets :
One – The European hostel market is saturated; Europe has a hostel in nearly every corner and the hostel culture is very prominent there. The Indian hostel market is fairly young and is only coming of age since its inception.
Two – There is a prevalent hostel-culture in European countries. Travelers are well aware of what hostels are, what to expect at hostels and how the whole setup works. The hostel industry has been present for nearly 3 decades in the European market. However, in India, the majority of the population are still unaware of the concept of hostels. There are quite a few misconceptions floating around in the minds of Indians regarding hostels and the hostel-culture is very young here.
10. What is your ultimate aim with goStops?
We want to be the preferred Youth Brand synonymous with great quality travel and living spaces.
Interview by Supriya Aggarwal, Editor, THN
Images credit: goStops