1. Hi Pallavi, welcome to the interview session of Anamitra’s Blog. To start with, we would request you to tell us a few lines about yourself.
I am the Co-Founder and CEO of goStops; one of India’s largest premium chain of youth hostels. With an intense passion for making social spaces for the youth, I opened the first goStops hostel in Varanasi. Since then, goStops has enlarged its presence to thirteen hostels all across India. In 2003, I graduated in economics from Kamla Nehru college Delhi University and In 2004 I began my career as a consultant with ‘The Smart Cube’, learning Industrial and monetary services.
I did my Master’s program from an International Management Institute in 2007. I had worked with many reputed companies like Tata Capital as a sales manager in Rural Financial Marketing, Millward Brown as an account manager and Quantum Consumer Solutions as a senior manager.
After having years of wealthy expertise in MNCs, I founded goStops in 2014 with the vision of making social areas for the youth. Since then I am managing goStops like my child. Besides being the boss-lady, I am a mommy to 3 dogs and 4 cats. I am also fond of music and have a special place in my heart for old-Hindi songs.
2. What motivated you to start your company?
The idea of goStops took form when I along with my husband was backpacking across Europe, back in 2012. I was fascinated by the hostel culture there and wondered why a similar model didn’t exist in India for travelers who were looking for premium quality social accommodations at an affordable price.
In the Indian short-stay accommodation market, there was a void in quality-assured stays in the budget range of INR 400-800 per night. Such accommodations were mostly poorly maintained and were unpredictable in terms of quality and experience. In addition to this, there was no accommodation brand that was youth-friendly and which exclusively catered to their needs and aspirations in terms of quality, design, experience and budget. This youth population is 370 million strong. It is growing fast and is very aspirational in terms of lifestyle. We saw a clear white-space in the market. We spotted this problem and have been trying to solve this ever since the inception of the first goStops hostel in Varanasi.
3. Who are your biggest competitors and how do you differentiate yourself from them?
We don’t see anyone as our direct competitor as our business model is quite unique. goStops is a full-stack youth hostel company. We lease, manage, franchise real estate assets, which we design, transform, market, sell, and operate as youth hostels in locations where the youth travels for business or leisure.
4. What is your USP?
Our hostels are designed exclusively for the young population, who are looking for quality stays at affordable prices, especially youngsters in the 18-30 years age group. We want to cater to the aspirational lifestyle needs of the youth and keeping this in mind. We have designed the entire hostel experience around it. Hostels are hubs for socializing with travelers from all parts of the country and the world. One gets exposed to new nationalities, cultures, languages, and lifestyles. New bonds and friendships are born and one can meet people from all walks of life. Hence, one is bound to connect with like-minded individuals at a hostel. This is an experience that most young Indians aspire for and this is where goStops comes into picture, as a youth desired hotel brand that focuses on their aspirations, where travelers could be co-living and co-working.
We have CCTV cameras installed in all the alleys, common spaces and outdoor area of the hostels. There is a 24×7 security guard on-duty at all our hostels that ensure the safety of all our guests. Every guest has a spacious locker available (included in basic facilities) to keep his or her valuables safely.
5. As a woman entrepreneur, you must have had to overcome challenges. Please tell us about them?
The most difficult challenge was to maintain the quality, design and experience of the properties while scaling up to new locations. We overcame this challenge by using technological and creative solutions, with the help of a team that understood our vision and was involved with us since the inception.
We also didn’t pay much attention to branding/marketing due to which we might have lost some growth opportunities, which could have been utilized to the advantage of the brand to make it popular among our target audience. In order to overcome this, we have created a strong team of talented individuals who can push the brand forward.
6. Narrate some of your success stories.
Our ability to run goStops profitably as a bootstrapped organization for 5 years is the most interesting success story for us. These 5 years taught us how to run a business effectively without needing any external sources of funding and turned us into thoughtful and mindful investors of our limited funds.
7. What plans do you have to scale your business operations?
We are planning to expand our presence across the country by doubling our bed capacity within the next 12 months. We are also planning to utilize recently raised funds to enhance our product offerings through investments in technology & training, add new revenue streams, strengthen our marketing and build a team to handle the next phase of growth. goStops is planning to cover all the metro cities in the next 12 months along with expanding our presence in North and West India including Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Goa, and Jammu & Kashmir.
8. Your advice to those who wish to be an entrepreneur?
Strive on diligently. Consistent focus and dedication can overpower everything else even talent.