Urbanpod, the first-of-its-kind pod hotel, launches in India, pioneering a new segment of smart hotels. Hiren Gandhi, Co-founder and Director, Urbanpod, gets in an exclusive tête-à-tête with us to describe his plans for the Indian market and his ‘Pod’ concept.
A pod hotel sounds extremely fascinating. Do tell us about this concept.
Urbanpod, Andheri SEEPZ, Mumbai, is the first-of-its-kind pod hotel in India that indulges discerning travellers with a smart-stay option. It is a GenNext, futuristic, smart accommodation and shared-living concept at a humble cost that does not compromise on luxury, comfort, safety, and quality. Urbanpod is modern, stylish, and minimalistic, providing guests with an experience unmatched. The pod theme also makes it a great arena to network and make new friends from across the globe.
What prompted you to introduce this unique concept in a market like India?
Shalabh Mittal, a co-founder at Urbanpod, during his work-related assignment in Singapore, got a chance to stay and experience an elegant pod hotel. He absolutely loved the concept, business-model, service, quality, and many other aspects of this unique experience. He shared his thoughts with another entrepreneur-hotelier friend, and they, along with Singapore-based Berlin Lee, a veteran in the architectural design and interiors business, gave birth to the concept of Urbanpod.
The Indian hospitality industry has a huge potential. Booming domestic economy, globalisation, and better infrastructure are spurring a growth in the number of business and leisure travellers to the country. Even the sub-segments in the leisure category, that is single-travellers, backpackers, spiritual-travellers, study tour groups, explorers, researchers, and group travellers are expanding more than ever before. These new-age travellers are looking at smart and practical stay options. Accommodations that are hygienic, safe, provide all basic amenities, have free Wi-Fi, proximity to airports and business hubs, and provide an ambience and opportunity to interact with people from all geographies are the things that today’s urban travellers are looking for.
Taking all these factors into consideration, the three of us felt that the Indian audience was ready for this new product and decided to introduce it to India, offering value-for-money to customers and giving them the choice of a smart accommodation.
How well-equipped are the pods?
Perfect for anyone seeking accommodation on a budget, Urbanpod is strategically located in the heart of Mumbai’s business hub and in close proximity of the domestic and international airports. It offers 140 pods with various upgrades, such as suite pods, private pods, classic pods, and an exclusive ladies-only pod. The suite pod category is suitable for couples, private pods have more room, and the exclusive ladies-only pod gives single women travellers added safety and privacy.
The sleek individual pods are self-contained with modern, technologically superior interiors. Each pod comes with a cosy bed, personal locker with secure keycard access, plasma TV, personal reading light, power socket, hangers, a dresser, free Wi-Fi, adjustable air-conditioning facility, air-purifier, and a sliding door with locking-facility for added privacy. Each pod also has a smoke detector and a fire extinguisher. After a long day, guests can unwind and relax in their individual pods with mood lighting giving just the right ambience.
What kind of client base do you want to cater to?
Our target segment includes new-age travellers (both business and leisure), single travellers (both men and women), group travellers of all kinds (spiritual, study-related groups, researchers, explorers, cultural-exchange travellers), interviewees, business travellers on a tight budget, backpackers, etc., typically in the age group of 22 to 50.
What are your expansion plans?
We would like to explore more hotels in Mumbai because of the sheer necessity of such spaces in the city. We also aim to provide this innovative product to as many customers as possible. For now, we have plans to go with 1,000 beds in a span of two to three years and we will do this with strategic partnerships with like-minded partners from across the industry. We would also like to expand this innovative concept to the other metros, such as Delhi and Bengaluru, to begin with. Additionally, we are looking to explore strategic partnerships with larger setups, such as IT-parks and real estate owners.
How are you going to market your product?
We have tied-up with leading OTAs and have already started receiving bookings from their end. Through our marketing agency, we are tapping corporate and travel operators. We aim to reach out to the end-consumer through PR and social media communication. Slowly, we will be adding more activities to connect with the end-consumer.