When former Google employee Ashish Agrawal flew down to Pune on a long-term assignment a few years ago,the biggest problem he faced here was finding a suitable accommodation. Not willing to stay in a hotel,Agrawal,who was travelling with his wife,was perplexed by the lack of a reliable source of information about service apartments in the city.
This personal experience led the techie to start RoomLion.com,a website for short-time housing a requirement for many professionals.
Speaking about the venture,Agrawal said his personal experience was in the back of his mind when he decided to come back to India and venture into his own start-up. Short-time housing,in terms of service apartments,is much sought after by both Indian and foreign professionals who travel between cities for work. Many of them have a natural aversion to staying in hotels,but there is hardly any information easily available about service and other kinds of apartments. RoomLion is supposed to be a one-stop shop for answering such queries, he said.
This start-up,which Agrawal set up in March this year,already has 5,200 rooms in eight cities listed.
Speaking about the venture and its uniqueness,he said unlike a blind listing on the Internet,the website features details of the properties with amenities present. We have a team of ground-level workers who vet out the properties by visiting them and then only it is listed, he said. The website also offers a three-dimensional tour of the property in question.
When asked to differentiate between RoomLion.com and the more famous alternatives like airbnb.com,Agrawal was quick to point out that unlike the latter,RoomLion only offered highly curated and detailed data with a 360-degree virtual tour. The international sites offer various properties right from camping ground to castles,while we offer mostly serviced or independent apartments, he said.
Also,he pointed out,the search had been Indianised with options like whether pets were allowed,the frequency of cleaning or servicing and power back-up.
Most of our clients are working professionals and a majority of them are foreigners. Other than Pune,we have presence in Hyderabad,Bangalore,Mumbai,Kolkata and Delhi NCR. We are also looking forward to list properties in South East Asian countries and the Middle East, said Agrawal.
This start-up is more of an answer to his entrepreneurship spirit that was lying dormant during his years in the US,working for Google. Our venture was selected as one of the 24 start-ups by PuneConnect,and that was a high point for us, he said.
However,for this young entrepreneur,Pune has not been an ideal place to start on his dream project. Conceptual funding is missing in the city and the cost of talent is relatively higher, he said.