Many of us have always had a dream to be a part of an international community. To step out of our county and explore the abroad places has always been one of wish list in my huge bucket list. The idea of studying in a prestigious institute in the capital of London, in Australia and other countries seems a very glittery idea. But not all that glitters is gold. If we get admission to one of the cream colleges, staying there becomes our next big trouble.
Campus accommodation in universities abroad is extremely limited and, more often than not, international students have to face the consequences. In fact, one out of six international students fails to receive university accommodation globally. They resort to the shady hotels and apartments which hamper their global experience.
Not only this, they create a big role shedding hefty amounts for the same. If a student who has got scholarship claiming free education, his accommodation will be so expensive, that he will start getting second thought about opting for the education or not.
What if this problem comes with a tailor made solutions? Would it not be so easy as well as stress free for the students to get accommodation before hand? All these queries were turned upside down by a startup called University Living. They help students find their dream accommodation in their city of study.
Targeting 10 million international students they aim to be the service provider in accommodation filed. Without incurring additional charges, students can book purpose-built students accommodation on their budgets, desired location and lifestyle preferences. Their startup has made the life of the students easier by providing accommodation which is near their university. Not only this they are a bundle of knowledge for the students and guide on how to kick start their student life.
The idea of creating this was given shape by two roommates cum friends Saurabh and Mayank. When they decided to start off their educational journey in abroad they faced the similar problem. Soon they realized this issue needs to addressed and they started University living.
Both Mayank and Saurabh draw their inspiration from Jack Ma for being a self dependent man. They have a strong vision regarding the startup’s growth. Working on a 12-hour a day routine, they both claim to have no social life. Yet they are truly dedicated to what they do. Want to know more about this startup, read this exclusive interview.
1. What is the name of your venture? Any specific reason for this name?
Our company is called University Living. We help students find their dream accommodation in their city of study, so the name is quite self-explanatory.
2. Who are your target audience/clients?
Our target audience are the 10 million international students, including Indians, who aspire to study abroad for a world class education.
3. Where is your venture based (city, state, country) & what are your geographical target areas?
We are currently based out of Noida, India with offices in London, UK and Melbourne, Australia.
We offer student accommodation in the UK, Australia, European Union, UAE, Singapore, and USA.
4. What problems does your venture resolve? What are your products or services?
Campus accommodation in universities abroad are extremely limited and, more often than not, international students have to face the consequences. In fact, one out of six international students fail to receive university accommodation globally. They turn to shady hotels and apartments, which hampers their university experience.
University Living helps international students book purpose-built students accommodation based on their budget, desired location, and lifestyle preferences, at no additional charges. Each of our properties are verified either by us or our channel partners to ensure that all students have a safe and comfortable stay.
5. Share the idea or story behind the venture. How did it come into existence? What motivated you to start your own venture?
Saurabh: Mayank and I both studied in the UK at different points of time. I was on an exchange programme in the University of Nottingham while Mayank completed MSc. From Northumbria University. As international students abroad, we didn’t have the first clue on how to find the right place to stay, which is why we want to make it easier for current students in the same boat. We want them to have the kind of expert guidance we wish we had received.
6. Who are your biggest competitors and how do you differentiate yourself from them?
Our largest competitor would be Student.com and university halls of residence.
We offer tailor-made solutions such as flexible tenancies to meet the specific needs of international students. Our 24/7 support team of accommodation advisors offer end-to-end assistance throughout the booking process – from shortlisting the right properties to signing the rental agreement before the student is ready to move in.
7. How did you identify your co-founder? Tell us something about your co-founder/s.
Saurabh: Mayank and I go a long way back. We were roommates in Delhi University and have been fast friends ever since. We got talking about our similar experiences abroad and realized the need to address the issue head-on. We’ve played to our strengths in dividing our responsibilities at work– Mayank heads Operations and Quality while I look after Sales and Business Development.
8. How did you hire your first team members? What skills do you want in your employees/team?
We started off by hiring a couple of marketing executives responsible for updating the website, taking sales calls, and servicing clients.
We value transparency, and flawless customer service. The right attitude is more important to us than a specific skillset, which can always be refined along the way.
9. What expansion plans are you looking at for the next 2 years and next 5 years?
In the next two years, we’re looking to become the largest accommodation provider in the Indian subcontinent. In the next five years, we aim to be the top choice for students booking accommodation globally and expand our portfolio to cover every student city across the globe.
10. Where do you want to see yourself in the next 10 years?
We believe in organic and sustainable growth, and hope to implement that to create a world without boundaries. In the next ten years, we want to be at the helm of creating a more level playing field for international students and establishing an ecosystem wherein they can really thrive.
11. What are your goals over the next 1, 3, 6 and 12 months?
In the next month, we will launch a brand new algorithm-based booking platform powered by PWA technology.
In the next 3 months, we’re looking to expand our European operations and increase our supply portfolio.
In the next 6 months, we intend to complete 2,500 bookings in the UK market.
In the next 12 months, our target is to grow our revenue four times and achieve 10,000 bookings.
12. Have you raised any funding? Or have any plans for the funding?
We are currently a bootstrapped but profitable company, and in promising talks with investors.
13. What were the problems you faced during the starting days and how did you resolve them?
Since neither of us is from a tech background, it took us some time to figure out our way around the website. The first version, in fact, was a simple listing platform powered by WordPress. Soon after, we hired an in-house team to develop an algorithm-based website and there has been no looking back since!
Additionally, it was challenging to convince people to work on a startup and believe in our vision but thankfully, we were able to identify the right sort of employees and lead them by example.
14. What was the most challenging part of your journey till now? How did you overcome those challenges?
Growing without compromising on the quality of service we offer was easily the biggest challenge, but once we focused on simply helping the students and prioritizing their needs, everything else just fell into place.
15. Are you married, single or in a relationship?
We are both happily married.
16. What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
Saurabh: I’m a huge foodie, and I also play the occasional game of cricket.
Mayank: I enjoy watching soccer, and like to play badminton.
17. What’s your favorite food & holiday destination?
Saurabh: Anything with chicken works for me! I love London both for work and pleasure but hope to visit the Maldives someday.
Mayank: The food doesn’t matter as long as there is alcohol involved. Vegas is the ultimate destination for me.
18. Whom do you consider your idol or biggest motivator?
Saurabh: I admire Jack Ma for being a self-made man. I’m also a devout follower of the Buddhist philosopher, Dr. Daisaku Ikeda.
Mayank: Definitely Jack Ma, for the same reasons.
19. What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
We firmly believe that everyone has entrepreneurship in their blood. That being said, it takes courage to take the plunge and have a knack for natural leadership.
20. If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
Saurabh: I’d have learnt to write code.
Mayank: I too would’ve focused more on gaining technological expertise.
21. How has being an entrepreneur affected your family & social life?
Mayank: It’s pretty brutal. I work 12 hours a day which leaves me with little time to catch up with my friends.
Saurabh: What family and social life?
22. Anything you would like to say to our readers or upcoming entrepreneurs?
Saurabh: Believe in yourself and take chances.
Mayank: Keep your eye on the goal. Many entrepreneurs get distracted in trying to do too many things at once. Take your time in building the core team, too – it’s important to get that right.
23. Tell us something about your education & family background.
Saurabh: I’m originally from Meerut. I graduated with a degree in Economics from Delhi University and went on to pursue a Master’s degree in finance and marketing.
Mayank: I was born in Meerapur but raised in Delhi. After completing my graduation in Economics, I completed the MSc. programme in Quality and Marketing from Northumbria University, UK.
24. What is your USP which makes it unique & different from other start-ups in similar domains.
We always prioritise the needs of the students who come to us and thrive on a healthy referral system.
25. What do you think is the biggest threat to the success of small businesses & start-ups today?
S: A bit of a fad, take on the responsibility of leading by example. Valuation has been glamourized, but they’re not really solving a real problem, which makes them replaceable.
26. Do you consider yourself successful and by what means do you measure success?
Saurabh: Yes. As long as you bring joy to the people around you, your life is a success.
Mayank: For me, success is an ongoing process. Keep setting new milestones and as long as you cross them, you’re on a successful journey.
27. Please share complete name, address, phone number, email id & website of your business & contact person