Business

Bunk bed businesses - The hostel for budding entrepreneurs

  • 28 July 2016
  • From the section Business
Media captionThe Indian hostel exclusively for people starting up their own businesses

On a small yet busy lane in central Bangalore is a three-storey white house with a bright orange gate.

You might not notice the property when you walk past, but some of India's best companies of the future may be being dreamed up inside.

The southern Indian city of Bangalore is India's start-up capital.

Entrepreneurs from across the country, and indeed some from around the world, flock to the city - which is also the centre of India's computer industry - looking for ideas, investors and office space.

They also need a place to stay, but when you live and breathe entrepreneurship 24 hours a day, having to traipse back to your boring hotel room or dormitory at the end of the day isn't much fun.

This is where the white house with its orange gate has come to the rescue. Opening its doors in May of this year, it claims to be India's first start-up hostel.

Offering a home-from-home for budding entrepreneurs, the 20-bed property - the Construkt Start-up Hostel - enables them to live with like-minded people, and bounce their business ideas off each other day and night.

Image caption The hostel aims to offer would-be entrepreneurs a home from home

More than half of the bunk beds in the hostel are occupied when I visit. Apart from a kitchen and a laundry machine, it provides those most essential of services for aspiring entrepreneurs - wi-fi and a coffee-maker.

One of the walls of the ground floor has been converted into a blackboard. On it is a calendar grid drawn out in chalk, listing all the start-up and technology events in the city over the next month.

Among them is a boot camp for start-ups, where they can pitch to potential investors, and a conference on analysing data.

The founders of Construkt say this is an example of how they help the residents connect with the city's wider start-up ecosystem.

Most of the hostel's occupants are men and women who've come to Bangalore trying to zero in on the company they want to set up. Others know what business they'd like to start, but are in the city vetting the market.

'Tear apart'

Construkt resident Krishna Elakara is working on creating a fitness training product.

The 42-year-old is of Indian origin, but has been living abroad all of his life, most recently in Australia.

Image caption Krishna Elakara says staying at the hostel is boosting his networking

On the first floor of the hostel, in a cheerful small room that serves as a mini-library, he tells me why he's come to Bangalore.

"All the elements you need to put together a start-up, they're here," he says.

"I'm staying at this hostel because I want to build my network in the city. Other hostels or hotels usually have tourists, whereas here you meet people with a similar mind-set."

Downstairs in the semi-circular living room, a so-called "open hack" session is about to begin. The residents of the hostel come together, and some of the entrepreneurs share their business ideas with the group. Krishna is the first to make a presentation.

"What's unique about your idea?" and "Who would you partner with?" are some of the questions that get thrown at him.

Image caption The hostel's residents join regular sessions during which they discuss everyone's plans

Shashikiran Rao, 36, one of the founders of the hostel, says with a smile: "We take the idea and tear it apart, and let everyone jump in and poke holes into it.

"We're very good at it. The idea is to help entrepreneurs develop their plans."

Aashna Kaur is the next presenter at the session. The 24-year-old has a degree in business administration, and has been consulting with start-ups for more than a year.

Image caption Aashna Kaur wants to see women play a bigger role in the upper echelons of Indian business life

But now she wants to set up her own company and she's looking at two ideas - technology that helps solo female travellers, or products that encourage more Indian women to join the workforce.

Aashna has been at Construkt for more than a week. At around $14 (£10.70) a night and $220 a month, I ask her if low cost is the reason she chose to stay there.

She says she'd get a cheap hotel at the same rate, or perhaps even lower, but it's the networking opportunities that made her choose the hostel.

'Market space'

Right now, apart from aspiring entrepreneurs, Construkt is also drawing people who are still exploring their career choices.

Prerna Gautam is still in university, but has moved from Mumbai to Bangalore for the summer to work as an intern at Microsoft Accelerator, an arm of the tech giant that helps entrepreneurs bridge the gap from idea to execution.

Image caption Prerna Gautam is looking into setting up her own company

She's unsure yet of what she wants to do when she finishes her degree, but says that her time in Bangalore is attracting her to a start-up life.

With Construkt hoping to open a second start-up hostel in Bangalore, analyst Sudhir Singh of consultancy group PricewaterhouseCoopers says that while it is meeting a market need, he doesn't think it will become a widespread phenomenon.

"There is definitely a space for something like this, but I don't know if it'll catch on like wildfire," he says.

"It's where I'm sure a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs would choose to stay to network, but I'm not sure a well established entrepreneur would live there unless there are some innovative programmes they're creating to attract such people to the place."

But back at Construkt everyone seems very happy. There are strains of music, and people have brought out food and drinks to share.

Some are clicking away at their laptops, while others are talking about business, technology and politics.

Not very long ago, these men and women would have been called foolish. Setting up your own company was seen as risky and impractical in India. Today, I'm told, if you don't have a start-up idea as you graduate, you'd almost be looked down upon.

It's a life that comes with its own struggles - getting funding, hiring the right people and paying salaries, to name just a few. But right now, none of that's scaring off India's youngsters.

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