Zostel, The Founder Story and Learnings

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Zostel was founded in the year 2013.

In interaction with Arnab Nayak, the founder of ‘StartupGyaan’, ‘Dharamveer Singh’ the founder of ‘Zostel’ revealed his entire journey, How he failed in his previous ventures, why he had to leave his Gaming startup, and then how he built Zostel.

In this article, you will get to know about his mistakes and the factors that contributed to his journey.

What is Zostel

Zostel is the right way of traveling, where you don’t just travel to click some pics or to complete your checklist, you travel to feel the soul and authenticity of that place.

According to Dharamveer Singh, if you are traveling and residing in a hotel where you have booked AC rooms spending your time watching TV or Netflix, and having the western breakfast and dinner then you are missing out on the real feel of traveling.

Zostel word is derived from ‘Hostel’.

Initially, he thought of bringing the concept of ‘Bunk Bed’ and Bag Pack ‘Travelling’ in India.

zostel, Bunkbed Room

He got this idea from the movie called “Queen”.

He says when you enter the Zostel, it is like a world without borders where you get new friends.

He has the vision that people from any corner of the world could explore each corner of India fearlessly.

Zostel is a brand through which you get a rich and quality experience at the cheapest price.

Early Life of Dharamveer SIngh

Founder of Zostel
Dharamveer Singh, Founder of Zostel

He originally belongs to Jotpur, Rajasthan. He started his schooling in his hometown.

He was always a studious student and always maintained a good image of himself in front of his teachers.

His father bought him a computer when he was just in 2nd Grade. His father did it because he got to know that a person who got a computer in his childhood, created a good wealth, perhaps it could work for Dharamveer as well. It might sound funny, but that person was Bill Gates.

Soon he got an internet connection as well.

He is the kind of person who is being nourished by the Internet.

He says he was unaware of it, but he was a geek.

He had a huge interest in games so that is he used to spend most of his time playing different games.

When he reached his 6th grade, like other typical Indian relatives, his relative also started asking “what will you do in life”. This means how would you earn your livelihood.

He was a 12–13-year-old kid and had interest in games only, so he decided to create a game. He researched about it and got to know how he can become a game developer.

Desire to join IIT

He found that a game is developed by an engineer, then the next question which arose, how to become an engineer?

The top university to pursue it is IIT, so he decided to get into engineering.

In 9th class, he took admission to Pilani School. Soon he realized that he could not spend his teenage in Pilani city and he wanted to see the world. With this objective, he came to Delhi and took admission there.

But after spending few months he again realized he won’t be able to complete his course in time, so he shifted to ‘Kota’ and started studying for IIT exams.

He got Batch 4 of Bansal Institute soon he reached in Batch 1. After studying so hard he got 11th rank in his institute. But because he wanted to get 1st rank, he got demotivated and stopped studying. He rarely used to go to classes.

But one good thing which happened is, there he met with a girl who became his wife in the future.

Now he was again with his actual interest, “Games”. He used to spend a whole night in a café playing games.

That is why he couldn’t score well and got ‘Ceramic Engineering’ in ‘IIT BHU’.

His First Venture

In his second year, he thought of chasing his dream of creating a game.

His first idea of a game was like Dream11 and for that, he drew a design on paper, and to create it he started learning Photoshop, Coding, Front end, and Back end.

He said at that time he was one with his work.

Because he had the goal of creating that game before IPL which was only 2 months ahead. At that time, he used to sleep for less than 5hrs a day.

He calculated how much money he could earn. He estimated around $7000, which was enough, but when he launched the website, he got Indian and South Asian traffic only and all his calculation went into vein because the calculations were made as per US traffic.

Although he couldn’t earn that much, he got to learn so many skills like Photoshop, Front End, Back End, Java, HTML.

Also Read: Three Innovative Edtech Startup

Soon he registered a Private Ltd. company, and the name was Bright & Studio Pvt Ltd.

He hired interns as well who were in 4th year while he was just a 2nd-year student. 

He used to do part-time work as a Website Developer to arrange money so that he could pay stipend to his interns.

But soon he realized this startup will also not work that’s why he shut that business as well.

Experience in Europe and Idea of Zostel

In the 3rd year of his college, he got an internship in Europe, Germany under a famous professor.

After games, the second thing he was passionate about was Travelling so he convinced his professor that from Monday to Thursday, he will work for some extra hours in lieu of Friday Off.

In the next 3 months, he explored different parts of Europe, like Switzerland, Austria, Belgium Netherlands.

Once he and his friend were going to Barcelona, but he missed the station and reached an unknown place and the next train was about to come the next morning, he spent his entire night there on the beach.

This was a precious moment of his life and after that he became fearless, this is the moment when he got some insights, like what kind of mistakes he committed in his previous startup.

The next day when he reached Barcelona, he didn’t book any hotel room because he was in love with backpacker travelers. At that time he got the idea of Zostel.

He said, that travel feeling can not be expressed in words.

Entry into IIM

After returning from Europe he completed his 4th year and got a job in one of the recognized gaming companies.

But there he didn’t like the job role and soon he resigned.

After that, he started preparing for CAT and cleared it. He got into IIM Culcutta.

How Zostel Started

He used to play Poker at that time. One day, from that game, he won around $1100 which increased to $15000 very soon. Now he thought it is a great time now he had money, so he started working towards converting his idea of Zostel into reality.

He started building rooms for his venture and invited his friend to join it. Two of his friends joined him one was from his engineering college and the other one was from IIM itself. Later he got 4 more founders.

Founder of Zostel
Zostel founders, Econoic Times

Each and everyone of them worked very hard and put heart and soul into the work.

In the initial days, he documented each and every tiny thing from the process to the price and the material calculation which helped them in the future.

They had their entrepreneurship program as well, if you want to become a partner with them and want to open a Zostel, then they will provide you with the framework, they will help you in hiring, daily operations and you will get their brand name.

He said they have built an Umbrella of Trust. That is the reason that people now want to

choose Zostel for traveling.

It is available in more than 200 locations across India with around 1900+ beds and has served more than 2.25 lakh travelers out of that 20000 are female solo travelers as per the data in October 2020.

Case with OYO

Recently, Zostel was in news because of a case with hotel chain giant OYO. Zostel sued OYO on the ground that there was an agreement between Zostel and OYO that OYO will acquire Zostel but then they denied it.

Learnings from previous Ventures

Dharamveer said he learned so many things from his previous ventures like 

  • there should be a co-founder so that the work can be divided,
  • we should not delay the launch date don’t wait for perfection just launch and then improve as per customer feedback.

Hey I am Vaibhav, a CA student and a startup enthusiast who write about startups and on financial topics

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