When Hiren Gandhi’s friend and former classmate from SP Jain Institute of Management and Research, Shalabh Mittal, called him to discuss the concept of ‘capsule’ or ‘pod’ hotels in 2014, Gandhi’s first reaction was of disbelief. He runs a successful chain of family-owned 4-star hotels in Gujarat called Express Hotels. The three properties — two in Vadodara and one in Jamnagar — are full-service hotels with amenities such as fitness centre and concierge. More importantly, his hotels have spacious rooms averaging 250 square feet in area. In contrast, ‘pods’ or capsule hotels have room sizes typically ranging between 50 and 90 square feet. Sleek, minimalistic and modern interiors make the best use of available space, and there’s no fancy furnishing. Naturally, the idea of making guests stay in a ‘capsule’ sounded odd to Gandhi.
But Mittal, who had the opportunity of staying in a pod hotel in Singapore during a work trip, was hugely impressed by its business model, service, safety and quality. On his insistence, Gandhi decided to visit a couple of pod hotels to get a first-hand experience. “I was immediately convinced that this is easy to emulate in India. There is a dearth of good quality accommodation at affordable prices in India,” says Gandhi.
The pod hotels, with its no-frills approach, seemed liked the perfect solution. With an initial investment of Rs.100 million, Gandhi and Mittal co-founded Urbanpod in 2015 and began groundwork to launch India’s first boutique pod hotel. Two years later, in March 2017, the company launched its first property in one of Mumbai’s busiest business districts, Andheri. Located on the first floor of Opus Park in Andheri East, Urbanpod comprises 140 ‘pods’ and a spacious cafeteria. Over the past 14 months, the concept has got off to a promising start, with steadily increasing footfall (see: Increasing traffic). It is not just pocket-friendly, but also offers world-class services. The hotel currently has an occupancy rate of 60%, and has till date served over 10,000 visitors from 40 countries. The founders, in fact, are confident of breaking even within the next two years, buoyed by