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July 22, 2024

Zostel Villas: The real estate game changer

Muskaan Thakur
India’s largest hostel chain Zostel has announced its latest innovation through the game-changing concept of Zostel Villas. Designed by award-winning architect Abhigyan Neogi, it is a new range of ready-to-move-in prefabricated relocatable homes, perfect for accommodation in remote places. Now, you can be close to the flora and fauna without disturbing the natural environment. These villas are built at a central factory part by part. So, you can assemble the villa, dismantle it, transport it to another place and install it again, without leaving any carbon footprint behind.
The first-ever Zostel Villa will open amidst the beauty of woods, on the bank of a river at Jim Corbett. Zostel’s CEO and co-founder Dharamveer Singh Chouhan spoke to Luxebook about Zostel’s venture into the real estate industry, the investment benefits, business opportunity for buyers and much more;
Zostel Villas
Zostel Villas
Could you please explain the concept of prefabricated villas?
Zostel Villas are prefabricated sustainable mobile vacation homes. The first version of these villas is an A-frame prefab smart home with the capacity to house 6 people. It is divided into 3 floors; the ground floor contains the living area and kitchen; the first floor has a master bedroom with two beds and two washrooms; the third floor is basically an optimisation of the attic area with a double bed. Further, there is also an outdoor wooden balcony. The entire ground area measure up to 600 sq. ft. while the total area covered inside the house is 760 sq. ft. It can survive in any kind of weather and can be set up over all types of terrain.
We have taken care of each nut and bolt that goes into the construction of the villas just like you make an iPhone and it sells for, let’s say a Lakh, these villas will sell for, let’s say 40 Lakhs. They are very thought through in the sense that there are two primary designs; one for a family and the other for a group of friends. Both of them are self-sufficient. They have solar panels for power generation and bio decompose for utilities as well. Hence, I think that it is a complete product in itself. The idea is actually driven from the challenges of how do we help people explore the deeper corners of India. What we realised over the last decade is that India is a largely a supply-constrained market where we need to build quality infrastructure. We need to build India.
Zostel Villas
Zostel Villas
Read: Meet photographer Fabien Charuau who has shot Deepika Padukone’s & Alia house
How will the relocation process take place? Also, considering that some locations might need permission from the landowners, how will you go about it?’
We actually partner with the landowners who want to place a villa on their particular land. We already have more than 200 such individuals and we are working with a couple of them to deploy our first villas. Since the villas are a product, they are connected very strongly but the design is such that you can unlock it. Let’s say a gym machine, you can put it all together but you can’t really move it or it will shape while you are using it but if you want to transport it, then you can unlock it and fit it into a shipping container, like a normal package, you can take it over a truck. Wherever you take it, you can just unload it. Even if there are only a couple of individuals, they can put together the villas in under 3 days. That’s the idea to have easier permissions. What really happens is that if you want to do a permanent construction and you want to be close to nature, you have to be very careful of the environment as well so that you are not really damaging it. Our villas are absolutely zero on the carbon footprint on the area that we built it on. So if we leave an area, it will be as good as it was before a villa came. We are really protective of the environment and we strongly feel that this is the best way to scale the infrastructural requirements of helping people to travel across each and every corner of India. Now that there are new tier-two airports and highways being built, there is much more in India still to explore.
Why did you choose prefabricated villas?
Real estate is an industry that we have always complimented very strongly in hospitality because we generate returns and these returns really help us, either whoever is the person generating from the property or it is his own property, the yield from his capital investment from the property. To really build India, real estate is an industry that will need to reinvent itself with a much more product and business mindset. Whatever other products that you bring over it, they also need to be very tech-driven and focused in terms of how they are operated, monetised and managed. In those terms, when we looked at different aspects of the real estate industry, we saw that we can do a lot more in the remote areas, that’s our real expertise. In that area, we are coming up with a prefabricated product because the construction costs might be even higher and all of the aspects of the environment that I mentioned earlier. And to bring down the costs, going prefabricate allows us to deploy factories for construction of these villas particularly. The moment we are thousands of these villas every year, the cost reduces by a factor of 30 to 40 per cent. So, they become even more affordable for everybody. We want to take advantages of scale and going prefabricated is the way to go if we are really serious about building the larger infrastructure of our country.
Zostel Villas
Zostel Villas
Read: How the pandemic has changed Indian luxury properties’ design and interiors
Zostels are known for cosy and artistic decor. Can we expect to see the same with regards to the villas?
You can expect the villa designed for friends to be more colourful and cheerful, having a graffiti-oriented vibe. The family one will also be very warm and cosy. It is always about the experience that we want to portray. We were always the first one to never shy away from being bold when it came to the paintings on our wall designs, spending money on art rather that when people are just spending money on paint. I think, in all those things, that is where we’ll stay true to our soul of giving the product itself, generating the environment that helps create the experience we want.
How has your partnership with Chromed Studio led by Abhigyan Neogi turned out?
Chromed Studio comes with expertise from an architectural standpoint. They helped us convert our ideas into the larger physical form. Abhigyan has been a close friend and so we largely work with him. It’s still the early days of our partnership and we are very hopeful that it will be a great win-win situation for both.
What kind of luxurious amenities are provided in the Villas? To keep up with safety standards, are there any technologies which you have put to use?
The idea is to make sure that the properties have internet access and therefore, always have security, in terms of security cameras that are easily visible even when you are thousands of kilometres or even a kilometre away. It is very self-sufficient with the whole way it has been designed, the attic, chimney area, Apple television sets, the refrigerator, the bio decompose, the solar panels, digital locks, the heating and cooling system. We have technological aspects for keeping the place secure, visible, accessible and monitored.
I think we have gone in-depth in all of the areas and we are very confident that this is still the version one. It will be a great experience in itself. The idea, as I said, is to have a product approach. So, we will definitely keep learning and according to the consumer response, we will keep adding new features into the upcoming Zostal villas. The whole product will keep evolving.
Zostel Villas
Zostel Villas
In an interview, it was mentioned that in the absence of owners, Zostel can run operations on their behalf, offering them a 20% ROI. How does this work?
We won’t be offering any guaranteed ROI but the whole idea is very similar to a franchise. You can buy a Zostel Villa and if you like a location, we can help you sell it as well. Anyways, we will always help you in building it up, managing the operations for it even if there are just one or two staff members at the property. The same goes for selling it. It is just like having a vacation home, you can go there whenever you want but if you are not going there, it keeps minting money for you on a daily basis. It is a much better alternative to just buying a flat and giving it out on rent.
Since this is private property, the rules will be largely based around behaving in a particular manner with the community, being a part of it. It is always the Zostlers themselves who are able to create their particular vibe. I am pretty confident that this is where the villas are going to be, between one or two groups rather than 20 groups together.
You conducted a survey regarding people’s interest in purchasing the villas. What was the result?
The results have been phenomenal. That is why we have been so confident about pushing it further. Over 1,500 people filled that survey. More than 92 per cent were interested in investing in real estate. In that, they have been inclined towards villas, homes and independent farmhouses rather than investing in flats. I think we have great insight over there. Many times, people think that young people are only interested in bitcoins or new alternate investments but real estate is still there. It is just that it has been highly inflated and is out of reach for most of the people. So, if we make it affordable once again, a financially wise decision to invest, then I am sure that we will be able to drive a great retail interest in real estate once more.
Due to the pandemic, people are seeking safer travel options which involve as minimum human intervention as possible. Zostel has witnessed a rising demand for their remote offbeat stay options which have lower inventories. This makes Zostel Villa the perfect place to spend your time since it can be rented as well. Also, the villas will provide an opportunity for employment to remote workers.
Zostel has already started working on the second version of Zostel Villas. The focus is to make it more budget-friendly. Take a virtual tour of the Zostel Villa below;

https://www.instagram.com/tv/CDL6LkHJPc-/?igshid=rs2mubx39z4n

Kannav Chaudhary

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