It’s taboo for an unmarried couple in India to look for a room to spend time together. Moral policing by the hotel staff with questions like “Can I see an ID that shows you are married to one another?” or “I don’t think you are married to each other, can you show some proof,” – makes you feel so guilt-ridden that you have no choice left but to take your loved one to a day show in a theatre and make the best use of the darkness to hold hands and coochie-coo.
But what about those important conversations you want to have with your lover, lying with your head on his chest? A reply will echo in your mind: “Ye India hai meri jaan, yahan ye sab nahi kar sakte.” Not any more. Sanchit Sethi’s startup, StayUncle is here. The small town boy from Jaunpur, a BITS – Pilani graduate, launched StayUncle in 2015, in collaboration with Blaze Arizanov, a digital marketer. StayUncle is India’s first portal for booking secure and safe hotels for unmarried couples. We had some questions for him.
How did you come up with this concept – providing such a bold service?
In India, hotels provide rooms for minimum duration of 24 hours, which is not what is always required. We initially began in 2013 with the focus of offering hotel rooms for clients on an hourly basis. Surprisingly we started getting most of our enquiries from unmarried couples. So in 2015 we revamped ourselves with our focus now being on providing rooms to unmarried couples.
There is no rule in our Indian Constitution that says “It is illegal for two adults to stay together.” However, owing to the moral policing, many hotels don’t want to announce that they are open to unmarried couples. As long as you have a government identity card, you should be given a room. We have tied up with safe and reputed hotels across India with the motive of helping consenting unmarried adults to book a room, without any hassle, discomfort or qualms about safety.
We’ve tied up mostly with 3-star and 4-star hotels since safety is the primary concern. We have a couple of tie-ups with some budget-friendly hotels too – but we make sure that the staff there are friendly and ensure privacy.
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Where do most of your bookings come from?
Since we are based out of Delhi, most of our bookings are made by couples in Delhi. Second to Delhi are couples from Kolkata.
Who are your majority clients, college students or the salaried or businessmen? And do women also use your facility?
Most of our bookings are by the salaried class of couples and we are happy to note than women too call up and enquire for hotel rooms and book them. Nearly 35% of our bookings are done by women.
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What are your rules or policies about who is allowed to use your service?
We just have two rules that we strictly follow:
- Both the individuals must be of the age of 18 years and above.
- Both the individuals must have a government ID.
What if people use your service to have sex with commercial sex workers? What is your policy for them?
We only ensure that the individuals are of legal age and own a government identity card. No matter who you are, if you want to stay with someone with his or her consent and both of you provide proof of your identity at check-in, you’re good to go. Apart from that – we are not here to judge people. However, the hotel authorities reserve the right to admission and if they feel that one of the pair is a commercial sex worker, the hotel can deny them entry.
StayUncle is an online portal that lets couples book rooms in couple-friendly hotels in several cities across India for 9-12 hours and pay only for those 9-12 hours (10am to 7pm or 9pm to 8am). StayUncle claims to have served more than 30,000 couples since 2015, who happily come back again and again.
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