There is no law in India that prohibits (unmarried) couples from renting a room. As long as you have a government identity card, you should be given a room. We don’t live in the 1950s anymore—Sanchit Sethi, StayUncle founder
In a mostly conservative country like India, unmarried couples usually have a hard time finding a safe place to spend some moments of love together. Having to negotiate the prying eyes of an overly voyeuristic society, they are often forced to seek refuge under umbrellas, behind bushes, and on secluded corners of public parks to express love.
Renting a room, even if they can afford it and is perfectly legal for consenting adults, run the risk of them getting assaulted by some self-appointed cultural vigilantes or the police.
Not anymore. A New-Delhi based start-up, StayUncle, has tied up with hotels in several Indian cities to help couples find affordable rooms they can rent, without getting worried about their safety or privacy.
“There is no law in India that prohibits (unmarried) couples from renting a room,” Sanchit Sethi, founder of the year-old startup, told Quartz.
“As long as you have a government identity card, you should be given a room. We don’t live in the 1950s anymore. What we are trying to do is change the mindset of hoteliers.”
Sethi said the initial plan was to help travellers find hotel rooms for a few hours at an affordable cost, because most of the hotels had a 24-hour check-out rule.
But, since the launch of the company in April 2015, 99 per cent of the inquiries were about accommodation for unmarried couples. And that is when StayUncle decided to take a re-look at its business.
“We started fresh all over again. This time, with the focus on unmarried couples,” Sethi was quoted as saying.
Initially, it was difficult for Sethi to find hotels to tie up with StayUncle.
"Out of 10 hotels we speak to, only two or three eventually sign up. This is a new industry and people often see this as going against the culture of the country and there is always the fear of moral policing,” he said.
In December 2015, Ace Residency in New Delhi came forward to become the first hotel to sign up with StayUncle. Since then, 34 hotels in New Delhi and 10 in Mumbai, including top-tier hotels such as the Trident and the Oberoi, have signed up, Sethi said.
He said his start-up was committed to proving the best possible price for its customers, while ensuring their safety and privacy. An eight-hour stay at hotels listed on StayUncle costs anywhere between Rs 1,400 and Rs5,000.
As for dealing with the possibility of somebody using spycams and other such privacy-spoilers, this is Sethi's mantra: only tie up with hotels that have a reputation and would not allow something that puts their business at stake.
“Of course, I wouldn’t say the problem can be completely eliminated, but we know that these hotels we tie up with would never ever do it.”