Hate it or love it, the sharing economy is here to stay. Two companies that have impacted my life are Uber and Airbnb. Uber makes travel extremely affordable and convenient. While Uber is well known in India’s metro-cities Airbnb is on its way to becoming a household name.
The Hosting Community
A local host recently held a get together for Airbnb hosts from the NCR area. About 14 of us attended. It was immediately evident that there is no typical profile of an Airbnb host. There was a retired Army man with an extra room in his home, working women professionals in Noida and Gurgaon, and a travel agent specializing in biking tours around Ladhak who started using Airbnb to provide additional services to his customers.
Millennials are drawn to the sharing economy for reasons that extend beyond the commercial benefits. The best example of this was a newly married couple that has a R.s. 1,000/night listing in Kalkaji. They listed their extra room on Airbnb because interacting with the guests has proven to be a great experience for their grandmother. In fact, the grandmother’s paranthas have become a local novelty, and she has started selling them. The sharing economy is making people more experimental and entrepreneurial.
One common nuisance the local hosting community acknowledged were the numerous and persistent requests from locals looking to have a good time. For every booking I accept, I easily turn away about 10 enquires from local college students or young professionals who want to host a party. Most listings very clearly indicate that their space is for travellers and not for parties (of course that never stops people from trying).
Who uses Airbnb when visiting Delhi? Hosts shared their experiences of housing PhD students, backpackers, or business travellers who are looking for a more authentic experience during their evenings. Given the pricing and capacity of my listing, my typical guests are Indian families settled overseas who frequently visit to meet relatives or attend weddings. So far my guests have arrived from 6 countries: U.K., U.S.A., Zambia, Spain, Canada, and Turkey. Opening your house up to people has its perks: my most recent guests graciously booked me a room at their destination wedding in a new Taj resort. Another guest, who is a standup comedian, invited me to one of his shows. Similarly, friends of friends (the trickiest category to host) who visited from the United States invited me to accompany them to Agra.
People often travel to experience other cultures. Before Airbnb, travellers could experience the local culture through food, music, or monuments. Now you can experience a city through its people. Airbnb creates opportunities for me to meet new people and earn some money. Clearly I’m not complaining about the sharing economy being here to stay.
P.S. here’s my listing