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All the curfews and restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic challenged the way people meet and date, but the lovetech industry managed to find ways to help them keep their connections online. With mass vaccinations taking place all around the world, people are becoming more optimistic that they will soon get on with their in-person love lives as well.
Applying innovative solutions in conservative environments
India is one of the countries that was severely hit by the pandemic. When it comes to lovetech industry in the country, a Macedonian entrepreneur, named Blaze Arizanov, has enjoyed big success during recent years.
Arizanov, who comes from the city of Strumica, North Macedonia, went to India for an internship and started working for various software development companies. Several years later, he became interested in entrepreneurship, and in 2014, together with his colleague Sanchit Sethi, co-founded StayUncle – a website that helps young unmarried Indian couples book hotel rooms.
While renting a room to unmarried couples through such a service isn’t illegal, it is still seen as a taboo in India. This is how Arizanov came up with the idea and managed to position the startup as a market leader. In the beginning, Arizanov’s startup got help from investors such as Ajay Naqvi, a businessman and former chief of Airbnb India, who invested around €32K in the company.
A big obstacle that Arizanov and Sethi faced was the attitude of the hotel owners, who were worried about the potential pushback that their businesses would get from the conservative Indian society. For example, in their first month, out of 10 hotels that they had approached, only two reacted positively to the idea.
Seven years later, StayUncle has managed to serve almost 115 thousand couples, partnering with more than a thousand hotels across 50 cities in India.
The evolution of the “love hotel”
But when the pandemic hit last year, StayUncle suffered together with the hotel industry. And this prompted Arizanov to come up with new ideas and solutions for what would follow next.
“The hotel industry was severely affected by curfew measures. The guests asked how safe our hotels were during the pandemic,” Arizanov tells The Recursive.
“To meet the challenge, we announced a special line of hotels – Sanitised only hotels, to which the clientele responded positively,” he adds.
Asked whether there is a room for potential growth, especially in India, after the pandemic ends, the Macedonian entrepreneur says that there are a number of factors, which could play a role in the further developments of lovetech.
“Yes, in a huge but orthodox market like India, there is room for growth. Adding to this trend are the more relaxed perceptions that Indians have about this type of service,” Arizanov explains.
Additionally, there is also the growing distance between the places where people live and the places where they work, which can have an impact on how this type of business develops. One example for Arizanov is Japan, where the concept of “love hotels” was born.
“It means more time on the road between the two points – this trend also accelerated the use of this service in Japan, where the concept was originally born,” Arizanov tells The Recursive.
Regarding whether StayUncle would try to expand after the pandemic, Arizanov says that now the company is going through a phase of consolidation after a period of more aggressive growth and expansion, which will at least until the second part of 2021.
“Our network is present in 50 cities in India, and we had to scale down due to the effects of the pandemic, so we plan to return to upward scaling in the second half of this year,” he concludes.