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Facebook for hostels? This bootstrapped SaaS startup is bridging the gap between students, parents, and hostels

Sutrishna Ghosh ( )

Anyone who has ever lived in a hostel will relate to this pain point: getting approval from the warden for a night out. Assuming that your parents or local guardians have already greenlit your plans, the steps that follow are tedious and cumbersome, entailing much back-and-forth and a lot of manual paperwork.


And this is just one issue out of a pile of concerns involved in the day-to-day task of hostel management. Most Indian educational institutes and their student housing units, in fact, are still caught in the web of redundant paperwork, time-consuming manual processes, and an obsolete style of parent-student-management communication. Now, when there’s an app for everything under the sun, why not an app that makes hostel management painless and automated?


SpaceBasic team

California-headquartered SpaceBasic, which has an office in Bengaluru, addresses this very concern. Born out of the founders’ experience across different fields, the SaaS-based platform aims to do away with old-school methods to facilitate seamless communication between hostel management, students, and parents.


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Of chance meetings and varied experiences


In early 2016, when Madhavi Shankar, now CEO and Co-founder of SpaceBasic, was working in Australia, her father introduced her to a successful entrepreneur based in San Francisco, US. They met on a Friday afternoon at Four Seasons in Palo Alto, and within no time the meeting pivoted towards a chat around startups and brainstorming ideas.


Indu Navar, SpaceBasic

“I thought it would be a social meeting. Now we are co-founders,” says Madhavi, who launched SpaceBasic in March 2017, along with Indu Navar, who ran venture-backed logistics company Serus Corporation for 10 years until a successful exit in the Silicon Valley. The third founding member, Aiden Bingham, was juggling between life as a freshman in college and entrepreneurship while Madhavi was working as a product manager with Vodlo, for the Asia-Pacific region in Australia at the time.


Talking of their combined experience across diverse backgrounds, Madhavi says, “We each bring very different skills, talents, and perspectives to the table.”


Initially built as a mobile app to assist a charity student hostel, the SpaceBasic app now offers a two-fold advantage: firstly, it allows hostels to eliminate all manual processes, and secondly, it helps hostels to communicate with students more efficiently.

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Social media for hostel dwellers and much more!


When it comes to managing hostel administration, “SpaceBasic is a welcome change”, according to Christo Joseph, who heads strategy and planning at Garden City University, Bengaluru. He says, “We have been able to bring about a cultural change among students in the hostel.”


The SpaceBasic application itself is extremely simple and easy to use. Madhavi adds, “we had designers build this app keeping these two things in mind. It’s a clean UI, not too complicated, and because it’s role-based users only get to see the actions they must provide. It’s not a clutter.”


Besides digitising the hostel administration, SpaceBasic also serves as an interactive social networking platform for information sharing and process management among students, parents, student housing communities, and more. Additionally, students can use the platform to apply for leaves, lodge complaints, track submitted applications, and access real-time status updates without being physically present.


The app also allows students to post announcements to fellow students, requesting or offering valuable services.


“Our key feature is the networking platform that gives students access to our global industry partners who provide students with skill development programmes, jobs, internships, trainings, scholarships, and other such student-centric opportunities,” Madhavi explains.


As of now, the startup is working with partner companies based out of both India and the US.


The end goal, Madhavi adds, is to create a talent pool of the underrepresented and provide students “opportunities without bias of background or location”. This entails offering the opportunities availed by students from the crème de la crème colleges in India to students in the Tier II and III cities.


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Scaling up and expansion


Almost two years into operation, the platform is already making its presence felt pan-India, with team-ups and partnerships with key private and government institutes, including Indus International Schools, DY Patil University, PES University, and University of Agricultural Sciences.


“Our growth has been completely organic with a team of five-seven people,” Madhavi says.


When they started out, in 2017, the SpaceBasic team was just three-member strong. It added five-seven members in the next year, and has now expanded to a team of 13 and counting. Along the way, the co-founder explains, they have garnered recognition from the United Nations, Government of India, as well as Government of Karnataka. Even their user base has grown during this period, from 3,000 to around 25,000 users by the end of 2018, an impressive growth in the second year.


Madhavi says,


“Today, we are a high growth startup with 700 percent growth in 2018, 25,000+ users, and 30 K12, universities, and colleges pan-India.”


Perhaps the biggest advantage with SpaceBasic is that it works as a plug-and-play module and as a standalone, multiplatform application optimising communication and collaboration processes in hostel management. Simply put, “universities and student housing communities pay us per student per year,” explains Madhavi, while “companies pay us monthly fees”.


“For charity-based institutes, we provide our software free of charge as part of our give-back programme,” she adds. As part of their corporate philanthropy, they are involved with the Pledge 1% movement, whereby they pledge 1 percent of their profit, time, and software to invest back into “our community and towards educating women each year”.


The very fundamentals of running a startup involve preparedness for unexpected challenges and the usual ups and downs, and Madhavi is quite familiar with the cycle. From quitting a well-paying corporate job in Australia to testing waters in a unfamiliar startup community, and now doubling their revenues month on month, she is doing it all while relying on what she calls “my gut”.


SpaceBasic plans to raise seed funding this year to scale operations even as it sticks to its one true mantra: “customer is the king (or queen)”.


“We are building a culture that focuses on customer experience and quality products,” Madhavi says.  


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