Forbes India Writes
House owner: You are from Odisha, so you must be eating fish?
Prospective tenant: Yes.
House owner: Sorry, I can’t give my house on rent to people who eat fish.
This conversation took place in 2004, but Amarendra Sahu—a prospective tenant then—still recalls it with a mix of bemusement and indignation. Sahu had moved to Bengaluru on work and wasn’t prepared for the hostility that accompanied house-hunting in the city. “Nobody would give me a house! Thoroughly frustrated after a tedious three-month house-hunting mission, five of us got together and rented an entire independent house. It was the only way to get a roof over our heads,” says Sahu, then a fresh engineering graduate from the National Institute of Technology, Karnataka (NITK) in Surathkal.
It has been 12 years since Sahu, now co-founder and CEO of NestAway Technologies, was denied a house because he liked his hilsa, but not much has changed. House hunting in the city is still akin to looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack for single men and women. Take the case of 25-year-old Neetu Sophia Thomas. “Landlords seem to have a list of expectations for their tenants. No cooking of non-vegetarian food, no male friends, no partying, no music after 10 pm are part of the usual checklist. Recently a house owner even expressed her fear of men hanging around in the area more if she gives her house on rent to single women,” says Thomas, a sales executive with a Bengaluru-based media company. Currently looking for single accommodation, Thomas continues to live in shared paying guest (PG) digs where, among other things, her landlord thinks nothing of walking in post 10 pm without prior notice. “There is simply no privacy,” she says.
Taking note of these pain points of the single urban working population, Sahu, 33, started NestAway last year, a managed home rental services provider, along with Smruti Parida, 32, Deepak Dhar, 33, and Jitendra Jagadev, 33. The Bengaluru-based startup connects tenants with house owners and provides assistance throughout the rental process. It also manages rentals for its customers by providing fully furnished accommodations.