How It Started
Pursuing higher education abroad comes with critical challenges like identifying the right universities based on your academic profile, student visa hurdles, acquiring a safe and reliable education loan.. the list goes on. While there are dedicated agencies that help students with the aforementioned problems, one of the most crucial aspects of studying abroad - accommodation, is neglected. This is a real problem because the cost of accommodation is roughly 40% of the total cost of studying abroad.
Nearly 5 million students are enrolled in university-level education outside their home country, with the United States, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom having
the highest percentage of international students. There is, however, a disproportionate amount of beds for students in these countries.
For instance, as of 2017 in the UK, the total number of students pursuing higher education was 2.37 million whereas the number of total private student housing units was 627,000. Students have to begrudgingly pay huge amounts of money to brokers and real estate agents to secure HMOs, private flats, halls of residences, etc to meet this deficit. Moreover, the trouble of looking for flatmates in these types of accommodation adds the problems of students.
In a quest to provide students with a one-stop-shop destination for all their accommodation needs, Amit Singh and I co-founded UniAcco.
Through UniAcco, students can compare over 4,00,000+ rooms based on 80+ parameters like "room types", "amenities", "locality", "distance from university", "benefits", "perks" and more to find their ideal accommodation. This feature drastically reduces the time spent on scouring the internet for the best student accommodation. It is the first of its kind on any student accommodation platform. Moreover, since most of our properties are located within walking distance of most universities, students can save a substantial amount of time and money spent on travelling.
All services provided by UniAcco are free of charge for students.
Solution To An Age-Old Problem
Students all over the world still believe that their accommodation options are limited only to university halls. The global private student housing sector is still in the nascent stage, however, in the UK, it has really taken off in the past decade. This is why we decided to focus only on the private student accommodation market in the UK, instead of entering prematurely in other countries.
With UniAcco, we’re looking to spread the word that private student accommodations are superior and more economical than traditional on-campus accommodations.
UniAcco is a cross border prop-tech company that aggregates private student accommodations on its online platform. The business model of UniAcco is such that, on the supply side, the company partners with private student housing providers and lists them on its website, whereas on the demand side, it connects students looking for fully-furnished accommodations.
The USP of UniAcco lies in the freedom it offers to students to compare accommodations near top universities in the world. UniAcco uses innovative product solutions like paperless cross border compliance, 360° property viewing; advanced algorithmic matrix-like scouting index to serve specific requirements of the students; optimised sales models to ensure students have a hassle-free accommodation search experience.
Our vision is simple. We just want to provide students with the tools they need to identify and secure their ideal student accommodation. Which is why, UniAcco is built on 3 core values - Compare//Consult//Choose. Students can come onto our website to ‘Compare’ their favourite properties, ‘Choose’ their ideal student accommodation and also have the option to ‘Consult’ experienced UniAcco property consultants.
With a seed investment, we have so far listed 4,00,000+ beds from 1200+ properties in over 8 countries. UniAcco has assisted more than 40,000+ students in their accommodation search, despite the pandemic affecting overseas education in a major way. UniAcco also has a 4.9/5 star rating on Trustpilot.
Within a year of being in business, UniAcco has helped more than 2,000 students in finding their dream accommodation.
Thriving In The Pandemic
2020 was a major learning curve. We are happy that we thrived during the pandemic and want to multifold our business growth this year. Since we have begun our operations in Australia, we have been busy hiring across all roles for the January-February intake. We are on track to selling about three million nights in 2021. We believe that 2021 will be a strong year for us, as our market intelligence tells us that students are starting to pick private student accommodations over HMOs.
We also believe that this year is the right time to expand to other countries like the USA, Canada, France, Germany and Spain.
What Lies Ahead
We want students to know that UniAcco is much more than a student accommodation platform. Apart from property consultation, UniAcco also provides services like visa consultation, education loans, concierge services, guarantors services and scholarships.
We want to assist students with their integral needs of studying abroad like education loans and global scholarships.
That’s why we have founded UniCreds, which is an online education loan marketplace. Students can find safe and reliable education loans for all the popular study destinations in the world. We have made strategic partnerships with companies like HDFC Credila, Avanse Financial Services, State Bank of India and HSBC to ensure students have a hassle-free experience. Currently, the service is focused towards Indian students going abroad but soon we will take the UniCreds platform global and will be assisting students across the world with their education loan needs.
UniCreds offers education loans to students headed to the USA, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia, France, Germany, Japan and 40 other countries. The company also offers students access to tools like Loan Compare, Loan EMI Calculator, Loan Eligibility Check, Real-Time Loan Application Tracker, Statement of Purpose review, Student Profile Evaluator and Repayment Calculator.
As for scholarships, UniAcco launched a pilot scholarship program called the “UniAcco Fly High Scholarship”, which received an amazing response. This scholarship was aimed at recognizing and rewarding Indian students who wish to pursue undergraduate or postgraduate courses in the UK. The thought behind instituting this scholarship was to enable committed and passionate students to achieve their goals by lightening the financial burden that comes with studying abroad. In order to bolster the number of scholarships available to students, we're launching a product called UniScholarz. UniScholarz will function as a scholarship platform where students can find relevant scholarships to universities all over the world using our profiling tools. We will also be reaching out to seek partnerships from institutions and our operator partners to pitch in this noble cause.
Advice To Aspiring Entrepreneurs
Passion - Find something you love and run with it. If passion is your driving force and you’re ready to do whatever it takes, you maximize your chances of being successful. Do not simply work, pursue a ‘calling’!
Work smart - As an entrepreneur, you’d always be bouncing between competing demands, but that shouldn’t overwhelm you. Working smartly is the key. Don’t confuse busyness with progress. Time is the scarcest resource you have and you must know how and where to allocate it.
Failures are the stepping stones to success - When you’re building a company or working on an idea that has the potential to change the world for better, you’re constantly grappling with issues and often the unknown. There isn’t a playbook, which means you’re going to fail sometimes and that’s inevitable. So, instead of getting derailed over failures, it’s important to use them to your advantage and stay focused on what matters.