Urbanpod Mumbai: India’s first pod hotel
Just outside the country’s first pod hotel is a busy street with the city’s metro construction work going on in full swing. Amidst the usual chaotic traffic, the famous red BEST public buses make their way into the bus depot nearby. Urbanpod Mumbai is located on the first floor of a corporate park adjacent to the SEEPZ bus depot. Looking at the location you cannot gauge the silence inside the hotel. It is Mumbai’s first step towards minimalistic living. The minimal décor and doors that open only with keycards live up to Urbanpod’s motto – #StaySmart.
The founders of Urbanpod Mumbai are entrepreneur duo Shalabh Mittal and Hiren Gandhi. This hotel is inspired from a similar chain in Singapore. The capsule hotels or pod hotels however you like to call it, were first established in Japan in the 1970’s. Businessmen looking for accommodation after missing their last train home used to stay at these hotels. But now this trend is picking up globally with pod hotels popping up in various countries. But will this concept pick up heat in India?
The customer service and staff at Urbanpod Mumbai is top notch. The general manager Mr. Ajay Pandit himself had handled my booking over the phone. A day prior to my check-in I received this mail:
I entered the floor of the building when the receptionist flashed his keycard at the main door. It’s been just over a month since the hotel has opened and not many guests are present. The entire floor is unusually silent and all you can hear is the hum of the central air-conditioning. The receptionist gave me a keycard to access my pod. Before you head to the pod, you have to take off your shoes and place them in a locker which opens with the keycard provided (talk about #StaySmart). Once you have placed your shoes, you are handed over a welcome kit consisting of clean towel, a bottle of water and the television remote. The entire experience feels like you are going to be held captive but all this changes once you get past the door and feel that you are part of a Sci-Fi space odyssey.
An attendant will accompany you till your pod. There are lockers outside the pod to place your belongings. The pod is very futuristic and signifies minimalism to the point. The pod is equipped with touch control light switches, USB ports, charging points, a mirror, a safe, and a television. Headphones are provided for the television so that the other astronauts (read guests) are not disturbed. There is also a mini fire extinguisher inside the pod. The attendant then went on to explain all the controls present on the panel inside the pod much like how a flight attendant does. You will feel you are part of a movie inside the pod.
I then went around the hotel exploring the different arrangements and facilities available. There are a total of 140 pods at Urbanpod Mumbai. The owners plan on expanding to other metropolitan cities and build a user base in India. There are four categories of pods:
Classic Pod: This is the pod in which I stayed. There are rooms on the entire floor containing sets of 8 to 10 classic pods each. This makes it almost like a dormitory with pods placed over each other. There are a total of 106 classic pods.
Private Pod: You enter the private pod from the side. Some private pods have an extended area outside where you can sit. There are 6 private pods in total.
Ladies Pod: They are classic pods but just have a separate zone from the other pods. This is done as a security measure to encourage solo female travellers to stay in a minimal co-living space. There are 18 pods in the ladies zone.
Queen Pod: They are nothing like the capsules and are as good as a double occupancy room. This is meant for two people and has a queen size bed, a work table and a television. All this minus the fancy panel controls. There are 10 Queen pods in all.
The hotel has a common hand wash area and has 12 common bathrooms. Laundry services are available on demand as well. The bathrooms are big and very clean. A carpet covers the entire floor. There are stamps and maps of different countries lined across the walls. As you see the pictures of the pods you must be wondering whether it is claustrophobic inside. I would say surprisingly no. Each pod is 7 ft x 3 ft which is spacious enough. Only thing that plays with your head inside the pod is that it is completely white and you may at times feel like you are inside an institution.
If you are an introvert this place is heaven for you as there is not much human interaction in the hotel as your pod is SMART enough to ensure a comfortable stay. There is a cafeteria near the reception that has two personal work stations and many chairs and counter seating. Complimentary breakfast is provided. The tariff of the classic pod varies around the Rs. 2000 mark. The remaining pods are just a steep increase from there on. The pricing of Urbanpod Mumbai is justified because it is in close proximity to the airport. My overall experience at the pod was very different from the usual hotels. It can be considered a novelty experience for now but the market has huge potential to grow in the future. Urbanpod Mumbai is definitely an experience you should not miss.
You can book your stay from booking.com and reserve your pod without a credit card.
What do you think of minimalistic living? Do you think that pod hotels will be the next big thing in India? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
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