Airbnb has had incredible growth among Indian guests and hosts: Nathan Blecharczyk

Airbnb, the 10-year-old tech-hospitality platform that started in 2008 in a flat in San Francisco, California, out of a necessity to pay rent, has now turned into one of the world’s largest platforms for accommodation.
 
With 4.5 million properties across 81,000 cities and over 300 million guests, Airbnb is now looking at its next phase of growth that will catapult the company into having 1 billion annual guests by the turn of the next decade.
 
Gaurav Laghate caught up with Nathan Blecharczyk, chief strategy officer of Airbnb, to talk about the journey ahead. Edited excerpts:
 
How is India performing for Airbnb?
 
More than one million Indians have travelled on Airbnb globally. During Brian Chesky’s [co-founder of Airbnb] visit to India in early 2017, he highlighted how India was on the rise to become one of Airbnb’s key revenue generators.
 
He had predicted that in about 10 years, India will be one of the world’s biggest markets for Airbnb. We see a huge potential in meeting the demand of the 230 million urban millennials in India who want new and more exciting ways to travel. Meanwhile, India is known for its inherent spirit of hospitality embodied in ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’, a popular Sanskrit phrase that has long defined heritage of hospitality and the idea of welcoming the guest — meaning the guest is like a god.
 
This spirit is seen across homes from every region of the country, with hosts exhibiting a keenness to serve a guest and to acquaint them with local cuisine and culture. This is what distinguishes India’s hosting culture, as we continue to form a strong community of hosts who are opening their homes to the world.
 
The success of Airbnb in India so far is reflected in the incredible growth we have witnessed among the host and guest community alike. With over 30,000 listings in the country, Airbnb listings in India have grown by 115% over the past year. There has been almost 2x growth in the number of nights booked on Airbnb in India since 2016.
 
We have witnessed over 100% YoY growth in inbound guests from around the world (2017-2018). Also, Indian guests have travelled to nearly 160 different countries on Airbnb including popular destinations such as France, Italy, the UK and the US. We have also seen 2.1x growth in domestic travel on Airbnb within India.
 
Did the 2007-08 global recession help Airbnb in getting more hosts as well as guests looking for cheaper options?
 
Home-sharing has thrived because it creates an economic opportunity and turns your greatest expense (your home) into your greatest asset. Many of our hosts say that their Airbnb income allows them to afford to stay in their home, while others use it as a means to meet new people, or use the income to pursue their personal passions, start new businesses or even give back to their communities.
 
For those reasons, Airbnb has seen organic growth across the globe. People said it would never work and yet a decade later, guests have checked into Airbnb’s nearly 300 million times and on New Year’s Eve 2017, 3 million people stayed in an Airbnb. If we’re successful, in 10 years, 1 billion people a year will use our platform.
 
Now valued at over $31billion, how are you dealing with the pressure of investors asking to take the company public?
 
As stated by our CEO earlier, we won’t be going public this year and there was never a plan to do so. Beyond that, I don’t have any additional updates to share. There has been a lot of chatter about this topic, but our focus is on building a 21st-century company and we’re all committed to that goal.
 
Your tagline says live like a local, but a lot of buzz is also generated by celebrities living in premium properties. Your views?
 
The beauty of being able to live in a home and have a host is that the possibility of a local experience opens up. Whether staying in a private room in a city apartment or a room of a castle, authentic local experiences are created by the host and the manner in which they welcome guests into their home.
 
As travel has become commoditised, people want to break away from standard itineraries and discover new places on their own terms. In the recent past, a number of Bollywood and Hollywood celebrities have travelled with Airbnb.
 
From Britney Spears, spending her last Valentine’s Day weekend at an ultra-luxe Malibu villa, to the King of Bollywood, Shah Rukh Khan, staying in a stunning Beverly Hills mansion, we have something for everyone on Airbnb. Talking specifically on India, people are passionate about films and Bollywood has certainly been inspiring the choice of destination for Indian travellers.
 
More and more people are holidaying like their favourite stars, putting up at places they’ve opted to stay in. Bollywood is a trend that cuts across age groups and demographics. We see this as an opportunity to connect with our audience and enable them to resonate with our philosophy, through popular culture and by collaborating with famous personalities who associate with Airbnb.
Shoot