amber funding: Student accommodation platform Amber raises $21 million led by Gaja Capital

Student accommodation platform Amber has raised $21 million in its first round of institutional funding, led by Mumbai-based private equity firm Gaja Capital.

The round comprises $18.5 million in fresh equity and the remaining in venture debt from Lighthouse Canton and Stride Ventures.

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The funds will be used for global expansion and to enhance its offerings for property managers and students. The company plans to grow its operations by enlisting more suppliers and property managers, while also focusing on scaling the demand from both international and domestic students. It will invest in innovation on the product development front.

“We are looking at scaling aggressively in the markets that we are currently already into. The UK, Australia and Ireland is the market that we started with, and we are the largest operator and platform in these markets, but at the same time, a lot of fund allocation would go into expanding into new markets like the US, Canada, and Europe as well,” cofounder and chief executive Saurabh Goel told ET.

Founded in 2017 by Goel and Madhur Gujar, the Pune-headquartered company primarily focuses on Indians studying in the US, the UK, Ireland, Australia and Canada, as the student accommodation market in these countries is worth $60 billion, Goel said. “This market size is growing as more supply is coming into the picture,” he added.

Amber is a long-term accommodation platform that provides students from over 50 countries services for discovery of rental properties with user ratings, reviews and pricing. It enables the transaction between a property manager and customers but does not play a role operationally in maintenance of the property. It also assists students with loan services, discounts on flight bookings and guarantor services. The company has partnered with study-abroad consultancies and loan providers to attract student demand.

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Talking about the challenges of house hunting, Goel said, “When it comes to ordering food, you have Zomato and Swiggy. When it comes to shopping online, you have Flipkart and Amazon, but when it comes to renting a house, the experience is still very broken…So that’s where we saw a huge gap that there is no better customer experience when it comes to renting a house.”The company is present in seven countries and over 250 cities. It aims to add 100-200 more cities over the next two years while also increasing coverage in existing cities, said Goel.

“We are essentially building from India for the world. Being present in India, we can build this in a very capital efficient way, but at the same time have the lucrative revenue potential of a market which is based in the US or the UK,” Goel added.

Commenting on the investment, Gopal Jain, managing partner, Gaja Capital said, “Global increase in student enrolments underpinned by a long-term study-abroad trend is fuelling the organised student housing market. We are deeply impressed by Amber team’s ability to solve a critical pain point for both students and property managers.”