Small Business

Co-living companies turn their properties into integrated WFH campuses and quarantine centres

NEW DELHI: Co-living companies, which have been struggling due to the Covid-19 pandemic, are targeting new segments to keep revenues coming.

Despite current occupancies falling in the range of 40-75% for co-living companies and to near zero for student accommodation players, many are also striking deals with distressed property owners to add capacity expecting future demand, albeit on a revenue-sharing basis.

Co-living and student accommodation companies such as Zolo, Colive, CoHo, Oxfordcaps, Tribe Student Accommodation, StayAbode, SimplyGuest and Guesture that ET spoke to are setting up integrated office-cum-home campuses for corporates, turning their buildings into quarantine centres and launching premium offerings or venturing into entirely new businesses like software services.

According to industry players, occupancy stands at 40-85%, depending on the player and the property.

July has been the worst month due to a week-long lockdown imposed in Bengaluru, said Nikhil Sikri, a cofounder of Zolo, especially as rumours did the rounds that it would last for two months. However, occupancy is now picking up. Sikri said average per-day enquiries so far in August had been the highest in the last six months.

The company has introduced perks like referral bonuses, free stays for existing or past customers who have lost their jobs and a healthcare package that includes medical insurance. Sikri said the company was launching a luxury co-living product at the end of this month.

Colive, CoHo and Guesture are all offering work-from-home (WFH) setups for corporates.

Colive is designing integrated campuses for corporates, where employees can live and work in the same place, said founder Suresh Rangarajan. Facilities include ergonomic chairs and secured networks. The company is also in talks with automobile and electric manufacturing companies to develop affordable housing for workers.

CoHo, based in Delhi-NCR, is targeting small businesses and startups for WFH, said associate vice-president John Jacob. It plans to convert common areas on a floor into offices. Guesture, too, is designing hybrid WFH satellite centres for corporates, founder Sriram Chitturi said.

StayAbode has partnered with food, laundry and grocery startups to attract customers. The company is converting an existing building into a quarantine facility, and is adding new buildings as well to its portfolio, said Diksha Sahjwani, its senior community manager.

Student accommodation company Oxfordcaps has converted 30% of its inventory to quarantine centres, said cofounder Priyanka Gera. The company is also getting demand from university campuses as sanitation is a big concern now. It expects to add another 15,000 beds on campus next year, from 5,000 now, Gera said.

Premium student accommodation player Tribe is planning to launch an ultra-premium co-living product by next year, said Aman Mehra, director, marketing and technology. It is also in talks with universities to develop and manage hostels on campuses.

Companies are adding capacity as they believe that when people do come back, they will shift from unorganised PGs to “cleaner and safer” branded accommodation.

Zolo, which has 40,000 beds now, is aiming to add 50,000 more in the coming year. Colive, currently at 30,000, aims to add 15,000 beds by November.

Not all, however, are bullish about the market. Bengaluru-based SimplyGuest had to reduce its beds by 50%, said founder Subbu Athikunte. This month, the company is launching a SaaS property management product, aimed at the US market.

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Small Biz-Economic Times

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