How ‘CoHo’ spirit creates co-living spaces?
'Co-livings'- the new way millennials live.
Addressing a need and a pain-point, fundamental to the youth in India, resulted in CoHo, a concept catering to co-living in India. The founders Uday Lakkar (33) (Kolkata), and Amber Sajid (42) (Delhi) left their white collar jobs to join in the mission that aims at providing better living conditions for the Indian youth.
Uday Lakkar, is a management graduate from IIM Ahmedabad, armed with a ‘Chartered Accountancy’ background and a commerce undergraduate degree from St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata. Prior to setting up CoHo, he has experience of over eight years across real estate and investments with McKinsey, Ireo, Morgan Stanley, Network18 group. Co-Founder - Amber Sajid has more than 18 years experience in real estate sector with Ireo, DLF and Barista before taking up Business Development at CoHo.
Lakkar shares his journey in an engaging conversation with Baishali Mukherjee. Read on!
Addressing the crying need for long stay accommodations in India
CoHo was born out of a need and a pain-point, which is so fundamental to the youth in India yet ignored majorly. I can recollect several instances like that of my friend from IIM-A struggling to find an accommodation in India's largest metro city for more than a couple of months simply due to discrimination based on community background; another instance that I recollect was when I was myself shunned from entering so many residential societies in Gurgaon simply because I wanted to stay with my other bachelor friends from McKinsey. I even remember a notice board saying "Bachelors and Dogs are not allowed here.”
Also, I feel that the overall quality of youth accommodations (for students and working professionals) in India is in an abysmal state with inconsistent services, poor infrastructure and no technology whatsoever. There is a crying need for a trusted brand with a promise of consistent services at affordable price points in long stay accommodations segment and we at CoHo are trying to create exactly that. Our response from the market until now has been a testimony to the same.
CoHo was primarily funded by me in its early stages. We were later on funded by a band of successful entrepreneurs and esteemed angel investors including Dheeraj Jain (Partner, Redcliffe Capital Hedge Fund), Mahesh Parasuraman (Ex-MD, Carlyle PE), Rajesh Sawhney (Founder, GSF and InnerChef), Nitin Gupta (Ex-CEO, PayU), Sachin Bhatia (Co-founder, MakeMyTrip and TrulyMadly), Umang Kumar (President, CarDekho), Pavan Bagai (COO, EXL), amongst others. We are currently in talks to raise expansion funding for our growth.
The assorted offerings
We are currently operational in Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida and cater to more than 800 residents including more than 500 male and over 300 females. Our offering could be broadly categorized into furnishing, providing fully furnished spaces with all the appliances which are ready to use; Services including WiFi, housekeeping, repairs, maintenance, DTH cable, pest control, online concierge; and community, where all residents of CoHo community engage in regular events, sessions and meet-ups.
Our rent includes all our services and offerings so that our residents don't have to worry about anything else or pay multiple bills. The charges vary between Rs 20,000-25,000 for Single Occupancy, Rs 10,000 - 15,000 for Double Sharing and Rs 8,000 - 12,000 for Triple Sharing. Whenever someone visits CoHo, they look for a place which has all the amenities and is ready to move in. Quite a few number of people are gender agnostic or against restrictions in general. Though we try providing a standard offering across all our spaces at similar costs, customization is also available in terms of furniture or services as per feasibility at minimal cost.
All our spaces have Smart locks which could be only opened by the resident app available to the residents. We have put up CCTV cameras as well in common areas and outside space to monitor the same.
The business model
We operate on an extremely asset-light model of leasing out apartments and villas from property-owners, furnishing them with standardized peppy and modern furniture and appliances, which also comes on rent from outsourced third-party vendors. We have more than 30 villas and apartments across Delhi NCR and we take this on rent from various developers, builders and mostly landlords. We take up unfurnished properties so that we could add our decor and interiors in it. We also ensure that all day-to-day necessary services such as housekeeping, WiFi, cable, repairs, etc are taken care of for the residents via its mobile concierge app. Our office is located in Gurgaon where a small team of 15 people take care of the operations.
We are presently clocking close to 1 Million USD annually right now and are profitable operationally, which is a huge indication of things coming in a larger scale and in multiple cities.
Co-living a reality Indian youth is waking up to
The concept is relatively new in India so there is definitely need for customer education and explaining them the concept initially. However, we are seeing tremendous traction in vibrant, youth-centric cities like Gurgaon where young professionals love it once they see and experience the concept first hand. Even ‘word- of- mouth’ and referrals from their friends are working a lot in gaining momentum because this is typically a high-touch experience product and not an impulsive purchase for the user.
Roadblocks and way ahead
Major challenges faced are in terms of spreading awareness of the concept and trust building given that this industry suffers from a deficit of trust over time and unprofessional approach from the brokers and service-providers alike. The problem is a bit more pronounced in markets like Delhi NCR in particular which are huge in size yet quite an unprofessional market overall, leading to dissonance among young customers. We are trying to address this trust deficit issue by creating a trusted brand that promises and delivers high quality experience to its residents consistently.
Do you think co-living spaces for the youth is a viable option in India? Do share your views.